Conflicted Over UX Professional Certification

I don’t know how to feel about certification for user experience professionals.

This topic seems to come up regularly year after year. The main reason seems to be so we, as a profession, can exert some kind of quality control over the wave of new UX people surging in to fill the (mythical, as far as I can tell) glut of UX jobs. It seems likely to me that it is also a way for organizations to try to exert more control over the field.

The idea seems to be that having a concept of certification will increase the status of our profession. The model is something like doctors or lawyers, where the specific job you have doesn’t make you a doctor or lawyer. Rather, you are one just by virtue of having the certification from your professional association. I can’t wait to see the first user experience professional get disbarred from practicing UX for breach of ethics, forced to do UX in dark alleys.

All that said, I don’t really have strong feelings on the matter. The interesting thing to me about the idea of certification is the opportunity to bring an explicit ethical component to our profession. Dark design patterns are widely derided. What if it was explicitly part of our professional ethics that we not try to trick users?

That’s an easy enough ethical matter. What about harder problems, like participating in making unsustainable products or working on products that enable the abuse of people like businesses that use the new “sharing economy” model?