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Voices of the Global Community


Virginia N. Gordon, Task Force on Advisor Certification Chair 

The first NACADA Task Force on Advisor Certification was established in 2001 to explore the feasibility of creating a “program to award certificates in academic advising to NACADA members.” That group recommended that certificates be awarded and standards leading to such certificates be established. The reasons for establishing such a program were to:

  • help individual advisors establish and maintain credibility with the aid of such external standards;
  • give novice advisors clear goals to strive for; give administrators external standards to refer to on the hiring, evaluation, and promotion of academic advisors;
  • give colleges and universities standards for various assessment and accreditation purposes; and
  • influence graduate programs related to academic advising.

The NACADA Board of Directors accepted the Task Force’s recommendation and charged a second Task Force in 2002 to continue this exploration. This group was assigned the task of recommending the specific categories of advising competencies that all effective advisors should be able to demonstrate. The Task Force proposed that competencies in the following core areas of advisor knowledge and skills are essential to effective advising:

Foundations Knowledge: In this category, advisors will describe and explain their advising philosophy and the theoretical frameworks that influence their advising approaches. They will be knowledgeable about the CAS Standards and will describe how they incorporate NACADA’s Core values into their advising. The knowledge and practical implications of legal and ethical advising issues may be included here.

Knowledge of College Student Characteristics: Advisors will have a general knowledge of the characteristics of college students and will be able to demonstrate their knowledge of the student demographics of their institution and the unique characteristics of the students they advise. They will have an understanding of multicultural differences and how this influences the way they approach students from different cultures. Although student development theory is an obvious choice, they may demonstrate familiarity with any theory (from any discipline) that has implications for understanding the characteristics of the students they advise.

Knowledge of Higher Education: Since advisors work in a variety of higher education settings, it is crucial they have a knowledge of the history of higher education in general and their institution specifically. Advisors should also be familiar with the current issues facing higher education including ethical and legal implications affecting advising. They should have a basic knowledge of academic disciplines and the development and rationale for the curriculum.

Career Advising Knowledge and Skills: Many students expect their advisor to discuss career issues that relate to their overall college education and the occupational relationships with their academic major(s) in particular. They should be familiar with the career resources that are appropriate for student access, such as the Internet, career library, and other career services on their campuses. They should be able to demonstrate their understanding of the career decision-making process in the context of advising and should have the advising skills to assist students to confirm, select, or change a major.

Communication and Interpersonal Skills: How advisors communicate with students is an obvious requisite for effective advising. Advisors must demonstrate their ability to relate to individuals and groups of students using communication, helping (counseling), and problem-solving skills. Competent writing skills are important as advisors communicate with students and colleagues through e-mail and other technologies.

Knowledge and Application of Advising Skills at Local Institution: Although advisors work in a higher education setting, their knowledge of their local institution is paramount. They should be able to demonstrate knowledge of their institution’s mission and goals, institutional policies and procedures. They must be experts in the discipline and curricula for which they advise. They should be familiar with retention issues on their local campus, graduation requirements, and both campus and community referral resources.

Technological Knowledge and Skills: Advisors must demonstrate their knowledge and usage of their institution’s technological systems that are integral to academic advising. They should be equally competent in other technological tools (e.g., e-mail, Web browsers) and tasks (e.g., downloading software, file management).

These knowledge and skills are the core competencies that have been identified by the Task Force thus far. Since identifying these competencies is still in the formative stage, some may be added, deleted, or changed. The next step is to explore how advisors might demonstrate their competencies in these areas. Several methods have been identified completion of approved workshops or seminars; “knowledge-based” examinations that may be offered in person or on the Web; or a combination of workshops or seminars; or knowledge-and-skill-based tests that would apply these competencies to the workplace. To that end, the NACADA Executive Office staff is currently in contact with consulting firms that work with professional organizations considering certification programs. These consultants help organizations move through the process of planning, developing, and designing programs. In addition, the NACADA Board asked that the Professional Development Committee and the Task Force look at what professional development activities might contribute to the earning of a “seat time” certificate acknowledging exposure to these areas of knowledge. That analysis is in progress.

NACADA is striving to address your professional development needs in a number of ways. Be sure to express your needs as they arise. More information should be available at the National Conference in Dallas in October.

Virginia N. Gordon
Ohio State University – Main Campus

Cite this article using APA style as: Gordon, V. (2003, September). Advisor certification: A history and update. Academic Advising Today, 26(3). [insert url here]


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Academic Advising Today, a NACADA member benefit, is published four times annually by NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising. NACADA holds exclusive copyright for all Academic Advising Today articles and features. For complete copyright and fair use information, including terms for reproducing material and permissions requests, see Publication Guidelines.