When you work in an industry that offers a board certification option, such as medicine, nursing, or teaching, chances are that holding such distinction is tacked in the back of your mind – or maybe it is looming in front of you.
Board certification, a specified credential granted after you complete a written or practical exam (or both) shows that you have a thorough knowledge and understanding of your field. The process of board certification is challenging no matter what field you choose, but not insurmountable if you keep some of the following tips in mind.
Know the requirements for board certification in your field
In some areas of study, such as teaching, or obtaining a special education degree, these education establishments include coursework or lessons designed to prepare professionals for board certification. When you’re planning your path of study, research the requirements for certification and plan your studies accordingly. Knowing in advance what to expect, you can make decisions and complete requirements as you go, making it easier to apply when the time comes.
Have a plan
The exams for board certification are not easy – and while you might think that you have all the knowledge and skills you need, you still need to spend time studying and preparing. Just one section of surprise questions on the written exam, for example, and your score could fall below the passing level. Develop a plan for studying to begin several weeks or months in advance, especially in the areas that you may not be as familiar with.
Consider a preparation program
Depending on your field of practice, there may be professional preparation programs that can help you prepare for your board certification exams. These might be in-person review courses or in the form of books or online courses and practice tests. Signing up for one of these programs can give you an idea of how the testing process works, as well as help you identify areas that need extra attention. If you can’t find a study program, try hooking up with another professional who is seeking board certification. Together you can review concepts and serve as a sounding board for your concerns about the certification process.
Prepare supporting documents
For some board certifications, you’ll need to provide a portfolio or other evidence that proves you are qualified for the board certification credential. For example, teachers seeking certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards must submit four portfolio entries that demonstrate their competence both in and out of the classroom; possible entries include videos from the classroom or examples of student work. In other areas, candidates may need to provide documentation from employers, professors or others certifying that they meet the standards and requirements for board certification. Knowing the requirements for your specific area ahead of time prevents unpleasant surprises and ensures that you present the best possible information to support your application for board certification.
Take care of yourself
There’s no denying that the process of seeking board certification is stressful – this is your career after all. That makes it all the more important that you take good care of yourself during the preparation process. Get plenty of sleep, eat right, and take a few minutes each day to exercise and de-stress. Planning ahead allows you to set aside time each week to devote to preparation. Don’t wait until the last minute to start your preparation, as board certification is not something that you can cram for. Taking things slow and steady allows you to arrive on your testing day rested, prepared and confident that you can tackle the challenge.
Earning your board certification, no matter what career path you’ve chosen, is a sign to employers, patients, customers and students that you are knowledgeable and possess high standards and pride in the occupation. It’s not an easy process and may take some time to complete, but the extra effort will prove worthwhile, ultimately providing career benefits in the future.