Marcus Welby, MD had a diploma and a license, both unprominently displayed somewhere in his office. He was known by reputation in the community. Although Welby was a fictional TV character, he portrayed the community doctor.
The community was close and people talked regularly – reputations were shared, recommendations offered.
Today you still need a license and it is popular, but usually not required, to have a certificate if offering a service. This documents that you have the minimum requirements and have passed a test – both originating from the professional society, training organization, college, or university providing the program. These organizations are strong proponents of certification programs – which represents a 'product' in their offerings. The certificate-holders may frame and display their certificate, but will certainly add the designation behind their name in professional documents to convey certificated status. This process evolved as the communities disbursed and local conversations all but disappeared.
Thirty years ago in the human resources field, a certificate program was launched with time-in-role minimums and qualifying tests – all provided by the HR professional society. I carefully reviewed the value of these certificates and determined that they offered no unique advantage to serving in the HR role, did not mean anything to the employees served, and were not valued by the employer. My performance (and reputation) was determined by results achieved for both the 'customer' and 'boss'. Now 30 years later, with many certificate-designated HR roles, performance and reputation continue to be based on results, certificate or not.
As I see it – when the buyers are segregated from the beneficiaries, certificate do matter – to the buyer; however, the beneficiaries continue to evaluate on results achieved.
Given the choice, would you rather receive services from a certificated person or one with a positive reputation among their peers? Why?