Have you every explored LinkedIn profiles or swapped business cards and noticed that some people have letters as long as the alphabet after their name? What are they and what do they mean?

Credentials are earned and awarded by an academic institution or a recognized professional organization to verify one’s professional qualifications and competence. They verify a formal process and successful completion of criteria set by schools, universities, and professional organizations.

The letters appearing after a professional’s name on that business card are usually an acronym representing a professional designation. These designations are used to quickly communicate a person’s qualifications.

A professional credential is used to mark one’s knowledge in a particular professional area. Professionals choose to earn and maintain credentials for a variety of personal and professional reasons at different stages of their careers.

Various professions offer credentials unique to their industry.

I have an academic degree. So why should I consider a professional credential?

Collegiate recreation professionals are typically a highly educated group of people. Your academic degree(s), whether you’ve earned one or a combination of various degrees— such as a BA, BS, MA, MS, EdD, or PhD—are all credentials. The difference between an academic degree and many professional credentials is that one does not have to demonstrate continuous learning to keep an academic degree. Once you’ve completed all your degree requirements, tossed your cap in the air, and turned your tassle, you’ve completed your requirements and you can put your diploma on the wall forever.

However, many professional credentials will usually include a maintenance requirement. That means, in order to keep using the credential, you have to participate in ongoing learning within the field. Maintenance requirements are usually used in a credential program to help ensure that professionals remain up to date on evolving competencies and knowledge specific to their industry. For example, RCRSPs are required to earn 4.5 continuing education units (CEUs) within a three-year period. That means they have to participate in 45 hours-worth of professional development activities as outlined in the RCRSP Handbook.

Registry of Collegiate Recreational Sports Professionals (RCRSP)

The RCRSP is the credential of collegiate recreation professionals. To learn more about applying for and maintaining this credential, visit the Registry website. You can also visit the Registry Info Table at the 2019 NIRSA Annual Conference and Campus Rec and Wellness Expo!

So why consider pursuing a professional credential?

Earning and maintaining a professional credential is a decision only you can make depending on your career goals. So, do your research! Some employers and certain types of positions may require or prefer certain credentials, and some do not. If you have a preferred employer, check out their employment website or the listings on NIRSA’s Bluefishjobs to learn if they tend to prefer certain credentials for certain jobs. Whether you’re interested in advancing with your current employer, or you’re considering a change into a new functional role, gaining a professional credential may make you more eligible for a number of new job opportunities.

A commitment to learning and leadership

Whether or not you need a credential to either advance, or make other changes in your career, having a professional credential helps communicate to your campus colleagues that you’re dedicated to continuous professional development, are knowledgeable of new trends and evolving practices within your industry, and that you’re able to set ambitious goals for yourself. Learn more about the RCRSP credential to see if it’s the right fit for you and your goals.


  • For more information, please contact NIRSA Director of Professional Development Kristen Gleason.
Director of Professional Development at | NIRSA Profile

Kristen Gleason is currently the Director of Professional Development at NIRSA