Value in Certification

Professional Pharmacist certification

While there are a wide variety of certifications that span hundreds of professions, all of them share the following elements:

  • Certification is usually voluntary, as compared to licensure which is government mandated. Pharmacists are required to be licensed on the state level. Certification is provided on a national level.
  • Certification is provided through a non-governmental organization, often a non-profit. Often there are several certification providers, who may focus on specialty areas within a profession. Pharmacists, physicians, and nurses all offer opportunities for certification in a range of specialty practice areas. There are over 200 Certifications for Nurses, over 50 for Physicians, but only three at this time for Pharmacists
  • Certification is time-limited and requires professionals to renew, or recertify, every few years. Typically renewal is required every two to five years.
  • Certification requires individuals to meet standardized criteria, usually in the form of experience and education requirements along with an examination. In fields like pharmacy, licensure is also a prerequisite for obtaining specialty certification.
  • Certification examinations are developed using a rigorous and ongoing process that meets national standards for ensuring the validity and reliability of the exam. Exams are based on scientific analysis of job tasks and required knowledge and are developed by testing experts, known as psychometricians, working with a broad array of subject matter experts.

In other words, certification is a standardized, objective, tool for identifying competent professionals.

A well-developed certification program can contribute to increased public safety, increased credibility of the profession, increased professional development, promoted job advancement and increased earnings potential, and help both employers and customers indentify qualified individuals.

Among the many reasons for starting a certification program, some of the most common are: public protection, establishing professional standards, helping employers to identify individuals with certain knowledge and/or skill sets, advancing the professional, and providing acknowledgement of professionals and their commitment to life-long learning.

Value in Certification

A review of certification related surveys reveals that certificants report the top benefits of certification as:

1. Increase professional credibility

2. Personal satisfaction and accomplishment

3. Recognition by colleagues

Employers report the top certification benefits as:

1. Verification of knowledge and skill

2. Increased employee productivity

3. Higher work quality

Other benefits include career advancement, increased job portability, support for ongoing education and professional development, and improved marketability.

Certification for pharmacists is provided by the Board of Pharmacy Specialties (BPS) and the Commission for Certification in Geriatric Pharmacy (CCGP). BPS offers certification in Ambulatory Care Pharmacy, Nutrition Support Pharmacy, Nuclear Pharmacy, Pharmacotherapy, Oncology Pharmacy, and Psychiatric Pharmacy and CCPG offers certification in Geriatrics.  The Specialty Pharmacy Certification Board (SPCB) is set to launch the Certified Specialty Pharmacist (CSP) credential in early 2013. (See follow up article for comparison of pharmacy certifications.) The CSP credential is aimed specifically toward pharmacists in the rapidly growing specialty pharmacy industry that provides access to and support for pharmaceutical products that provide challenges to physicians, patients, payers, pharmacies, and manufacturers as a result of the required special handling requirements, inventory controls and patient support needs.

According to Gary M. Cohen, BSPharm, RPh, there are roughly 275,000 pharmacists in the United States and currently only about 13,000 pharmacists have any kind of certification with only about 1,000 in the oncology sector. Specialty pharmacy products are handled in almost every setting including community pharmacies, hospitals, long-term care facilities, infusion centers and mail order.

“We are looking to help payers identify providers who have a specific skill set that enables them to handle specialty pharmaceuticals,” Cohen states. “Certification validates their training and their competency.”


American Educational Research Association, American Psychological Association, National Council on Measurement in Education. (1999). Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing. Washington, DC. AERA.

American National Standards Institute (2003). Personnel Certification: An Industry Scan. New York, NY.

ISO (2003). International Standard ISO/IEC 17024. Conformity Assessment – General requirements for bodies operating certification of persons. Switzerland.

Institute for Credentialing Excellence (2009). Certification: The ICE Handbook (2nd Edition). Washington, DC.

Institute for Credentialing Excellence (2005). The ICE Guide to Understanding Credentialing Concepts. Washington, DC.

Institute for Credentialing Excellence. (2007). National Commission for Certifying Agencies Standards for the Accreditation of Certification Programs. Washington, DC. ICE.

Knapp & Associates International, Inc. (2007). Certification Industry Scan. Princeton, NJ.

SeaCrest. (2008). Certification Program Governance: An Industry Survey. Charlotte, NC.

What is Certification?

 Certification is the process through which an organization grants recognition to an individual, organization, process, service, or product that meets certain established criteria.

For certification of individuals, the individuals usually have to meet eligibility requirements (such as education, years of experience), pass an examination, and pay a fee. There are also ongoing requirements that need to be met, such as retesting or participating in a minimum number of continuing education activities.

Certification is voluntary – unlike licensure which is mandatory in order to practice in the licensed role in a given state. However, that’s not to say it’s not valuable – because some employers require or prefer applicants who are certified.

Certification validates a Healthcare providers competency through a voluntary process by which an independent Certification Board establishes recognition to an individual who has met certain predetermined qualifications specified by that organization. This formal recognition is granted to designate to the public that the individual has attained the requisite level of knowledge skill, and/or experience in a well-defined, often specialized, area of the total discipline.

Is Certification the Best Option?

Certification is the preferred option when there is a critical job function performed, and an assessment is required by an independent validation Board, which operates to standards set forth by credentialing accreditation organizations, to assure and validate existing and baseline competencies are met.

Value in the CSP™ Credential

Download the CSP Fact Sheet. The CSP exam includes the professional domains that encompass the tasks and knowledge required of a specialty pharmacy professional in various practice settings. By passing the CSP assessment, pharmacy professionals not only display their aptitude in each specialized task, but also present their expertise in specialty pharmacy with a CSP credential. The CSP credential is a key indicator to employers, manufacturers, patients, payers, other healthcare providers, and the public at large that a professional is an expert in specialty pharmaceuticals.

CSP certified professionals are  tested using a psychometrically sound examination process, utilizing an exam that has been validated with a role delineation study performed by specialty pharmacy subject matter experts (SMEs) from all Specialty Pharmacy channels.

What makes it valuable?

What makes it valuable?

  • Participation of key stakeholders (e.g., specialty pharmacy professionals, subject matter experts, academicians, employers, payers, certification consultants, psychometricians)
  • Representative sampling (generalizability)
  • Captures current practice while anticipating future change
  • Confirmation of representativeness of content
  • Replicable methodology
  • Collection of confirmatory quantitative data
  • Timeliness
  • Development of test specifications informed by both practice analysis data and subject matter expertise

The Specialty Pharmacy Certification Board has assembled the leading experts in certification, education, and Specialty Pharmacy to collaborate and redefine the competencies and skills of the modern day and tomorrows pharmacy professional to practice technology driven medication therapy and set new standards of practice that improve the health and outcomes of all patients served by Certified Specialty Pharmacists.