What's In Those Two Stars?: The PGA Certified Professional Program

by Brian Dobak
March 13, 2011

The purpose of this article is to give you an honest assessment of the PGA Certification Program. The program has evolved from the PGA Specialty Certified Program in 1996, to the PGA Certification Program in 2004, to PGA CPP 2.0 which begins this year. Note: This is not an assessment of PGA CPP 2.0, rather an assessment of PGA CPP, the program of which my certifications were attained.

After I achieved my Class “A” in 2007, I didn’t know what to do with myself. I had worked pretty hard on progressing through the program and it took up large chunks of my time. When it was all finished, I went home and said to myself, “What do I do now?” I had become so accustomed to the process of attaining this classification that when I was finished with it, my free time felt empty.

I played more golf, I practiced more, I read more, but I still needed something else. That’s when the PGA Certification Program began to draw interest from me. In the ongoing process of continuing education in the business that we're in, the certification program seemed to be a good direction to go in. But I had questions first, as I usually do before I embark on a process. It was obvious to me what the benefits were to the apprentice program and how the cost and time would pay off. Quite simply, achieving your Class “A” is a necessity as a golf professional. But what is the “PGA Certification Program”? How will my efforts in attaining certification(s) benefit me? Will the cost of the program be offset in tangible or intangible ways? In this economy, is it worth it? Is attaining certification(s) a necessity?

I’ve heard many sides of the story. Some say the program is a means for the PGA to make more money. I’ve also heard down the grapevine that some time ago, the PGA took a survey of all of the Fortune 500 companies, asking them if they would hire a PGA Professional, and they unanimously answered “no”. Subsequently, the PGA took note of this view on its professionals, as well as the direction the golf business was going and would be going in, and began turning the wheels of a plan to increase the business savvy of its professionals.

I think we can all agree that the golf business has evolved a great deal in the past 20 years. At the time, it was good that the PGA leaders recognized this and sought to act upon it. In an interview from Board Room Magazine in 2005, Roger Warren, then President of the PGA, discussed the reasons why the Certification Program was developed:

The PGA Certified Professional Program was developed in recognition of the fact that the golf industry is constantly evolving, and our profession needs to evolve with it. Employers have always sought frontline managers that can deliver a great golf experience and generate revenue. The new program produces PGA Professionals equipped to handle and address these needs. In designing the program, The PGA of America enlisted the expertise of leading golf industry employers from multi-facility organizations, resorts, public courses and private clubs across the country. Together, these industry experts became a part of the PGA Employment Council, which analyzed the gaps between PGA Professionals' skills and the requirements of golf industry managers. In addition, they also provided counsel on the program's career path courses.

When asked by Board Room Magazine of the benefits of being a PGA Certified Professional, Roger had this to say:

In addition to remaining on the cutting edge of today's workforce, PGA Certified Professionals are able to use their training as a springboard to further their careers and income potential. Plus, PGA Certified Professionals and PGA Master Professionals are able to leverage the expertise of nine regional PGA career consultants, who work with employers to find the top qualified candidates for available positions throughout the industry. With employers increasingly looking for candidates with the highest level of training and certification, they have come to rely on these PGA career consultants for recommendations.

In my search for answers with regard to how the program might benefit me financially, I uncovered the following statistics published in 2008:

Title                                  Median Total Comp            % Variance
Certified                                  $116,636                                27%
Not-Certified                          $85,000
Master Professional                 $105,000                                19%
Non-Master Prof.                   $84,872

Title                                  Median Total Comp            % Variance
Certified                                 $126,300                                 25%
Not-Certified                          $95,000
Master Professional                $135,000                                 30%
Non-Master Prof.                   $95,000

Title                                  Median Total Comp            % Variance
Certified                                 $90,000                                   31%
Not-Certified                         $62,500
Master Professional                $100,000                                 37%
Non-Master Prof.                  $62,800

I am not so sure how these compensation characteristics would hold up in today’s economy, but never-the-less, that is what they found. I made sure I didn't make my decision based on these numbers. Statistics don't guarantee anything. Never-the-less, I decided to do it.

When I decided to do it, it was during the economy’s plummet, and it wasn't long before I got laid off due to the economy. These things weighed heavily on me. In the current economy and in a business that has very few jobs with many qualified candidates, I felt it would be in my best interest to do everything I could to add to my qualifications and broaden my knowledge of the golf business. Although I have yet to see any tangible results from having three certifications, I do feel like my knowledge has been broadened tremendously. And at the end of the day, what more can you really ask for. Additionally, because I own the certification library, I will always have the information to draw upon in the future.

I learned a lot from the subject matter, much of it being information that I was not familiar with, even after four years of college. In my opinion, the subject matter is what makes the program unique. It is information you probably can’t find anywhere else besides undergrad or graduate school curriculum. Some of the topics broached and that you will have to study include:

Becoming a Manager
Capitalizing on Change
Crisis Management
Finance Essentials
Intercultural Business Etiquette
Leading a Team
Leading & Motivating
Making a Presentation
Marketing Essentials
Understanding and Using Contracts

What the program does not do is give you experience. The program is merely the act of studying and processing information and being tested on your knowledge of the material. There is no work experience involved. It doesn’t lead you through work experiences like the Apprentice Program does. What the certification program will do is draw upon your work experiences. If you don’t have a certain level of experience in the golf business, it will be more difficult for you to pass the certification tests. Even then, it is not beyond the realm of possibility for you to pass with little experience as a Class “A” professional. Because as I stated, a large majority of the testing process is from information that must be studied.

If you’re thinking about enrolling into the certification program, I would encourage it. Nothing will ever trump actual, tangible work experience. Your work experience will be the basis of your success, but the Certification Program has the potential to be that icing-on-the-cake to move your resume up higher in the pile. In today’s economy, what more can you ask for?