Certification: as Clear as Mud

Certification is a tricky thing, particularly in an unlicensed (or mostly unlicensed) industry like ours as almost anyone can craft a list of job-related questions, package and sell them as an “exam” and then “certify” those who pass, maybe even providing a fancy certificate and ID badge as added value. It’s actually not a very complicated process, but it does make things more complicated for consumers.

Even in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, “certification” is so loosely defined that it could mean pretty much whatever you want it to, and this is exactly what people take advantage of when they use “certified” as an adjective to describe their business or product.

On one hand, having multiple certification providers with different sets of requirements and standards makes “certification” more attainable for those working in the industry, but it potentially does so at the expense of alienating consumers who are then forced to  either do the necessary homework to differentiate one certification from another in a field they likely know little to nothing about or make an ill-informed hiring decision. While we definitely value competition, we have to balance that with our commitment to educating and protecting homeowners. It’s also worth noting that true competition can only exist between two or more entities offering products of similar quality.

This topic may be off-putting, but it is extremely important, because the last thing we want is for a homeowner to be mistreated or poorly serviced by someone who they believed was well qualified because the word “certified” was included somewhere in their branding— it does serious damage to the industry and can be especially discouraging to those who must work hard to maintain their credentials through a commitment to continuing education and by living up to the highest of professional standards.

*Quick Public Service Announcement*

If you ever feel like you’ve been taken advantage of by someone who claims to be a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep, please let us know immediately and we’ll investigate. CSIA does not tolerate this kind of behavior from its Certified Sweeps and we have no problem revoking the credential when warranted. We can be reached at office@csia.org or (317) 857-5362… Okay, now back to our regularly scheduled blog post 🙂

If you’re a homeowner in search of someone to service or inspect your chimney and you run across the word “certified” PLEASE take a few minutes to do some additional research before making a hiring decision (usually a quick Google search will do fine). Things you’ll need to look into include the following:

  • Is the word “certified” just part of the business name or is it an earned designation? (even if it’s the latter, don’t stop there with your research!)
  • Is the certifying body or organization accredited?
  • Is the certifying body a for-profit business or nonprofit entity run by a board of directors?
  • Must the certification be maintained and renewed through continuing education as the industry evolves, or is it earned through a one-time exam?
  • Is the certifying body well-established or are they relatively new to the scene? And if they are new to the scene are their requirements for certification more or less stringent than those of more established entities?
  • Is the mission statement of the certifying body focused on educating and protecting homeowners or is it more focused on making it easier to people to earn “certification”?
  • Does holding the certification in-question require adherence to a code of professional ethics?
  • Does a Google search for the certifying body lead to articles and stories published by trusted and respected information sources?

If you have any questions about any of the above information, please do not hesitate to reach out to us!

jordan pr

About the author: Jordan Whitt is the current Director of Communications and Marketing for the Chimney Safety Institute of America.  You can occasionally find Jordan doing some public affairs work for the American Red Cross or Indiana Department of Homeland Security. You can email him directly at jwhitt@csia.org.


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