Who Supports Professional Certification? Insights from Employment Arbitration

20 Pages Posted: 5 May 2020

See all articles by Mark Gough

Mark Gough

Pennsylvania State University

Kyle Albert

Harvard University

Date Written: December 2019


Professional certification programmes became commonplace across the occupational structure in recent years, with many emerging and established professions opting to create their own certification programmes for reasons ranging from collective marketing to reducing malpractice litigation risk. Theories of social closure suggest that advantaged and established individual practitioners might want to use certification as a means of distinguishing themselves and enacting barriers to entry, though research on credentials and signalling theory leads to the expectation that certification is most valued by less secure and younger workers seeking to establish themselves in a profession. We use a survey of employment arbitrators as a case study in the dynamics of who supports certification, finding a surprisingly low overall level of support for certification. Arbitrators who are female, racial minorities and those who earn lower hourly rates are most supportive of creating and earning certification, suggesting that the most natural constituency for a new certification programme may be those looking to ‘break in’ to a profession rather than those already well established in their practice.

Suggested Citation

Gough, Mark and Albert, Kyle, Who Supports Professional Certification? Insights from Employment Arbitration (December 2019). British Journal of Industrial Relations, Vol. 57, Issue 4, pp. 850-869, 2019, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3590571 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/bjir.12475

Mark Gough (Contact Author)

Pennsylvania State University ( email )

University Park
State College, PA 16802
United States

Kyle Albert

Harvard University ( email )

1875 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.kylealbert.net

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