Directions: Increasing Employer Recognition and Value of the CFLE Credential
My past two columns have focused on the issue of marketing Family Life Education (FLE) and the Certified Family Life Educator (CFLE) credential. In my Fall 2019 column, I discussed challenges to increasing awareness and value of both the practice and the credential, including the lack of academic identity and the diversity of settings. My Winter 2020 column included several implemented and proposed marketing strategies. I requested the involvement of CFLEs and National Council on Family Relations (NCFR) members to assist NCFR staff in carrying out a focused effort to increase the value and recognition of FLE and CFLE.
I was pleased to be contacted by NCFR member Greg Brooks, Ph.D., an assistant professor of marriage and family studies at Abilene Christian University. He has conducted research about the CFLE job market and asked if NCFR would be interested in collaborating with him to extend his research further. Following is an article by Dr. Brooks and Bailey Gomez reviewing his previous research efforts and outcomes and his plans for extending the research. His research to date confirms that the little exposure the CFLE credential does receive in job advertisements is limited to positions in postsecondary education. His next efforts involving job advertisements and outreach to potential CFLE employers will provide NCFR with valuable information to guide our future marketing strategies. I join Dr. Brooks in encouraging CFLEs and NCFR members to share your questions and suggestions.
The CFLE credential exists to “provide assurance to employers and consumers that the designee is qualified to be providing Family Life Education,” as stated on page 6 of “Standards and Criteria: Certified Family Life Educator (CFLE) Designation” (https://www.ncfr.org/sites/default/files/standards_2013.pdf According to Cassidy in her 2017 Network article, “CFLE Directions: Meeting the Needs of Practitioner CFLEs” (https://bit.ly/2UIALVg) as well as Wilkins, Taner, Cassidy, and Cenizal in their 2014 white paper, “Family Life Education: A Profession With a Proven Return on Investment (ROI)” (https://bit.ly/2QQqUvI), the NCFR has made it a priority to promote the CFLE credential among practitioners, employers, and the public outside of academia. There are several challenges to this task, however. Family Life Education is generally underutilized by consumers, and “failure to utilize and recognize Certified Family Life Educators,” according to Wilkins (p. 6), has been identified as one reason. NCFR has historically done more to support the scientific study of families than the practice of Family Life Education, according to Cassidy. And as our research shows, the CFLE credential receives limited use in advertisements for jobs that are relevant to the expertise and education of CFLEs. In this article, we discuss research we have been conducting on the status of the CFLE in the job market and propose next directions for research to understand the decision-making processes of managers who are hiring for Family Life Education positions.
In 2018–2019, we conducted a content analysis project regarding the CFLE credential. We conducted a weekly search of five national job advertisement sites (monster.com, indeed.com, ziprecruiter.com, ncfr.org/jobs-center, and jobconnection.aamft.org) using the search terms CFLE and Certified Family Life Educator. Our sampling frame included search results in September-December 2018 and August–October 2019. In that period, our searches revealed 41 unique job advertisements that included our search terms anywhere in the advertisement text or title.
College or university faculty was the most common job category in the advertisements our search found, for a total of 28 job advertisements. Of those, 19 advertisements were for tenure-track positions, three were for adjunct positions, and six were for non–tenure-track faculty roles, such as instructor or clinical faculty. One further job advertisement was for an academic coordinator position in a university department that offers a CFLE-approved degree program. Eleven job advertisements were for family and adoption specialist positions, all of which were with one statewide private agency in Texas, and one was for a child abuse prevention educator for a countywide child advocacy agency in Texas.
Of all 41 job advertisements, three listed the CFLE as a required credential for candidates. A further 30 advertisements stated the CFLE was a preferred credential. Eight advertisements mentioned the CFLE because the candidate would have an administrative or faculty role in a CFLE-approved university program, but the CFLE was not a required or preferred credential for the candidate.
All three of the advertisements that listed the CFLE as a required credential were for faculty positions: one adjunct, one instructor, and one tenure-track position. Another 18 faculty position advertisements listed the CFLE as a preferred credential. Each of the 11 family and adoption specialist positions, as well as the child abuse prevention educator position, also listed the CFLE as a preferred credential for candidates.
Some obvious conclusions can be drawn from our research so far. Faculty positions make up most job advertisements that mention either CFLE or Certified Family Life Educator. In fact, if it were not for two private agencies in Texas, there would have been no advertisements for nonfaculty jobs targeting candidates who possess the CFLE credential in our sampling frame. This aligns with previous research about the work settings of CFLEs. In a 2009 survey of 412 fully credentialed CFLEs and 110 provisional CFLEs, the largest proportion of participants reported that their primary work setting was postsecondary education (34%), according to results included in the Family Relations article, “Professionalization of Family Life Education: Defining the Field” coauthored by Darling, Fleming, and Cassidy. “Community-based services,” which might include adoption/foster care as well as child abuse prevention, was the second most common primary work setting, selected by 20.3% of respondents.
This is not to say that there were only 41 jobs advertised nationally during our 6-month sampling frame for which CFLEs were qualified. This is far from true. For sake of comparison, we performed a search on a single day in November 2019, using the search term parent educator, on, indeed.com, a single national job advertisement site. The search returned 174 unique job advertisements. We did not analyze those advertisements to confirm that a CFLE would be qualified to perform the duties of each job, and that analysis would be necessary before drawing any firm conclusions (many advertisements using that phrase are for jobs in the medical field such as public health professionals, nurses, and even surgeons). We believe it is safe to assume, however, that more than 41 of those results represented jobs for which CFLEs have relevant training and experience.
Further, CFLEs are, by definition, an employable class of professionals. Their knowledge and expertise are valued by the job market. This is evidenced by the fact that to achieve full certification, CFLEs must demonstrate at least 1,600 hours of relevant work experience for applicants with at least a master’s degree, and up to 4,800 hours of work experience for applicants whose college degree is not in a field related to Family Science.
Yet it is the case that only 41 nationally posted job advertisements in our 6-month sampling frame included either of the phrases “Certified Family Life Educator” or “CFLE,” and of those advertisements the majority were only relevant to CFLEs interested in careers in higher education. In the next phase of our research, we plan to investigate why this is the case.
We are continuing our collection of nationally posted job advertisements, and in 2020, we are expanding our search terms to include words and phrases that are relevant to the jobs performed by CFLEs. We have chosen phrases that represent the top five most common practice settings among CFLEs, after postsecondary education, as identified by the survey conducted by Darling, Fleming, and Cassidy in 2009: parenting education, marriage/relationship education, early childhood education, cooperative extension/community education, and K–12 education. To attempt to limit our results to job advertisements that are relevant to CFLEs, we will narrow the category of K–12 education by using the search phrases family and consumer sciences, home economics, child development, family studies, family science and child life specialist.
Using these search terms, we will collect nationally posted job advertisements and perform content analysis to identify characteristics such as job category, required and preferred candidate qualifications, and location. Our purpose in this analysis will be to identify nationally advertised jobs for which a CFLE would be prima facie a qualified candidate, but which do not include the phrases “Certified Family Life Educator” or “CFLE” in the advertisement title or text.
In Summer 2020, we will begin contacting hiring managers, identified by the job advertisements collected, and interviewing them about their decision-making process regarding the job in question. Specifically, we will enquire about those individuals’ awareness of the CFLE credential and whether they consciously chose not to include that credential in the job advertisement. Our plan is to use a first round of interviews to develop a survey instrument that may be distributed widely to a large sample of hiring managers.
This research is the first of its kind regarding the CFLE credential. We have already discovered that despite the highly employable nature of CFLEs, the credential appears to receive little attention in the job market. As we continue, we anticipate learning a great deal about why this is the case. We are open to the suggestions and questions of CFLEs and other NCFR members about our research plan.
Greg Brooks, Ph.D., LMFT, is an assistant professor of marriage and family studies at Abilene Christian University. Greg’s research interests include the lives of families of children with disabilities, as well as teaching and learning in human development and family studies.
Bailey Gomez is a master’s graduate student of marriage and family therapy at Abilene Christian University. Bailey’s research interests include the factors that contribute to healthy relationships, the experiences of the LGBTQ religious community, and the lives of families of children with disabilities.