Accountants, architects, barbers, cosmetologists, crane operators, dentists, docking masters, doctors, electricians, engineers, foresters, home inspectors, interior designers, landscape architects, lawyers, land surveyors, pilots, plumbers, private detectives, real estate appraisers, real estate brokers, security systems technicians, security guards and tax preparers.
These are among the professions my state of Maryland certifies. Most states have similar lists. And missing from every state's list is "utility regulators." Having practiced within this field in multiple roles—as a hearing room litigant, appellate lawyer, commission advisor, opinion-drafter, legislation-drafter and expert witness—I am convinced that regulation can improve if it certifies its practitioners. How we do that leads to a series of questions, explored this month and next.
Certification has a market mission and a professional mission. In the marketplace, certification protects consumers from harm, while rewarding the qualified and penalizing the unqualified. In the professions, certification defines the profession's purpose, then establishes and upholds its standards. It answers the question, "What does it mean to be a good architect/accountant/doctor/lawyer?