Which ISA Credential is Right for You?

Pursuing an ISA Credential is a worthy goal that will help you advance your career in the arboriculture industry. The first step toward becoming ISA Credentialed is to decide which credential is right for you. To mirror our diverse population of arborists, ISA offers certification and qualifications that are each founded on different eligibilities and require the successful completion of separate, independent exams. Each credential has its own handbook and study materials.

ISA commits itself to impartiality in its credentialing activities. We understand how critical impartiality is to carrying out our credentialing activities. ISA manages conflict of interest and ensures the objectivity of all credentialing activities. All persons involved in credentialing activities including the ISA Headquarters team and member volunteers accomplish this through compliance with ISA’s structure, policies and procedures related to credentialing activities.

We invite you to learn more about ISA credentials. Be sure to review the application handbooks for the most current information to determine which credential is right for you and to understand the requirements for each before applying for, enrolling in, or retaking a certification exam.

What is the difference between an ISA Certification and an ISA Qualification?

The ISA Certification Program has led the way as a credentialing body in the arboricultural industry for many years. In order to meet the needs of the profession and respond to the demands of the stakeholders for advanced certificate-based programs, ISA has expanded its training and credentialing opportunities to include qualifications.

What is a Certification? What is a Qualification?

A Certification is a voluntary program administered by a non-governmental organization. It grants the use of a credential to individuals for a specific period of time. The Certification is available to those who meet predetermined and standardized criteria for knowledge, skills, or competencies. The knowledge needed to pass a Certification assessment is learned through self-study and experience. The assessment is conducted independent of a specific class, course, or other training program. To retain the credential, certificants must meet requirements for renewal.

A Qualification is awarded for achievement of a narrow body of knowledge with very specific learning objectives. This type of program often takes the form of a classroom learning experience followed by an assessment to determine if the desired learning goals and objectives for the training have been met. Qualifications have no recertification component. They are either valid for life or they require that the classroom learning experience and assessment be repeated for renewal.

Key Elements of a Certification Key Elements of a Qualification
  • Focuses on a broad body of knowledge
  • Administered independent of any education or training program
  • Assessment is based on a body of knowledge rather than on specific learning outcomes
  • Incorporates recertification requirements to maintain the credential, such as participation in continuing education opportunities
  • Prohibits trainers from assessing their own trainees
  • Forbids release of exam questions to anyone teaching preparatory courses or developing preparatory material
  • Experience includes both instruction and assessment as part of the program
  • Tests specific knowledge, skills, or competencies associated with learning outcomes
  • Awards a Qualification only to those participants who meet the standards for performance, proficiency, or passing score
  • Allows trainers to know and be familiar with the assessment questions
  • Permits trainers to assess their own trainees, depending on the requirements of a given program
  • Requires credential holders to retrain and retest at the end of a set period of validity, unless qualification is determined to be valid for life