Credentialing Career Pathways

The Institute for Credentialing Excellence provides education, networking, and other resources for organizations and individuals who work in and serve the credentialing industry.

To better define career potential in credentialing—traditional or nontraditional—and support an increase in retention and engagement, the I.C.E. Career Pathways Taskforce surveyed members of the credentialing community. They wanted to understand their unique and varied professional paths that led them to where they are today. From there, they could develop a tool to help others see ways in which they can learn and grow in their career. In addition, the tool would help them identify career paths and the lateral and upward journeys available along the way.

Through this effort, the taskforce identified six career pathways with associated general and technical competencies that credentialing professionals can use to identify and guide their desired journey. In addition, the identified competencies and skills can assist professionals looking to hire in the credentialing field. The attention to education and technical development outlined in the six career journeys serve as guidelines for informing job descriptions and career development plans.

During every stage of your career path, you can access targeted education, networking, and other resources from I.C.E. to advance your skills and competencies. Not an I.C.E. member? Join today.

Different Journeys, Varied Paths

Your professional journey is as unique as you are. The credentialing field is diverse, and credentialing professionals follow varied paths as they advance in their career.

The I.C.E. Career Pathways Taskforce developed this subway map as a fun, engaging way to visualize the six identified career pathways. You might travel on one “line” for your entire career, or you may stop and “transfer” to another “line” mid-career, or even multiple times.

Note that this visualization is not intended as a literal representation of the identified career pathways.

Credentialing Career Paths and Competency Matrix

The I.C.E. Career Pathways Taskforce also reviewed competencies from job descriptions across the credentialing field. This information was compiled into a matrix by job role and associated general and technical competencies.

Using data directly from the field, you can define the roles you are looking to fulfill at your organization and find individuals that align with needed skills and competencies to complete your work or lead your teams.

In addition, use this data to develop leadership within your organization. With insight into career development and possible lateral or upward moves, you have the information to facilitate goal-oriented conversations with your staff. These conversations also can help your staff identify long-term plans and ways that your organization can support those plans to increase staff retention and engagement.

Career Pathways Taskforce

I.C.E. would like to thank the following individuals for their contributions to this project:

  • Anjali Weber (Chair), MS, CAE, Amazon
  • Ashley Bardsley, SeaCrest Company
  • Carissa Homme, PhD, Competency and Credentialing Organization
  • Khunteang Pa, Pharmacy Technician Certification Board
  • Terreline Sims, MS, American Nurses Credentialing Center
  • Pam Weber, CAE, International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners


  • Kevin Bradley, PhD, Human Resources Research Organization


Types of Advancement

Upward (or vertical) mobility: Advancement to next level position, supervisory, or managerial responsibilities.

Dual ladder: Advancement upward in technical skills, but not into a management track.

Horizontal: For the organization, key positions can be filled with demonstrated performers.

About Dual Career Ladders

A dual career ladder is a career development plan that allows upward mobility for employees without requiring that they be placed into supervisory or managerial positions. This type of program has typically served as a way to advance employees who may have particular technical skills or education but who are not interested in nor suited to management.

Dual career ladder programs are more common in scientific, medical, information technology, and engineering fields, or in fields that typically exhibit one or more of the following characteristics:

  • Substantial technical or professional training and expertise beyond the basic level
  • Rapid innovation
  • Credentials or licenses

To be effective, a dual career ladder program must be well managed, as the program can become a “dumping ground” for lower-performing managers. In addition, there may be resentment from employees not chosen for the program or from managers who feel that dual career employees are receiving similar pay as managers without the added burdens of supervising staff.

About Horizontal or Lateral Career Paths

The concept of horizontal career paths (also called “career lattices”) was introduced in many large organizations in the mid-to-late 1990s. In organizations with a limited number of management and leadership positions, employees are encouraged to think of career paths both horizontally and vertically.

The potential benefits of formal horizontal career paths include the following:

  • For a business with many distinct functions, employees can find challenging and rewarding work, broaden their skills, and contribute in new ways when they move laterally.
  • For the organization, key positions can be filled with demonstrated performers.
  • Horizontal paths can help employees who want to experiment in a related field.
  • Structured programs also help employees quickly understand how their job fits into the overall success of the organization and how they can meet their professional goals at their current workplaces.
  • Lateral career paths may help attract and retain employees from younger generations.

A career lattice strategy has to be understood by both managers and employees, and appropriate incentives need to be in place to reinforce the desired behavior. Organizations with successful lateral career programs share several common characteristics, including:

  • Employee development is part of the culture and beyond training courses to include rotational assignments or temporary assignments in other functions, roles, or locations.
  • Compensation is not reduced from the current level, but employees in developmental roles may not receive the same bonuses or merit increases when making a lateral move.
  • Well-developed competency models define the skills and experiences needed to be successful in more senior roles.