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Obtaining professional business continuity certifications

Professional resilience certifications recognize those working in business continuity and disaster recovery, and the education that comes with them is a valuable resource.

Certification helps you in several ways. It recognizes your work and professional status, and your company will probably appreciate the fact that you are recognized among your peers. It could also be useful to you if you change jobs in the future or if you are currently looking for a job.

Over the past decade, a few changes have occurred within the business continuity and disaster recovery (BC/DR) certification industry. Most of the players from the past are still in business, offering a combination of educational programs plus certification examinations and awarding professional business continuity certifications.

Certification coursework provides a foundation for understanding IT resilience-focused disciplines like business continuity, as well as disaster recovery and incident response. Hands-on activities, such as conducting business impact analyses and performing plan exercises are also covered. The most recent additions to the established cadre of training programs and credentials are those addressing auditing, program assessment and project leadership activities.

In this article, we'll update you on how you can prepare for the accreditation exams, what business continuity certifications are awarded and which accreditation firms are available today.

Preparing for resilience certification

Today's resilience professionals with at least 25 years of experience typically have no formal training in business continuity or disaster recovery. They read the few books available on the subject at the time, attended the few seminars and conferences on the subject, learned on the job by trial and error, and, over time, developed and honed their skills and knowledge. New entrants to the profession have a huge array of educational resources available to learn every aspect of the profession, from the basics to getting into the weeds.

While certifications offer professional benefits, they are not a replacement for time spent in the resilience field.

When looking into taking certification exams, there are some important things to note. To take a certification exam, it's not usually necessary to take the certifying firm's training programs and coursework. If you feel you have enough years of DR experience and understand the nuances of the profession in detail, you should be able to sit for an exam unless the certifying firm has specific prerequisites. Training programs from an accreditation firm are typically designed to increase the likelihood of passing a specific exam from that firm.

The following are some tips to help you prepare for getting certified in business continuity and resilience:

  1. Determine if certification is necessary. See if your company requires that you have professional accreditations. If it does, you can begin moving forward.
  2. Determine your current level of expertise in resilience. If you are brand new to the profession, start learning about it by researching the firms we list below. Read relevant BC/DR publications to get an understanding of what's happening in the profession.
  3. If you have at least five years of hands-on experience in resilience activities, you may wish to sit for a more experienced credential as opposed to an entry-level award. Review the certifications available from the firms listed and their prerequisites.
  4. Speak with other resilience professionals, if possible, to find out what they did regarding certifications.
  5. Examine the offerings of the firms listed and compare them for price, amount of time needed to take coursework, availability of the certification exam following a completed course, location where the course(s) and exam(s) can be taken and availability of online delivery of all certification activities.
  6. Carefully examine the websites of the candidate certification firms: learn about their overall views on the profession, see what kinds of thought leadership they offer, review the coursework and certifications they offer, and ensure the firm has been accredited by a qualified third party to award certifications.
  7. Prepare a plan with the goal of achieving the desired certification. Include training activities, work activities, participation in professional organizations, reading and research of professional publications, and preparing for the certification exam.
  8. Once you have achieved your certification, be sure to keep up your activities in continuing education, as required by the certifying organization.

Don't underestimate experience

While certifications offer professional benefits, they are not a replacement for time spent in the resilience field. Suppose your career development plan includes taking a three- to five-day introductory course in business continuity and/or disaster recovery. How well does that prepare you for your job? And suppose you also obtain a certification. How much better prepared are you with a certification, despite the lack of experience? This is an area of ongoing discussion within the profession.

Even a combination of coursework and certification does not make you ready to address all the details associated with resilience activities. It takes a while to learn all the nuances of the profession; a single course and certification are not enough. Experience matters.

Resilience certifications available

Once you've decided that it's time you get certified, there are a few firm options available. Firms offering business continuity certifications in the Americas include the following:

If you are looking for books and other reference materials on the profession, refer to the materials available in the Rothstein catalog on business continuity.

Certification organizations are typically affiliated with an internal or external training organization to deliver training necessary for passing their certification exams. Among the organizations listed above, each has an internal training entity to deliver in-person and web-based training courses. The exception is NIBCM, which has a sister organization, the Institute for Business Continuity Training.

Business continuity certifications among the listed firms typically progress from an entry-level award to an advanced/senior-level designation that recognizes significant achievement in the profession. Considering that educational programs are designed to prepare you for the firm's certifications, you can select a single firm and get all the training and accreditation you desire. It's not uncommon for professionals to have credentials from more than one accreditation firm to further demonstrate their expertise.

The two firms with the most widely recognized and accepted credentials are the DRII and BCI. Both have been providing training and certification for over 25 years and are recognized internationally. Each of the other firms we've listed has certified thousands of resilience professionals globally, and, collectively, the firms provide everything resilience professionals need throughout the course of their careers.

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