I've submitted my preliminary application and am officially "on the clock" for my certification application with the Board for Certification of Genealogists - just don't ask me how long I've been working on it! But this is just one option for attaining credentials as an expert genealogist.
The first step, of course, is to decide if you are ready to take this step in terms of professional preparation and experience. The Association of Professional Genealogists has a good Becoming a Professional checklist to help you evaluate your readiness. The Board for Certification of Genealogists offers a self-scoring quiz to help you decide if you have the necessary experience and are ready for certification, as well as some great work samples from certified genealogists. The International Commission for the Accreditation of Professional Genealogists recommends that you have at least 1,000 hours of research experience in your geographic area of interest before submitting your application for accreditation.
If you choose to pursue a credential, there are several options available to you. In the United States, two major genealogical credentialing organizations offer credentials to genealogists from around the world:
- The International Commission for the Accreditation of Professional Genealogists (ICAPGEN) offers accreditation in specific geographic areas of research, from countries around the world through comprehensive written and oral examinations. These tests are done in person at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah (alternate testing locations currently include the DAR Museum in Washington, D.C. and the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana).
- The Board for Certification of Genealogists offers Certified Genealogist (CG) and Certified Genealogical Lecturer (CGL) credentials following evaluation of work samples submitted by mail in a portfolio submission. Three to four judges independently evaluate each application, and if you are recommended for certification by three judges you will be certified for a five-year period.
While both of the above organizations offer credentials to genealogists from around the world, there are many other genealogical credentialing organizations. Examples include:
- Bureau Québécois D'Attestation de Compétence en Généalogie - This service bureau created by the Fédération Québécoise des Sociétés de Généalogi (FQSG) oversees certification of competence for Canadian genealogists.
- Genealogical Institute of the Maritimes - This certifying authority for genealogists and record searchers in Eastern Canada offers two levels of certification based on eligibility and submitted work samples: GRS (Genealogical Record Searcher, Canada) and CG (Certified Genealogist, Canada).
- Australasian Association of Genealogists and Record Agents (AAGRA) - This Australian genealogical organization offers two credentials G (Genealogist) and RA (Record Agent) for applicants involved in genealogy or records research within Australia and New Zealand. Credentials are bestowed based upon evaluation of submitted work samples.
There are also a number of professional genealogical organizations that don't offer specific credentials, but do require assessed competency based on submitted work samples as a condition of membership, including organizations such as the Association of Genealogists and Researchers in Archives (AGRA) based in Kent, England, and the Association of Scottish Genealogists and Researchers in Archives (ASGRA) in Scotland.
Why go through all of this work to become credentialed in the first place? Certification and accreditation both offer you the chance for expert peer evaluation of your work, and the feedback you receive through this process is a great opportunity for self-growth. Beyond that, the professional credential can help provide potential clients the assurance that you have the necessary skills and ethics to properly take on their research project, and you also obtain greater professional exposure through a listing in the directory of the credentialing organization. Yes, obtaining genealogical credentials is hard work - and not necessary to take on clients for pay. But in my opinion, the rewards far outweigh the cost and time commitment involved. What do you think?