To Be(come Certified) or Not To Be(come Certified) – That is the Question for Economic Developers

“[The] certification is a point of pride for, I think, all of the people who have taken it and successfully completed the steps toward certification.” – Jeffrey Finkle, President & CEO of the International Economic Development Council


The most vital question of those who decide to attain their Economic Development Certification is: “Is this long, challenging certification process something that I truly wish to pursue?” While most economic developers ask themselves this question, very few decide to strive for this designation. In fact, in the International Economic Development Council, the largest economic development membership organization in the world, only 25% of their 5,000 members have their certification. Why is it that so few actually become certified?

While it is not a requirement to be certified in order to practice economic development, there are benefits to furthering your knowledge of the field in this way. First, being certified gives you a stamp of professionalism. It shows that you have gained the necessary knowledge to successfully practice economic development. Second, you become more marketable, which can help both you and your organization. Many economic development job openings state a preference for a certified economic developer, but even if it doesn’t request this, the certification places you ahead of your peers who lack the achievement. Having this designation also sets your organization apart because having a certified economic developer employed implies a greater knowledge of the field and, potentially, could attract more business to your company through added trust in your abilities. Finally, according to IEDC, economic developers who are certified tend to make more money.

With all of these benefits of achieving a certification, why is it that so many choose to not pursue it? One reason could be the low pass rate. On average, only 33% of economic developers who take the exam pass. Another reason could be that many enter the field later in life and don’t desire more school. Others could feel like they’re doing fine in the field and the opportunity cost for the certification just isn’t beneficial due to time, money, or where they are in their career already. But it does make one wonder why other fields require a certification (such as the CPA and Bar exams) to achieve a stamp of professionalism in order to perform their job and why economic development does not follow suit. But stay tuned, that is a question for another day.


1 reply
  1. Mary Ann Moon, CEcD, FM
    Mary Ann Moon, CEcD, FM says:

    Thank you for creating this blog. It is encouraging to read comments. I am fortunate to teach the OU-Economic Development Institute’s Exam Prep Course. Without question and overwhelmingly, the vast majority of students,who failed the exam, readily admit they did not pass for two reasons. They were not prepared or they took the exam to “see what’s on it!” Unfortunately, these students’ test results are reflected in the pass/fail percentages.

    The exam is not meant to be easy. As Economic Developers we are responsible for improving the lives of those residing in the communities we serve. It is incumbent upon us to be knowledgeable, educated and trained. Dedicating one’s self to attaining the Gold Standard of Economic Development-the CEcD-is a commitment not taken lightly.

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