NACD Certification of Professional Directorship

NACD Certification of Professional Directorship

NACD Certification of Professional Directorship

NACD's voluntary directorship certification, which will be launched formally in October 2019, is the first US-based certification program designed to help prepare new and aspiring corporate directors to lead with confidence in the boardroom. The program is called the NACD Certification of Professional Directorship, and a board member who successfully completes the program will be considered to be an NACD Certified Professional Director.

Enhancing Director Knowledge and Competence

NACD’s director certification will enable corporate board members to enhance their competence and showcase their understanding of key board responsibilities as the profession of director continues to increase in complexity. This program, in conjunction with the domain expertise and business judgment an individual brings from their own professional career and the information they receive from a company’s own director-onboarding program, helps to provide a holistic base of skills and knowledge that will allow new directors to contribute to the board’s work on day one.

Designed by Experienced Corporate Directors and Governance Experts 

The certification exam content is informed by input from more than 2,000 board members representing a broad range of companies and industries. To provide guidance and direction for the new certification program, NACD has formed and is leveraging a steering committee of highly experienced corporate directors and corporate governance practitioners:

In the News

May 8, 2019: Bloomberg Law: Directors to be Tested on Whether they are Corporate Board Ready

April 25, 2019: LRN: E&C Pulse: Certification Program Aims to Ensure Directors Know Their Stuff

April 2, 2019: NACD to Offer New Certification Program for Corporate Directors


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What is a professional certification?
  • A certification program recognizes specialized knowledge required to perform the tasks of a given profession—in this case, the profession of directorship.
  • Further, a certification program defines the knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) required to do a specific job, and the NACD certification program defines the KSAs necessary to serve as a certified professional director. Then, these KSAs will guide curriculum and exam development, test administration, etc.
What is the program called?

The program is called the NACD Certification of Professional Directorship. Upon completion of the program, a member becomes an NACD Certified Professional Director.

What is the purpose of the program?
  • The purpose of NACD’s certification program is to elevate the profession of directorship by
    • setting the standard for continuing education in the directorship profession;
    • ensuring directors have a baseline understanding of the requisite knowledge and skills required of a board member;
    • enabling stakeholders to view corporate directors as trusted stewards of long-term value creation, and ultimately helping to bolster investor trust and public confidence in corporations; and,
    • enhancing the talent pool for public boards by recognizing individuals who have committed to continuous learning.
  • This very much aligns with the mission of NACD: to elevate board performance by providing members with practical insights through world-class education, leading-edge research, and an ever-growing network of directors. And with our vision: to aspire to a world where corporate directors are recognized by all stakeholders as trusted stewards of long-term value creation.
Why now?
  • Business conditions continue to change, so yesterday’s knowledge may not meet the demands of today’s business environment. With this initiative, we are equipping current and aspiring directors with the knowledge and skills they need to lead in the boardroom.
  • Directors on average are already devoting 20 hours per year to furthering their education, but they have little or no formal, tangible evidence of their knowledge and competence. By providing formal testing and certification, the NACD Directorship Certification program can provide such evidence.
Is this the only program of its kind?
  • This is the first and only director certification program of this scope and level in the United States.
  • The process and the exam will be informed by and written by sitting directors.
  • For decades, NACD has been the preeminent source of educational content for corporate directors—including chapter events, peer-to-peer forums, prestigious roundtables and commissions, specialty events, online learning opportunities, and annual summits—and with this certification we are taking our educational offerings for new and aspiring directors to the next level.
  • Several organizations in the Global Network of Director Institutes (GNDI), such as director institutes in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom, already offer director certification; this US initiative can build on their successes.
Does this program have outside validation?
  • NACD has convened a steering committee of high-performing corporate directors with a deep bench of experience and expertise to help provide oversight in the development of a certification program. Those steering committee members include:
    • Dennis Beresford, Former Chair of the FASB; Former Director, Fannie Mae, Kimberly Clark, and Legg-Mason
    • Michele Hooper, Director, PPG Industries, United Continental Holdings, and UnitedHealth Group
    • Glenn Hubbard, Director, Automated Data Processing (ADP), MetLife, and BlackRock Closed-End Funds; Dean of Columbia Business School
    • Simon Lorne, Director, Teledyne Technologies; Vice Chair and Chief Legal Officer, Millennium Management; Former General Counsel, US Securities and Exchange Commission
    • Bill McNabb, Former Board Chair and CEO, Vanguard Group; Director of UnitedHealth Group; Executive in Residence at the Raj & Kamla Gupta Governance Institute, LeBow College of Business
    • Myron Steele, Former Chief Justice of the Delaware Supreme Court; Partner, Potter Anderson & Corroon LLP
    • Dona Young, Lead Director, Foot Locker; Member of the Supervisory Board, Aegon, NV; Director, NACD
  • NACD has also convened over 2,000 corporate directors of various backgrounds and experiences to help define the knowledge, skills and abilities upon which NACD Certification of Professional Directorship will be based.