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Certified Employment Support Professional™ - why you need take the CESP™ exam.

The first national certification program for employment support professionals.

What is CESP™?

The CESP™ program is the first in the nation to create national guidelines to validate and support the training currently provided in the field. The certification program falls under the oversight of the Employment Support Professional Certification Council (ESPCC), established by the APSE Board of Directors.

Unlike training programs that provide a certificate of completion, the CESP™ certification sets a standard of knowledge and distinguish employment support professionals who have shown they have the skill and competence to perform the requirements of the job.

Created by subject matter experts and leaders in the field of disability employment, the CESP exam seeks to define the benchmarks for knowledge and competency in the field in the following areas:

  1. Application of Core Values and Principles to Practice & Legislation and Funding
  2. Individualized Assessment and Employment / Career Planning
  3. Community Research and Job Development
  4. Workplace and Related Supports
  5. Ongoing Supports

Who Should get Certified?

The ESPCC developed the CESP for professionals who provide employment services to individuals with a variety of disabilities including intellectual, mental health, autism spectrum disorders and multiple physical & sensory disabilities.

Job coaches, job developers, transition employment specialists, job placement personnel, and employment specialists/consultants* can earn the designation of Certified Employment Support Professional (CESP) by passing the national CESPexamination.

Why Certification?

The CESP Certification Program was created in response to increasing demand for a system to identify trained, experienced employment specialists.  CESP certification has many benefits for both programs and professionals.

For Provider Agencies and Community Rehabilitation Programs, CESP certification:

  • Increases the visibility of competent professionals.
  • Helps consumers connect with professionals they can trust.
  • Creates a standard that defines the roles and responsibilities of employment support professionals.
  • Improves employability and provides opportunities for salary and career advancement.
  • Legitimizes and enhances professionalism in the field.

For Employment Support Professionals, CESP certification:

  • Increases your marketing edge with employers and businesses
  • Assures the public and consumers of your commitment to best practices
  • Validates your commitment to ethical and safety standards

What is professional certification?

ESPCC developed the Certified Employment Support Professional (CESP) certification program to set a standard of knowledge and distinguish employment support professionals who have shown they have the skill and competence to perform the requirements of the job.

According to the Institute for Credentialing Excellence (ICE), the trade association for the professional certification industry, certification is the voluntary process by which a non-governmental entity grants a time–limited recognition and use of a credential to an individual after verifying that he or she has met predetermined and standardized criteria. It is the vehicle that a profession or occupation uses to differentiate among its members, using standards, sometimes developed through a consensus-driven process, based on existing legal and psychometric requirements.

In simpler terms, a certifying agency, ESPCC grants a credential to an individual who has demonstrated, by passing an exam, they have the knowledge and skill required to perform the job of an employment support professional.

How are certification and training programs different?

Professional certification is different than a training or educational program. Training programs offer a certificate of attendance when an individual completes the coursework, but they do not give a credential. ESPCC used a nationally recognized process to define the roles and responsibilities of the employment support professional and awards a credential after the individual passes an exam to demonstrate their competence

Training programs focus on providing information and education to enable students to master the curriculum of a specific career field. Certification programs provide the third party, objective testing to validate that individuals take the national exam are competent to pass an examination on nationally accepted professional competency standards.

Training programs typically offer a certificate of attendance or certificate of completion when an individual completes the coursework, but they do not give a credential.   Training programs may require individuals to pass an exam on the training content but the exam is not based on national standardized competencies and is not administered by an independent professional organization as is required of nationally accredited certification programs. A training certificate demonstrates that at a single point in time the individual completed a course. It does not necessarily show that they have the skills and knowledge to perform all of the requirements of a particular job as demonstrated by nationally accredited certification examinations.

ESPCC recognizes that there are many valuable training programs that will prepare professionals to pass the ESPCC examination, however we do not endorse specific training programs.

How was the CESP exam developed?

In January 2011, ESPCC launched a role delineation study (RDS) as the first step towards developing a national certification program.

A representative panel of nine subject matter experts (SMEs) developed the RDS to correspond to the job content elements that are related to effective entry-level ESP performance.  Established reference materials from the profession were used to identify 80 content elements grouped into content domains, sequenced in the order in which they are most typically performed.

Following a systematic and scientific process, the survey was created and then sent to employment professionals around the country.  Upon completion of the study, the data was collected and analyzed.  Means and standard deviations were computed for each of the content items.  Combining the criticality and frequency means for each of the six content domains resulted in the basis for the exam content outline.  The content outline was reviewed, revised (primarily by combining two of the domains for better balance), and finalized by a group of SMEs.

Following the approval of the content outline a diverse group of exam question writers were recruited and trained to submit questions for the exam. Questions were subsequently reviewed by additional SMEs before being assembled into an exam for a final quality check and review.

Following each administration of the exam, question statistics are calculated and reviewed along with candidate feedback to identify any concerns or areas for improvement.  Inappropriate questions are removed from grading. Following this quality assurance step exam grading is finalized and score reports are issued to candidates.

The ESPCC oversees a continual process of question writing, review and evaluation to ensure that exam content remains up-to-date, accurate, and consistent with the content outline.

Is there training for the CESP Examination?

There is not a training program for the CESP exam.  The CESP exam tests the ability to apply the practical knowledge required to work in supported employment settings to fictional scenarios.  Any training program that enhances knowledge and experience that can generate positive employment outcomes will be beneficial for any candidate, although not necessary.

The ESPCC does not recommend or endorse any programs created with the intention to aid in exam preparation.

Is the CESP Certification only for APSE members?

The CESP certification is open to all employment professionals that meet the eligibility criteria.

What are the eligibility requirements to sit for the CESP Examination?

Candidates for CESP certification must meet all eligibility requirements in effect at the time of their application for certification.

Applicants for certification must meet all of the following requirements before they take the exam:

  1. Education Requirement: High school diploma, GED or equivalent;
  2. Experience Requirement: Each applicant must meet one of the following requirements:1 year of employment support professional (ESP) work experience, which may include up to a maximum of 3 months of internship or practicum time; or 9 months of ESP work experience with training component; and
  3. Code of Conduct: Each applicant must agree to and sign the Code of Conduct included in the application

What is the CESP examination fee?

The current exam fee is $159 per person.

When is the next exam in my area?

Click here to see a list of currently scheduled CESP Examinations.

What if I do not pass the exam?

Candidates who fail the exam may re-test at any future exam site. A new application and examination fee must be submitted for each exam attempt.

When will I find out my score?

Test scoring and processing takes approximately 6-8 weeks.  After scores have been reported, candidates will receive a results letter and score report.  Results are sent via US Mail and are not released electronically or over the phone. Candidates are encouraged to report ANY change to contact information including email address, mailing address and phone number.    New CESP certificants will receive their certificate 3-4 weeks after results notification.

How do I maintain my CESP certification?

CESP certificants must renew their certification every 3 years by completing 36 CE credits and paying the recertification fee.

What if my recertification lapses and I want to renew it?

Recertification is mandatory for all CESP holders. If certification is not renewed it will expire on the last day of the month 3 years after the certification was last earned. Individuals whose certification has expired or been suspended or revoked may not represent him/herself as a CESP holder and may not use the credential until he/she receives official notice that the recertification requirements have been satisfied or that certification status has been reinstated.

If certification has been expired for 30 days or less, an individual may reinstate his/her certification by meeting all of the recertification requirements, submitting a complete recertification application, and paying the recertification fee. If the application is approved, the individual’s expiration date for the reinstated credential will be the same as if the certification had been renewed on time.

If certification has been expired for more than 30 days, an individual must reapply for certification, meet all eligibility requirements in effect at the time of re-application, and pass the examination.

If you have additional questions, please contact Aaron Robbins Wiseman, CESPCertification Director at or call APSE National at 301-279-0060.