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CESP™ Certification Frequently Asked Questions

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What is professional certification?

The Employment Support Professional Certification Council (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, The 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.

What is the CESP™ examination fee?

Exam Fees

Exam Fee $199 USD
Application Processing Fee (nonrefundable) $40 USD (included in exam fee)
Retest Fee Full exam fee

You are able to pay by credit/debit through the online application or by mailing in a check. Please note that your application will not be reviewed until payment has been received.  Exam seats are limited and are filled on a first come, first served basis. Your seat will not be guaranteed until registration is complete. Registration is not complete until your application is approved.

How do I cancel or reschedule my exam registration?

Requests for refunds or rescheduling must be made in writing to No refunds of exam fees are available once a candidate has taken the exam.

Cancellation request made more than 14 days before testing date: Full refund minus $40 nonrefundable application processing fee

Cancellation request made less than 14 days before testing date: No refund

Reschedule request made more than 14 days before testing date: Your registration will be moved to the new date requested, as long as the exam is not full

Reschedule request made less than 14 days before testing date: No changes can be made to your registration

When is the next exam in my area?

CESP™ Exam Opportunities

Exams are added to the schedule frequently. If you do not see an exam in your area at this time one may be added to the schedule in the future. Please check back if you are looking for an exam in a particular area.

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 here.    New CESP certificants will receive their certificate electronically 2-4 weeks after results notification.

How do I interpret my score report?

All candidates receive a detailed score report.  In addition to providing the candidate’s overall percentage score, the percentage pass-fail cut score, and the overall pass-fail outcome, Candidates receive sub-score information.  An example of a candidate score report is displayed here.

How do I locate or access my certificate?

In the case of new certificants, you will receive a link to your digital certificate two weeks after the post mark on your score report. Your digital certificate can be accessed by clicking the following link:  

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.

Preparing for CESP™ Exam

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

Work Experience Definition: A minimum of 20 hours per week of paid Employment Support Professional (ESP) related work is required.  Examples of paid ESP related work are:

  • Work directly related to providing and/or supporting community-based employment services.
  • Employment as a direct employment services professional, provision of direct employment services as an agency/company employee, and/or managerial or supervisory work in employment services.
  • Experience in school-to-work transition environments providing ESP service.
  •  Work completed as part of an internship, practicum, or other on-the-job training may be counted to the limits noted in the training definition.

*Note*    Work related to residential and/or non-employment day services, segregated employment services will not be accepted.

Training: An internship or practicum of at least 2 months in length and/or successful completion of an intensive training course that includes at least 32 hours of ESP related course work. The content for acceptable training courses must be directly related to the CESP™ content outline. Acceptable training content is related to supported and customized employment as well as training relevant to providing employment and community based supports to people with disabilities. Examples of acceptable training content includes: specialized training to work with specific disability groups (i.e. autism or mental illness), training on small businesses development, American with Disabilities Act (ADA) training, benefits counseling, and strategies for job development.  Training related to segregated employment services or services that are not widely considered to be best practices will not be accepted.

If you have questions around your eligibility, email If you submit your application and are deemed ineligible to sit for the exam based on the requirements, you will be refunded your application fee minus a nonrefundable $40 application processing fee.

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. The 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.

The 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, The 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 the CESP™ Certification only for APSE members?

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

Who should be crendentialed?

•  Job  Coaches  •  Job Developers   •  Transition Employment Specialists  •  Job Placement Specialists • Employment Specialists/Consultants   •  Employment Managers/ Employment Support Managers and/or Directors Staff

What do CESP™ colleagues say about certification?

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.

How do I update my contact information?

It is the responsibility of the certificant to ensure the ESPCC has their most up-to-date contact information.  If you’ve had a name, address, email or phone number change, please submit your changes here

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 of $125.

CESP™ Recertification

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

Recertification is mandatory for all CESP certification 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 certification 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 of $125. 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.

How do I mail in a check to pay for my re-certification or exam fee?

Your application will not be reviewed until payment has been received.

All checks must be made payable to “APSE”.  Checks made payable to “CESP Exam” will be returned.  Check payments must be received before the registration deadline in the case of exams.

Please mail your check and include your email receipt of submission to:

APSE: 414 Hungerford Dr, Suite 224, Rockville, MD 20850

Can my organization host a CESP™ Examination in my city/state? And what do we need to do to schedule one?

We are always interested in working with organizations that would like to host an exam in their city/state. We are currently scheduling exams up to June 23, 2018. After thsi time, we will be moving toward computer-based testing using proctored testing sites. More information will be posted as we have it available.

There is no fee to host an exam. Your organization will need to identify a space to hold the exam (generally a conference room/board room that can accommodate up to 50 people) as well as two volunteer proctors. The proctors do not need to be CESP™ certified. Please note that the proctors will not be paid and must be willing to participate in an hour-long phone training prior to the examination.

Exam Hosting Criteria:

The examination is offered annually at the APSE conference and at other sites across the United States as scheduled/hosted by state or regional organizations. To ensure that examination results for all candidates are earned under comparable conditions and represent fair and accurate measurement, all examination test sites must meet the following criteria:

  • Examination rooms will be quiet and free of disruption
  • Rooms will have adequate and comfortable ventilation, lighting and temperature
  • All exam administrations will be monitored by trained and approved proctors as noted above
  • Adequate seating space will be provided to reduce distractions and so that test takers cannot see each other’s work
  • Entrances/exits will be monitored/controlled and working fire exits will be available
  • A clock will be visible for all test takers
  • The test site will be accessible in compliance with the ADA Candidates will have access to water and restroom facilities
  • Exam locations are arranged on a state-by-state basis.
  • Exams should be scheduled at least 6-8 weeks ahead of the proposed testing date. Alaska and Hawaii must schedule at least 10 weeks ahead of the proposed testing date.

CESP™ and State Status

Many states are now either requiring CESP™ certification through new waivers or are offering a higher reimbursement rate to those who hold it.  Some states are also leading large-scale certification efforts by offering fully-sponsored seats to those who qualify.  Some examples of this are:


South Dakota

June 1, 2016: Service Providers who obtain the status of Certified Employment Support Professional (CESP) from the Association of People Supporting Employment First (APSE) and complete a 2-day Person Centered Thinking (PCT) training will be reimbursed 25% above the current established fee rates.


CRP staff providing SE services must meet the one of the following:

  • A Masters or Bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university and written documentation of one year of successful ESP experience
  • An Associate’s Degree from an accredited college or university and written documentation (resume’ and references) of four years of successful experience
  • A training certificate from a state or nationally recognized employment program on Supported Employment is required. Examples of recognized employment programs include:
    •  University of Georgia
    • College of Direct Support (University of Minnesota)
    • A Certified Employment Support Professional (CESP) certification as accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA)

North Carolina

January 1, 2016: The CESP is required for providers of the MH IPS services who do not have a four-year degree. This is a higher reimbursed service so additional requirements like being certified makes sense. It is recommended that even staff who have a four-year degree also be CESP’s


July 1, 2016: Agency Service Providers and Independent Contractors must have a minimum of one employee who has the DHS approved credentialing:


  • ACRE Basic or Professional Certificate
  • APSE CESP Certification
  •  Department-approved Substantial Equivalent


Please contact APSE for more information on upcoming exam locations and dates or click here to learn about locations where the exam is currently being offered.

For more information about hosting an examination, please contact Kari Tietjen, CESP™ Director: or 301-279-0060 to discuss

webinar-photoInterested in learning more about becoming CESP™certified? Register today for APSE’s Free Monthly CESP™Informational Webinar. 

  • Learn about certification, accreditation and their benefits
  • Review the development of the CESP™ certification exam
  • Review exam eligibility requirements
  • Learn how to prepare for the exam
  • Find out what to do before, during and after the exam
Questions? Please email Kari Tietjen

If you have additional questions, please email us or call 301-279-0060.

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