Selecting a Diversity Professional Credentialing Program

Without credentials, you will not have the savvy needed to be a diversity professional or the credibility to persuade people to change their organization. The credentials you receive should be commensurate with the expertise you have acquired in the training program, since the bottom line is an ability to competently fill the role and carry out the responsibilities. Therefore, the program you select for professional training must provide you with both credentials and expertise.

Each credentialing program I have come across appears unique. In addition, the responsibilities the diversity professional is expected to do vary from one organization to another—Check out diversity officer job listings to see for yourself ( The lack of uniformity in roles and responsibilities along with the different certification program orientations can be rather disconcerting if you have little idea about what you should be looking for in a certification program. I took the time to learn about what appears to be four popular training programs. I hope that this article will help you sort through the diversity professional training programs to select the best one for your needs.

Just a hand full of reputable diversity professionals programs exist. By reputable, I mean that the program has been in existence more than ten years, the facilitators are experts, and the client list is impressive. It is possible to find a program that suits your specific needs, but you have to be clear about what you want to do as a diversity professional in order to pinpoint the one that meets your needs.

If you are a human resource manager taking on diversity management responsibilities, then a program with an HR concentration may best suit your needs. A trainer that is responsible for incorporating cultural diversity courses into an organization can benefit from a program that stresses facilitation and training skills. If you are primarily a strategist responsible for creating an organization that embraces cultural diversity, then you may want a program that emphasizes organizational development. There is also the assessment buff who seeks a program that covers cultural audits, assessments, and perhaps even diversity balance scorecard analysis. If you want to specialize in each of these major responsibility areas, even fewer programs are available.

One of the most important things to be certain of when you are selecting a program is getting the best program for the best price. The existing programs vary considerably with respect to cost as well. Even the reputable training organization with excellent standards may not provide the most bang for the buck.

The best program based on what I have learned about top line diversity officer role and responsibilities prepares you to lead cultural diversity initiatives and roll up your sleeves to be a teacher and trainer. I suggest looking for the following in a diversity professional program:

  • Organizational development and effectiveness strategies
  • Assessment and cultural audits
  • Facilitation, training, and coaching skills
  • Organizational leadership

You are probably curious about the credentialing programs I have been talking about, so I have listed the five most reputable programs below along with the features:
*The others are certificate programs.               **Requires 3 hours of online instruction before face to face class and offers an online program for the first level.

While diversity professional certificate programs have existed for more than 20 years, certification credentialing is relatively recent. Only two programs offer certification. The program features are based on descriptions of each program in brochures and on the organization’s website.

Cornell University’s certification program emphasizes EEO laws and requires completing a set of require certificate program courses and successfully passing an examination. The seven required courses are held on the campus in upstate New York and range from one-day to three-days.The cost is about $8400.00 total for tuition. NTL’s program is the oldest and most expensive with a base tuition of $14,000.00. Consistent with its more than fifty-year tradition, it is group and individual process oriented. Removing barriers to oppression is a central theme. Assessment and leadership skills are also taught. Classes are taught in different geographical locations within the United States.

The Society for Human Resource Management’s (SHRM) program is about $2000.00 and the emphasis is on training trainers. Classes are taught in Washington, DC and about 40 participants are in a class. The University of Houston program is offered once a year and costs $3000.00. The program emphasizes metrics and cultural audits.

The Diversity Training University International (DTUI) program emphasizes strategy, leadership, facilitation, and assessment skills. This appears to be quite a challenge to pull off in two sessions. However, the results of a benchmark provided in the corporate university’s brochure suggest that participants find the program very rewarding. Ironically, no other program publicizes participant evaluations.

Finding a diversity professional training program is not difficult, but sorting through them can be challenging. It is not the intention of this article to endorse any one program. The goal is to offer readers what I found to be the best choices among the most popular and credible programs so that their decision-making is a bit easier. In the end, it really depends on what you want to do with the credentials. Some of you may want to become an expert cultural diversity recruiter while others may want to become the chief diversity officer with considerable authority. Balancing what you desire to do as a professional with what employers are looking for, along with training program costs, become the decision making challenge. In the final decision, you will weigh program offering, cost, and reputation.

Lars Lejonhuvud
Diversity Consultant
Kristianstad, SWEDEN
Lars can be reached through the contact form in the Contact Us section
Reprinted by permission


  1. Hello. Thanks for your posts. I find this all very helpful. You mention a University of Houston program. I am struggling to find details of that program through a google search. Could you please point me in the right direction?

  2. I would like to know how much this course costs and the length of the course.

  3. Are any of these accredited programs? If not, would you be able to recommend one that is accredited?

    • No, but Cornell University is accredited as an institution. The DTUI program has applied for accreditation. If you are looking for tuition assistance, then accreditation is important. Otherwise, you want to look at the quality of the program and fit with your needs. It the program is reputable and is a good fit for you, you will most likely enjoy the benefits. Another measure is success record in getting hired or promoted after program completion.

  4. Hello Lars and thank you for sharing your thoughts which are very helpful for me. I wanted to also check with you regarding certification based on passing a test.
    How would you rate this course? Would you recommend it? Thanks in advance.

    • Good question. The certification exam is a test of knowledge of things like diversity best practices, EEO laws, etc. Consider that the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) has moved away from a test only certification basis to a more application/skills approach. It is the execution of diversity leadership strategies and practices that matter. Consider getting people on-board to a diversity initiative. This is not easy to do without sufficient guidance and strategy. Also consider that you can learn about an organizational assessment and what it includes, but that is insufficient for actually conducting one or for partnering with a vendor. In many ways, diversity leadership is more challenging than human resource management because there are more social and political landmines. A test cannot help you prepare for stepping on such career crushing challenges.

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