The ATA Chronicle - July/August 2020 - 13

Whatever the reasons for tying
membership and certification, caution
is warranted here. A substantial
body of antitrust law stands for the
proposition that tying an undesired
service or product to a desired service
or product can be anticompetitive and
illegal. [Discussion of lawsuits involving
certification programs.] The bottom
line is that for now, no court is known
to have ruled definitively on tying
membership to certification, but it may
be unacceptably risky to do so given
these two prominent settlements in cases
involving the issue.2
Practical Implications of Excluding
Non-Members from Eligibility
Limitation of Program Volumes:
Excluding otherwise qualified individuals
from certification reduces program
volumes and constricts the maximum
market share the association can expect
to capture. Given that in general,
certification programs typically capture
only a small percentage of the market
(unless the credential is required by
regulation or the majority of employers),
requiring membership further hinders the
penetration of the credential. Naturally, this
has a direct impact on program revenue
and lowers the return on investment.
Limitation of Return on Mission: The
more qualified individuals who are certified,
the greater the visibility and credibility of
the credential and the greater the protection
of the public. Thus, limiting the number
of qualified individuals who are certified
lowers the potential return on mission.
Impact on Stakeholder Perceptions: It's
not uncommon for professionals to view
the tying of membership to certification as
"a money grab." This engenders negative
perceptions of the sponsoring organization
and may diminish customer loyalty.

IMPRESSIONS OF
MEMBERSHIP REQUIREMENT
The preceding Overview of Pertinent
Concepts above presents general principles,
practices, and standards pertaining to
setting eligibility criteria. Arguably, the
most important consideration when
evaluating whether ATA's membership
www.atanet.org

requirement for certification conforms to
accepted practices and quality standards is:

are designed with the assumption
that work experience in the field is
necessary to having the requisite scope
and depth of knowledge and skills.
The section on ATA's website entitled,
"A Guide to the ATA Certification
Program," states that: "ATA certification
is a mid-career credential for
experienced, professional translators or
interpreters."3 Thus, ATA's professional
development programs, in and of
themselves, are not sufficient to master
the knowledge and skills required.

Is there a direct and exclusive
relationship between membership in
ATA and acquisition of knowledge
and skills required to competently
perform the role of the translator or
interpreter? That is, must one be a
member to become (or be) a competent
professional? Is membership the sole
avenue to professional competence?
This consideration encapsulates the
focus of the practices, standards, and
certification law recommendations
highlighted in the Overview section
above. Our analysis is summarized below.
Certainly, it can be said that ATA offers
professional development programs and
resources that facilitate the acquisition of
knowledge and skills that are requisite to
competent performance as a professional
translator. However, this does not mean
that there is a direct and exclusive
relationship between ATA membership
and professional competence.
1.	 It's rare that the offerings of a
professional association are the sole
means of acquiring the professional
knowledge and skills required
for certification and competent
performance. Often, these offerings
are not even the primary or most
impactful source because individuals
gain pertinent knowledge and skills
in myriad ways, including through
academic programs, formal continuing
education, self-directed learning,
internships and apprenticeships,
mentoring, and work experience in
the field. There is no evidence that
ATA membership is the only means of
developing the capabilities associated
with professional competence.
2.	 Professionals do not need to be ATA
members to access the professional
development offered by ATA. So,
even if ATA were the only provider of
professional development, it could not
be said that membership was necessary
for, or integral to, competence.
3.	 Although not a requirement for
certification, ATA certification and the
examinations and scoring processes

If ATA membership is not requisite to
attaining the level of competence targeted by
ATA certification, then it would seem that
requiring membership as a condition for
eligibility is potentially excluding qualified
individuals from becoming certified.

CONCLUSION
Based on the above assumptions and
analysis, it appears that the policy of
requiring ATA membership is contrary to,
and inconsistent with, current, accepted
practice and quality standards pertaining
to professional certification programs.
NOTES
1.	
Standards for the Accreditation of
Certification Programs (National
Commission for Certifying Agencies,
2016), https://bit.ly/NCCA-standards.
2.	

Certification: The ICE Handbook (Institute
of Credentialing Excellence, 2019), 52-53,
https://bit.ly/ICE-handbook.

3.	

"A Guide to the ATA Certification Program,"
https://bit.ly/ATA-certification-overview.

Lenora G. Knapp is the
president of Knapp &
Associates International, Inc.,
a credentialing consultancy
that has served more than
180 organizations over the
past 25 years. She co-authored the second edition
of The Business of Certification, a best-selling
publication recognized by the American Society of
Association Executives as one of "Six Books You
and Your Association Need." She also authored
the "Future Trends in Certification" chapter in the
last two editions of the credentialing industry's
seminal reference, Certification: The ICE Handbook.
She is a recipient of the Institute for Credentialing
Excellence's Industry Leadership Award for
innovation in the field of professional credentialing.
American Translators Association

13


https://www.bit.ly/NCCA-standards https://www.bit.ly/ICE-handbook https://www.bit.ly/ATA-certification-overview http://www.atanet.org

The ATA Chronicle - July/August 2020

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