DSP Certification Application and Requirements

Application Requirements

NADD Membership

NADD Membership is a requirement for certification, and all employees of organizations with a NADD Organizational Membership receive member benefits through their employer. Membership Status is documented on your application and confirmed as we process your submission.

If you are not yet a NADD Member, JOIN US!

Application Fee

Access to our easy online application is distributed to candidates after payment of the Application Fee.

Organizations with multiple staff to certify may choose to pay their application fees on a case-by-case basis as their staff elect to pursue a certification. An Organization may also contact NADD for coordinated assistance to prepay for multiple certifications and ensure their staff are enrolled and processed smoothly.

Please contact us to discuss your specific needs and how we can assist: dspcerts@thenadd.org.

Regardless of the payment option you choose, please note NADD’s two tiers of certification pricing:

  • Accredited
    NADD discounts the cost of our certifications to the employees of NADD-Accredited programs; if you are unsure whether your program is NADD-Accredited, please consult our NADD-Accredited Programs Registry.

    To learn more about the process and benefits of NADD Accreditation click HERE.

  • Non-Accredited
    NADD certifications are reasonably priced regardless of your program’s Accreditation status, and they are portable: once NADD-certified, a professional retains their certification regardless of changes in employment status.

Please Note: The NADD Accreditation status of your program and your organization’s NADD Membership status are two distinct considerations.

All applicants to NADD certification programs must be NADD Members, and all employees of an organization that is a NADD Member also receive membership benefits; not all NADD Members will be employed by NADD-Accredited programs.

If you are unsure whether your program is NADD-Accredited, please consult our NADD-Accredited Programs Registry.

For more information about the benefits of becoming NADD-Accredited, CLICK HERE

Application Process & Elements

Application Process

Access to our easy online application is emailed to candidates after payment of the Application Fee. NADD strives to process all applications within 5 business days, and while applications are usually processed more quickly an incomplete application may take longer.

Upon receiving an application, NADD will review it for completion and communicate directly with the applicant to complete the application if any of the required elements are missing or unclear. When an applicant has successfully met all requirements and their application fees are paid, NADD will guide them through the next steps in the process.

Once an application has been processed, the application and any associated login credentials are nontransferable, nonrefundable, and void after one year.

Application Elements

All applications must include 3 elements in order to be complete, which are documented as part of NADD’s online application process:

  1. DSP Work Experience – A minimum of 1 year working as a DSP and at least 
    1,000 hours of DSP work experience
  2. One reference from current or most recent Supervisor
  3. One reference from a person served, or that person’s family or representative

In addition, all applicants must review and sign NADSP’s Code of Ethics as part of their application, and be employees in good standing at their organization.

Exam & Certification

The Exam Process

Once a DSP application has been processed and accepted, NADD will provide login credentials for the DSP Examination and the applicant may take the exam at their discretion. The DSP Certification 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 qualifications as a DSP through a mastery of NADD’s five core competency areas.

After completing the examination, results are automatically transmitted to NADD for scoring. Applicants must have a score minimum of 75% in each scenario.

Upon passing, applicants will be notified by email with their scores and an official NADD DSP Certificate.

If an applicant does not pass the exam on their first attempt, they may retake the exam up to 3 times. NADD imposes a 3 month waiting period after an unsuccessful exam in order to give the applicant adequate time to prepare for the next attempt. Exceptions to this rule may be granted if the applicant and their supervisor make a formal request and acknowledge waiving the recommended waiting period.

Certification & Recertification

NADD certification is valid for 2 years, and certificants are entitled to use the credential NADD-DSP in recognition of their achievement.

To renew their credential a NADD-DSP may apply for recertification by demonstrating the completion of 8 hours of relevant continuing education, and paying the recertification application fee.

Additional Links

Core Competency Areas

Executive Summary

 Program Manual 

Sample Test


For questions about the DSP certification program, please email us at dspcerts@thenadd.org