DSP Certification Application Procedure


In order to be considered for certification, the applicant must meet the following prerequisites:  

  • Work experience: applicant must have 1 year of experience working as a DSP in the developmental disability or mental health field, in addition to 1,000 hours of direct support work
  • NADD Membership: applicant must receive Member Benefits through individual membership or as an employee of a Member Organization
  • Certification Fee: Applicant must pay the certification fee (see below for details)

In addition, all applicants must: 

  • Be an Employee in good standing. NADD reserves the right to request employment validation by current employer verifying the applicant is (was) employed and not under disciplinary review or probation, and that the applicant is (was) in compliance with all agency and state/provincial requirements.
  • Review and sign off on the Code of Ethics. This step is part of the application process, and no application can be submitted without an applicant’s acceptance of this Code of Ethics.


The application will be completed online, where applicants will be required to list their experience and formal education.  

When listing work experience, applicants will provide the hours of work, job title, brief description of setting/agency, as well as providing supervisory contact for each employer so that information can be verified.  Applicants will list their formal education, providing dates and completed certificates or degrees.  Applicants can list any continuing education classes, coursework, development activities, or in-service trainings related to skills, knowledge, and values of credential competencies. 

Incomplete application information may cause a delay in processing.

Certification Fee

The cost of the NADD Competency-Based DSP Certification is payable in the form of a non-refundable application/exam fee, as follows: 

  • $30 for employees of a NADD-Accredited Organization
  • $60 for employees of an organization that is not NADD-Accredited

Pay your fee HERE.


Applicants are required to provide two references:

  • One from a person receiving services or his or her representative, and 
  • One from a supervisor at the current or most recent employment. 

The NADD online reference form is designed to elicit accounts of work done with individuals with dual diagnoses that illustrate: (1) values, (2) knowledge, and (3) skills in the identified competency areas, especially as they relate to problem-solving and leadership. 

References may be submitted HERE.

Exam Procedure

Once the application has been reviewed, the applicant will be contacted with instructions on completing any missing information or with credentials for taking the online certification exam.  

The exam is in the form of a multiple choice test.  Applicants will be provided with scenarios involving working with individuals with a dual diagnosis and will be asked questions designed to allow them to exhibit their qualification as a DSP. 

Applicants must demonstrate mastery of the required competency areas.  An overall score of 80% is required for passing, as well as a minimum score of 60% in each of the five competency areas.