NADSP Certification

The National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals (NADSP) has developed a national certification program for Direct Support Professionals working in community human services. The purpose of this certification program is to provide national recognition for the contributions and competence of Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) who apply for and meet the certification standards.

Portfolio-Based Certification

Historically, DSPs would develop and submit a portfolio to achieve NADSP Certification. This traditional, portfolio-based model of Certification will officially expire on June 30th, 2020. While current certifications under this model will not be affected, NADSP will no longer be accepting new submissions after the expiration deadline. If desired, DSPs can still pursue NADSP Certification under the portfolio-based model if submitted prior to June 30th, 2020.

Benefits of NADSP Certification

The NADSP Certification program offers powerful benefits to practitioners, their employers and to the people they support. Direct support professionals benefit by learning and applying best practices and evidence-based skill and knowledge in the workplace. The organizations employing credentialed DSPs can provide stronger assurances of quality to funders and people supported, and can proudly market their employment of nationally certified staff. People receiving supports from certified DSPs will have the advantage of partnering with highly trained professionals committed to supporting them using the ethical and effective interventions that they have mastered.

Finally, anecdotal evidence suggests that employees who complete rigorous credential programs stay on the job longer and provide a higher quality of support. The NADSP certification program affords DSPs the opportunity to commit to the profession of direct support through its three-tiered credential program, which includes DSP-I, DSP-II and DSP-III certification through the NADSP E-Badge Academy.


“We’re really impressed with the way that it has broken down. It focuses on those competencies and the ethics in a way that is manageable.”

- Tanya Fritz, Director of Credentialing, Black Hills Works

DSP Certification (DSP-I, DSP-II, DSP-III)

Certification through NADSP acknowledges direct support professionals for their exemplary work in supporting people with disabilities. These various levels of certification including DSP-I, DSP-II, and DSP-III, recognize the knowledge, skills and values of direct support professionals, through participation in the NADSP E-Badge Academy. By earning individual electronic badges based on specific core competencies and hours of completed accredited education, direct support professionals have control and flexibility in their path of pursuing certification.

The achievement of certification with the NADSP E-Badge Academy entails robust requirements and high standards, through Web Courseworks, an intuitive and dynamic online platform. It allows for an enhanced experience for submitting, reviewing, tracking and sharing the contributions of Direct Support Professionals. In breaking down the competencies and accredited education into separate, distinct E-Badges, it also offers more opportunities to monitor progress and identify areas of improvement for direct support professionals.

DSP-I Certification

This is the first level of DSP-Certified, which direct support professionals can pursue following their attainment of the Code of Ethics Commitment E-Badge.

DSP-I Requirements

To earn the DSP-I Certification, you must earn 15 total E-Badges. These E-Badges must include:


  • The Code of Ethics Commitment E-Badge
  • The 50 hours of Accredited Education E-Badge
  • At least one Core Competency E-Badge from the Crisis Prevention and Intervention competency area
  • At least one Core Competency E-Badge from the Safety competency area
  • At least one Core Competency E-Badge from the Person-Centered Practices competency area
  • At least one Core Competency E-Badge from the Health and Wellness competency area

DSP-II Certification

The second level of certification through DSP-II builds off of DSP-I, with more requirements for Core Competency and Accredited Education E-Badges. 

DSP-II Requirements

To earn the DSP-II Certification, you must earn 30 total E-Badges. These E-Badges must include:


  • The DSP-I E-Badge
  • The 100 hours of Accredited Education E-Badge
  • At least one Core Competency E-Badge from the Evaluation and Observation competency area
  • At least one Core Competency E-Badge from the Communication competency area
  • At least one Core Competency E-Badge from the Professionalism and Ethics competency area
  • At least one Core Competency E-Badge from the Community Inclusion and Networking competency area

DSP-III Certification

DSP-III Certification is the highest level of credential that direct support professionals can achieve, representing a deep commitment to the people they support.

DSP-III Requirements

To earn the DSP-III Certification, you must earn 50 total E-Badges. These E-Badges must include:


  • The DSP-II E-Badge
  • At least one Core Competency E-Badge from the Empowerment and Advocacy competency area
  • At least one Core Competency E-Badge from the Community Living Skills and Supports competency area
  • At least one Core Competency E-Badge from the Education, Training, and Self-Development competency area
  • At least one Core Competency E-Badge from the Cultural Competence competency area

How does it all work?

NADSP has produced an in-depth presentation video about The NADSP E-Badge Academy, which includes detailed information about what the E-Badge Academy is, why it’s important, and how it helps direct support professionals get credit for competency.

The video also shares a demonstration of the Web Courseworks platform, the E-Badge submission/review process, and the use of ‘Mozilla Backpack’ for sharing E-Badges. You’ll also learn about the specific steps for getting started with The NADSP E-Badge Academy.

What are the next steps?

  1.  Your organization should complete the E-Badge Academy General Interest Form to learn more about purchasing an E-Badge Academy subscription.
  2. Once you have submitted the E Badge Academy General Interest Form someone from NADSP will contact you to answer any questions and to provide you more information.
  3. Upon agreement by your organization, NADSP will send you a contract to purchase the E-Badge Academy for the number of identified users, detailed in our Pricing Guide. An invoice for the purchase price will be sent once the signed contract is received.
  4. With receipt of payment, NADSP will arrange for training of local administrators to enroll users as well as training to help users get started in the process of applying for E-Badges.
  5.  After users are enrolled in Web Courseworks, they may start to apply for badges, starting with the Code of Ethics Commitment E-Badge; share their accomplishments with others to demonstrate the impact they are having on people supported; and seek out more E-Badges to build upon their online folio and continuing their professional development.
  6.  As each user accumulates E-Badges, they can use them to apply for certifications from NADSP at the DSP-I, DSP-II, and DSP-III levels.

Get Started

To help direct support professionals begin their journey to certification through The NADSP E-Badge Academy, you need to first complete the General Interest Form and submit it to NADSP.

DSP Registered (DSP-R)

The DSP-R is intended to recognize people who have entered the profession and desire to have careers in the field of community human services. It is not intended to be a credential for which NADSP prescribes or sanctions DSP competence.

Portfolio-Based Certification

Until June 30th, 2020, applications will still be accepted for the traditional, portfolio-based model of NADSP certification. Following that expiration date, NADSP Certification (DSP-I, DSP-II, DSP-III) will be fully transitioned to the NADSP E-Badge Academy. DSP-R Certification will not be impacted by this transition.

Along with other steps, the portfolio-based certification model involves the submission of a professional portfolio demonstrating the applicant’s proficiency in various competency areas. Additional information about this model of NADSP certification is included below. If you have questions about this certification model, you can contact Dan Hermreck, NADSP’s Director of Certification and Accreditation, at or 785-328-9328.

DSP Certified (DSP-C)

The DSP-C recognizes DSPs who have demonstrated competence that is measured and approved by the NADSP and is split between two levels; Direct Support Professional Certified-I and Direct Support Professional Certified-II.

DSP Specialist (DSP-S)

The DSP-S represents the highest level of certification for DSPs offered by the NADSP, and is designed to recognize DSPs who have obtained specialized training and have demonstrated competence in providing specialized support.

Credentialing Grievance and Request for Accommodations

NADSP has established a Special Review Committee to review any grievances or requests for additional consideration regarding the NADSP Credentialing Program. This Committee will be chaired by an Executive Committee member and will include a minimum of one additional person who is not a member of the Portfolio Review Committee. To request that this Committee address an issue of importance to the applicant, s/he must submit a letter to the NADSP Executive Chair. This letter should specifically state the concern and their circumstances for consideration regarding the individual’s participation in the NADSP Credentialing Program. Upon receipt of this request, the Special Review Committee will review and reach a decision within 30 days.