Certification FAQs

  1. I'm an experienced ombuds, do I still have to take the exam to become certified?

    Yes. Requiring all individuals who seek certification to meet the same requirements supports the significance of the credential and avoids a claim of preferential treatment.
  2. How often will the exam be offered?

    The Board of Certification expects to offer the examination approximately twice a year, at the time of the IOA annual conference and again in the fall. Additional opportunities, including computer-based testing, will be provided if there is sufficient demand.
  3. How were certification examination questions written?

    A diverse group of practicing organizational ombudsman who volunteered to serve as "subject matter experts" was trained in two-day workshops by the certification consultants at SMT to write psychometrically appropriate multiple-choice questions that could be answered by an ombudsman practitioner with one year of full-time practice experience. The questions were then edited by SMT professionals.
  4. How was the content for the certification exam determined?

    Two hundred practicing organizational ombudsmen participated in an online job analysis in which they responded to questions about dozens of tasks or "elements" of the organizational ombudsman job, in seven categories or "domains". These participants represented diversity in geography, years of experience, practice sector, educational level, and organization size. If fewer than 90% of the respondents said they performed a particular task or job element, that task or job element was eliminated from the exam content. Every task or job element retained for the exam was rated by the respondents to be "moderate to very important" in performing the organizational ombudsman job; these responses were found not to vary by geography, years of experience, sector, or other variables. Finally, the responses to the survey served as the basis for relative weighting of the three domains, so that every certification examination will include 45% questions on Recognizing Ethical Principles and Foundation Theories, 35% questions on Applying Ethical Principles and Foundational Theories with Individuals, and 20% questions on Applying Ethical Principles and Foundational Theories with Organizations. For more information, please see the 2008 Job Analysis Report and the 2016 Job Analysis Report.
  5. What is the difficulty level of the questions on the examination?

    The examination questions have been written to test that which should be known after approximately one year of full-time practice as an organizational ombudsman.
  6. How often is the examination updated?

    Each time the examination is offered, the questions are scrambled so each candidate will see the questions in a different order. New questions are added every few years, depending on how many people have taken the examination.
  7. If I am concerned that I might not be eligible for certification, could I gather more information before applying?

    If you are unsure if your practice adheres to IOA Code of Ethics or Standards of Practice—for example, if you hold another position in your organization that might compromise independence or neutrality, or if your exceptions to confidentiality are broader than "imminent risk of serious harm," or if you conduct formal investigations—you may have a general conversation with the Chair of the Eligibility Committee. Likewise, you may confer with the Chair of the Eligibility Committee if you wonder if you have the equivalent of one year of full-time experience. However, you will receive only general guidelines. No specific or conclusive ruling on a candidate's eligibility may be made without a formal application that is evaluated according to the consistent procedures of the Eligibility Committee for all applicants.
  8. Will I receive a certificate that I can display in my office that says I am certified? Will my organization be informed?

    All applicants that are certified will receive an official certificate from CO-OP® that can be hung in their office. The association will send out notice to the recipient’s organization when it is requested on the Certification Application Form.
  9. After I am certified, may I use that designation on my signature?

    The certification credential may be used in a context and with media consistent with demonstrating professional credentialing, including but not limited to: office signage, resumes, websites, business cards, presentations, introductions, and electronic signatures. Some uses of the CO-OP® credential are not permitted - for example, to endorse any product, service or company; or as a company, product or brand name.
  10. If I receive certification, does that mean that my organization is be certified?

    At the present time, our association is certifying only individuals and not the organizations.
  11. How is certification related to IOA membership?

    They are not related. You do not need to be a member of IOA to apply for certification. Likewise, the Board of Certification Eligibility Committee evaluates every application for certification in its own independent process; IOA membership status is not a consideration. Adherence to the IOA Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice are criteria for IOA membership categories and for certification. However, the certification assessment of adherence to IOA standards of practice is separate from any membership process.
  12. On what grounds might certification be denied?

    The Eligibility Committee could deny certification to any applicant they deem does not to meet all of the qualifications for certification: having passed the certification examination within three years prior to the date of receipt of the application for certification; having earned a bachelor's degree or equivalent; having completed the application form in full including paying the $150 application administrative fee; having shown at least one year of full-time experience, or its equivalent, in practice as an organizational ombudsman, with this practice experience in adherence to IOA's Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice.
  13. How does the Eligibility Committee of the Board of Certification evaluate the required adherence to IOA Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice?

    The Eligibility Committee has studied the IOA Standards of Practice and drawn up a series of questions to ask everyone who applies for certification. The Eligibility Committee's goal is to be consistent and rigorous in an oral interview and in studying the applicant's charter, terms of reference, or other documents that describe the standards of that individual's practice. The Eligibility Committee looks for close adherence to the principles of independence, neutrality, confidentiality and informality as stated in the IOA Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice.
  14. Certification eligibility requires adherence to IOA Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice. What are some examples of a possible denial of certification for not adhering to these standards?

    The Eligibility Committee would consider denying certification to someone who, for example, in the organizational ombudsman role, conducts formal investigations; or who holds another position in the organization that might compromise organizational ombudsman independence or neutrality; or whose exceptions to confidentiality are broader than "imminent risk of serious harm, and no other reasonable option."
  15. What if I apply for certification, and I am turned down?

    Any candidate whose application for certification is denied by the Eligibility Committee, who believes that the denial was improper - through misunderstanding of the facts, or a difference of interpretation of the IOA Standards of Practice, or for any other reason - may appeal to the Board of Certification Appeals Committee. The appeal must be submitted in writing within 30 days of notification of denial. The decision by the Appeals Committee will be final. A candidate can apply again after one year.

  16. What are the designations one can work towards that are not CO-OP®?

    In order to make certification more accessible, yet maintain the rigor of the CO-OP® program, and to recognize the levels of knowledge and experience for those ombuds who are not able to achieve full CO-OP® status, individuals can now take the exam, apply for the Candidate for CO-OP® designation, o move to inactive status if their ombud practice changes or they are between positions.

  17. What happens after I pass the CO-OP® exam?

    Individuals that have successfully completed the CO-OP® exam and achieved a passing score of 80% or higher will receive a certificate of achievement suitable for display. They will also receive an update letter from the Board of Certification specifying the appropriate language to use to describe this recognition, as well as the steps they can take to earn the Candidate for CO-OP® or CO-OP® designation.

  18. Who can apply for Candidate for CO-OP®?

    Applicants who have passed the CO-OP® certification exam within the past three years, have worked in an ombuds position for at least one year or 2,000 hours within the past four years, and who hold the title of ombuds or its equivalent, but are not practicing to standards in all circumstances may be eligible for this designation.

  19. Who is eligible for Inactive Status?

    Any CO-OP® who experiences a change in job or organizational requirements which affects their ability to practice to standards can apply for inactive status.
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