Becoming Certified: Should You Care?

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In the Genealogy world, there are two main credentials: that of Certified Genealogist and that of Accredited Genealogist. Although there are many similarities between the two credentials, they each have a unique scope and emphasize different aspects of genealogy. 

I could write an entire post comparing these two credentials, but for now here’s where you can learn more about the Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG) and the International Commission for the Accreditation of Professional Genealogists (ICAPGen).

While I know many professionals with one or the other (or sometimes both) of these credentials, my personal goals and plans are moving me in the direction of certification. Although the following information is written from that perspective, it can easily be applied to accreditation as well.

BENEFITS

What are the benefits to being certified? We’ll talk about some specific benefits below, but one overall benefit is being recognized by the community as someone who has met certain standards/criteria. Although all genealogists strive to hold to the Genealogy Standards*, many take that extra step to certification in order to bear that stamp of approval on their work.

VALIDATION

This is a big reason to pursue certification. Achieving this goal can validate the hard work you’ve put in to your profession and can prove to yourself and others that your knowledge and practice meet or exceed standards. Personally, this is one major reason I’m choosing to follow the path to certification.

FEEDBACK

When you submit your portfolio for certification, it is reviewed by a team of judges. While they have a grading rubric to follow, the comments and feedback they provide about each piece of the portfolio is priceless. I’ve heard from people who did not pass the first time, that the lessons they learned from it were invaluable to their further attempts. 

PRACTICE

The preparation for certification, and preparing all the items needed for the portfolio, is excellent practice in following the Genealogy Standards* and professional standards. “Begin as you mean to go on” is excellent advice and starting now to create good habits in your research and reporting will only make you a better genealogist at the end of the day. 

EDUCATION

The educational opportunities available to aspiring certified genealogists are outstanding. Creating an educational plan based on the gaps in your knowledge of the areas tested in the portfolio, will help make your initial attempt much stronger. Research done by the BCG shows that applicants who invested in more formal education options had a much more likely chance of passing on the first attempt1. This webinar by Angela Packer McGhie is my inspiration for my own educational plan.

PROFESSIONAL

While it is possible to be a professional genealogist (and do well at it!) and not be certified, and it’s possible to be certified and not be a professional genealogist, if becoming a professional genealogist is your goal, then certification can definitely move you forward and give you a big boost. One of my goals is to be a genealogy lecturer, and certification is a big step in that direction.

CHALLENGE

Last but not least, the application process is a challenge. It may not be as life altering (or life threatening!) as reaching the summit of Mount Everest, but it is a significant challenge that can be met and overcome. For those who thrive on challenges and love solving puzzles and putting everything all together (which, tbh, is most genealogists!), going through the certification process is a win-win situation.

As said above, it’s not for everyone. Your goals and desires may take you down a different path. But if you’ve been on the fence about whether to pursue a genealogy credential, then perhaps this post has helped you along on that choice.

I’d love to hear your thoughts! Share below or send me an email. 

~R


  1. Board for Certification of Genealogists, “BCG Learning Center: Educational Activities”, (https://bcgcertification.org/learning/education/ : accessed 12 Jan 2020).

8 Comments

    • You are welcome Jennifer! If I could be a full-time student and make a living, I would, lol — so as soon as I heard about credentials I started looking into them. Maybe someday I’ll be able to achieve both!

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