The Society of American Archivists's recent decision to establish a program to certify individual archivists has been seen by both proponents and opponents as a sign of fundamental change in the nature and direction of the profession. While its merits and potential effects have been debated extensively, there are other contexts in which it should be considered, including as an example of the broader phenomena of professionalization and credentialism, as a means to define competencies for use in employment decisions, and as a generic aspect of the behavior of a professional association. Yet, these perspectives have not been brought to bear sufficiently on either side of the issue. To illustrate some of the larger dimensions of certification, this article reviews sociological and historical analyses of the professionalization process, human resource management studies of competency, legal issues, and case studies of four other occupational groups. It concludes with a commentary on archival certification and suggestions for the profession.

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