Professional Education Program
The Nation's First Professional Certification Program for Election and Voter Registration Professionals
Our Program Certifications
The Professional Education Program is the only program of continuing professional education which specializes in voter registration and elections administration. Participants receive continuing education units (CEUs) from Auburn University and Election Center credit towards the achievement of the profession's highest designation.
CERA — Certified Elections Registration Administrator
CERV — Certified Elections Registration Vendor
CEM — Certified Elections Monitor
Our Classroom Benefits
Our Conferences, Seminars and Special Workshops hosted around the country provide convenient locations for various schedules.
Our Program's Students
Our students serve in the interests of democracy abroad as international observers as well as represent the entire spectrum of roles, responsibilities and offices in each of the individual states, territories, and the District of Columbia within our own nation.
Our total curriculum consist of over 30 courses with new courses added regularly. The 12 courses listed below form the academic basis of our certification programs. The completion of these core courses are required to gain your CERA, CERV or CEM certification. Read our Core Course Descriptions for more details.
Core Curriculum Benefits
Our curriculum is theoretically and historically rich as well as practically relevant. Students obtain a comprehensive set of timely skills and working knowledge that fosters the development of core competencies immediately applicable within their profession.
Core Competences include:
CERA, CERV and CEM instructors are from the Auburn University's Master of Public Administration (MPA) Program through the Department of Political Science which provides award winning faculty to teach classes in the Election Center's Professional Education Program in addition to providing research in elections-related performance measurement and extensive studies in the gathering and application of data relevant to all voter registration and elections administration activities.
These professional educators and specialists have been paired with skilled, seasoned elections/registration practitioners so that the course work developed is related directly to your professional needs. Additionally, as with the programs of our workshops and conferences, the Election Center gears its continuing education program to have more substance, more information directly related to your profession, than other groups and associations.
Our Program History
There was a time when the administration of elections and voter registration was a straight forward, relatively simple matter of occasionally organizing election workers, maintaining registration lists, and holding periodic elections. That time is no longer. Civil rights concerns (racial, ethnic, disabilities, language ...thoughtful election and registration officials have come to believe that this profession is one that requires expert, trained administrators...minorities) as well as a variety of other considerations ranging from increasing participation to the demands of modern technology have forever and radically altered the nature of the elections/registration process. As a result, thoughtful election and registration officials have come to believe that this profession is one that requires expert, trained administrators who understand the subtleties of the myriad of factors now making the administration of the elections process a specialty for which specific knowledge and abilities are essential.
The result of those concerns was the development of the nation's first and only professional certification program for election and voter registration professionals. The program began with four courses being offered at The Election Center's 1992 Annual National Conference in Nashville, Tennessee. Since 1994, The Election Center has offered professional certification as Certified Election Registration Administrator (CERA) status. CERA designation is the highest achievement for those in the elections profession. Earning, and more importantly, maintaining CERA status means a commitment to a career-long process of continuing professional education.
Election 2000 established in the public's mind just how complex the elections process could be. Election 2004 demonstrated how important the voter registration process is and its potential to affect participation as well as administration. It is clear that Congressional and state legislative leadership have focused on our profession more than in any other period in American history. Political leadership at all levels is insisting on more training and better administration of the entire process.
Election 2000 established in the public's mind just how complex the elections process could be.
In 1992, The Election Center invited Auburn University in Alabama to forge an alliance to dramatically improve election administration. We owe a deep debt of gratitude to Dr. Robert Montjoy and the faculty of Auburn's Master of Public Administration (MPA) Program. The election community's gratitude to the founders of this program and to the faculty of the MPA Program at Auburn University is overwhelming. Ernie Hawkins, Carol Garner and Tom Wilkey accepted the challenge of developing courses specific to the voter registration and election administration profession.
The Election Center continues to develop new advanced Professional Education Program courses that help election professionals continue to grow and develop in their profession.
A foundation of high-quality educational courses in the core skills required for modern elections/registration administration was clearly necessary and that dedication to excellence is now the basis of the current program.Since specific degree programs in elections/registration administration have not been developed, the establishment of a program providing professional education for practitioners in the field has become very important.
During this process, which involved representatives of the academic sector, election and registration officials from the local level, members of The Election Center, and the National Association of State Election Directors (NASED), numerous possibilities were examined. The Election Center's Professional Education Program presents the approach developed through that process. A foundation of high-quality educational courses in the core skills required for modern elections/registration administration was clearly necessary and that dedication to excellence is now the basis of the current program.
The Election Center's Professional Education Program was designed and coordinated with Auburn University. The involvement of an institution of higher education and the application of academic discipline to the planning and implementation gives The Election Center's Certification Program a level of credibility unequaled by other certification programs. Because of our relationship with Auburn University, our program participants have the opportunity to gain continuing education units through an academic institution as well as a certification of professional excellence through The Election Center's Certified Elections Registration Administrator (CERA) Program that makes the program the most significant of its kind. Auburn University is the only university in the country that offers a Graduate Certificate in Election Administration as a concentration in the Masters of Public Administration Program.
Because of our relationship with Auburn University, our program participants have the opportunity to gain continuing education units through an academic institution as well as a certification of professional excellence...In the aftermath of Election 2000, we also decided that we needed to include training and certification for those manufacturers and suppliers of election administration goods and services. We added a new program beginning in 2001 for Certified Elections Registration Vendor (CERV). The core course work is the same (currently) as that for the CERA program with the intent being to prepare elections and registration vendors with the kinds of issues, decisions, and processes that are faced by today's elections professionals. The CERV program is also aimed to developing better- prepared suppliers who subscribe to the same principles and standards shared with elections professionals. Eventually, the CERV program will add courses specific to the improvement of goods and services offered and delivered to the elections community. CERA status is reserved for those who are government employees serving in the profession, the CERV program is for employees of election and registration suppliers.
Beginning in 2007, the Election Center included a training and certification program for individuals that observe elections internationally. The new certification designation was named Certified Elections Monitor (CEM). Our first international student from India graduated as the first CEM in 2008.
Our Student's Stories
Voting Technology Vendor
Tarrant County, Texas
"There is a passion in this industry with people who work in it, you see it in the courses. It brings people from every state together. "
Voting Technology Vendor
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After I got my degree, I decided not to use it but instead to go into elections full time. So, I've been in elections now for about 15 years. Always on the vendor side but this CERA, which I was introduced to about a year and a half ago... It really gave us an opportunity to come in and build those relationships with the election administrators and the country clerks and really understand more of what they do on a daily basis so that we can better really understand how we can support them better.
There's really not an order to it. It's not like you first have to take these courses and then you can take these courses. Every single course is like a book end, it starts with what we're going to discuss and talk about and there's a lot of research behind everything we discuss. Which is really interesting because we get the perspective that maybe we've never had before from people who have taken time to research this stuff. So there's a lot of data that you get to learn and ingest and then on the other side you get to do these workshops with your peers. In talking through challenges or situations and how you would as a team work together to kind of resolve those in using the data that you learned at the beginning of the course. And then at the end you get to come back together and go through what you learned as a group and that completes that course. So each course is independent of one another but they're all relevant to what we do in this industry.
There is a passion in this industry with people who work in it, you see it in the courses. It brings people from every state together. So, you get to learn how every state is conducting elections and they're so different. It's really amazing and great environment because you can all learn from each other, nobody kind of sits there quietly. But everybody I've met in this industry, for the most part, is pretty passionate about the industry and excited that they're part of this entire process of bringing or giving the people the ability to place their votes. I definitely feel that the certification is looked at in high regard in the industry. Anything you really want to do, if you're passionate about the industry and you want to have opportunities, I definitely feel that's one of the things that you absolutely need to do.
Hays County, Texas
"They've really helped me to gain confidence, they've really help me to learn at a fast pace. And for those who don't understand all the dynamics in elections that is saying something"
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I've been an election administrator probably a year and three months. Prior to that I worked for an elected official and then I, myself was elected. So I have been in elections from all different angles fifteen years.
I've done a lot of continuing education. Many times you go in and it is things you already know and you do it because you are required to do it. I like CERA because I'm not required to do it. I choose to do it. I think it's a great program. It's more engaging than most other programs that I've attended. This is my second round of classes; I did the first four last year and so I just completed the first one of this four today. And I am a hands on person so the presentations and the group activities that they provide are more... something that I learn from. And they give you overall just a deeper, deeper education of the process of elections from a well rounded curriculum.
Here we actually get a chance to role play. And we are given specific projects that we can bounce off of each another and use each others different techniques so that's kind of what I mean when I say it is more engaging and more hands on. It's,… that's, this is the only place I get that kind of education. I'm going to go through the whole certification program. My goal is to be certified and my motivation for doing that again is I've started taking these classes three months after I've started the position.
So, they've really helped me to gain confidence, they've really help me to learn at a fast pace. And for those who don't understand all the dynamics in elections that's, that is saying something. To be able to learn voter registration, and budgeting, and purchasing equipment, dealing with your governing bodies on getting budgeting needs met and equipment when you need it and things like that. Having all of that in one place and being able to actually learn more about how to get those things done and having the resources when you need to do those things. To be able to reach out and talk to people about they manage to do certain things, … was important to me. So, I will graduate and I will continue with the continued education.
Paul D. Pate
Secretary of State
Des Moines Polk County, Iowa
"I have the statewide perspective and the national because of my role in the national secretary of state's executive board. So it allows us to kind of put the full picture together..." .
Paul D. Pate
Iowa Secretary of State
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I was Secretary of State before in 94 to 98 in Iowa and I'm back. I'm somewhat of a non traditional student because for those Secretaries who might have their certification through the Election Center, They attained while they were local county election officials. And I applaud them for that. I didn't have the background of the county level but I thought it was important to get that information and that experience so Election Center is giving me that in many ways and I hope that I am contributing too because as I'm here in class I can sometimes provide insight on the state picture for some of these local folks but it's a win-win for everybody.
And in some cases,not being in my own backyard, some of these folks are more free with their conversations. I'm getting some pretty good candid input from people and then the professionals who do the classes most certainly because they're giving us the big picture, the academic side, if you will or the historical side of it. And when you hear all that, it puts it together and makes sense. It's like, Oh, yeah that's why... Some people don't appreciate what the Civil Rights meant to elections and how that impacts where we're at today. Some may not understand that, you know, the management techniques that are in the business sector do impact how elections are managed as well. So there's all kinds of different twists to this but I've,.. I've taken a lot out of this.
There's always something new in elections and there's always something you can go back and study up on a little more to refresh yourself. And I,... that's the part I appreciate and it gives you all kinds flexibility between the locations in the country they have the sessions. Here we are a weekend, I can slip away from my day to day responsibilities at the State Capital and come here and gain some knowledge and interact with election officials and still be back at the Capital Monday morning. It's a pretty ideal scheduling approach.
And I am looking forward to completing my certification this year. And going forward with the continuing education. So, I think the Election Center has got the formula figured out. And I think they are flexible enough they have been adapting as we, participants, offer insights they try to make those changes so the next group coming through will hopefully even have a better class.
For more than two decades our graduates have been answering the nation's need for educated, well-trained professionals who administer elections and voter registration in every corner of our country.
With more certified graduates than any other election administration program in the nation, our graduates continue to bring greater skill, commitment and expertise to the increasingly complex field of elections administration in the service of our democracy. Take a look below to see for yourself what our certification program has meant to them.
What Graduates of the Professional Education Program are Saying
"Although I have been involved in election administration in one form or another for over 30 years, my participation in the CERA program has provided me with an invaluable framework for thinking about and creating processes that will better serve voters."
from Washington, D.C.
"My understanding of the election process has grown immensely and I thank the CERA program for assisting with this."
"I am thankful to be a part of this great program and look forward to the continuing education it provides."
"Thanks for the opportunity to better serve the citizens of my community and my county."
"It was my goal over the years to raise the bar for elections administration here in the Virgin Islands and CERA has helped me to accomplish that."
from the Virgin Islands
"I must say that this Professional Education Program is a must have for all elections officials."
"I have gained both a great amount of historical and current election knowledge from my experiences with the CERA program to make a true difference in not only my county, but throughout the State of Michigan."
"The CERA program has played a vital role in my professional development."
"Sharing stories and experiences with these officials has had a tremendous effect on how I run my local elections office."
"I feel like a much more purposeful elections administrator having completed the CERA program."
"John Locke stated: 'No man’s knowledge can go beyond his experience' and CERA has given me both knowledge and experience that is irreplaceable."
"The confidence and knowledge I have obtained through taking these classes has been extremely beneficial both professionally and personally."
"The CERA program taught me new ways to solve election related issues involving new technology, budgeting, poll worker training, and voter participation."
"With the knowledge that I have gained from the CERA program, I feel that I am better equipped to perform my duties as an election commissioner."
"This program was very well organized and full of knowledge from documentation, instructors, and election officials."
"I will be forever grateful for the opportunity to participate in the CERA program and the credibility it provides to myself and the industry as a whole."
"The relationships formed during the program will better our efforts to uphold democracy for our citizens."
"CERA has helped to elevate my involvement in the election process from a job to a profession."
"It’s a great resource to brainstorm with other election officials throughout the country that normally your paths would not cross. "
"CERA has allowed me to expand my knowledge of elections from the history of voting to new election technologies."
from New Jersey
"The CERA program was an awesome experience."
"This program has been very enlightening."
"I really enjoyed participating in the CERA program."
from New Mexico
"The classes have opened my eyes to the history behind my profession as well as where it is headed."
from North Carolina
"Having this prestigious certification means reaching an education goal that few will accomplish."
"CERA has been wonderful in terms of connections and ideas."
"I am so honored to be a member of the best election organization in the world."
"The CERA program has truly challenged me and has made me realize, even more, that election works is a field in which I feel proud and inspired to work in."
"A great opportunity to learn and share best practices with colleagues across the nation."
"I would recommend these courses to anyone working in elections."
from North Carolina
"Being a part of national training has really made a difference in how I see and do my job."
"The CERA program has sharpened my skills, as well as provided me with the training and resources to further my level of authority in the field of Elections."
"The CERA program filled in many of the gaps on why we do what we do."
"The material covered in each class was very informative!"
"The program promotes openness, collaboration, friendship, and teamwork within the election administration field."
"The experience left no question that election administrators, regardless of political affiliation, are dedicated to conducting full, fair, and accurate elections in this country."
"It has given me tools to think outside of the box."
"The Professional Education Program has taught me that we are in it together no matter the state or county."
"The program and instructors are top-notch and the interactions with other state elections officials are invaluable."
"The experience gained, professional friendships, and lessons learned will be a treasure for years to come."
from the Virgin Islands
"The opportunity to collaborate and learn from election officials from all around the country is invaluable.."