Specialist Certification Prerequisites & Application Information

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

The online Specialist Certification Application will be available in your Learner Dashboard after payment of the Application Fee.

The Application Fee may be paid from your user dashboard or via your employer’s organizational membership contact.Organizations with multiple staff to certify may choose to pay their application fees on a case-by-case basis or in bulk.

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.

Application Process, Prerequisites & Elements

Application Access

Once your application fee has been processed, you should have access to the Specialist Certification Application in your Learner Dashboard. Please complete all required elements and submit via the online platform. We do not accept certification applications via mail or email.

Note: Once an application has been received, the application/fee is nontransferable, nonrefundable, and void after one ye

Application Prerequisites

All applicants must meet 3 prerequisites for acceptance into the Specialist Certification Program, which are documented as part of NADD’s online application process:

  1. Education
    Professionals may present a Master’s level degree in a related field with one year experience, a Bachelor’s level degree in a related field with 2 years experience, or 60 credit hours in the field of ID or Mental health and 3 years of related experience. Post secondary education is not required; however, a thorough explanation of the experience base must accompany the application as equivalence determination resides with the NADD Competency-Based Dual Diagnosis Specialist Certification Program. The review committee may recognize other types of accreditation and certifications as pre-requisites.
  2. Experience
    The applicant will have experience in support of persons with intellectual/developmental disabilities and mental health issues (Dually Diagnosed). This can include volunteerships, internships and externships. For applicants without a post secondary degree other similar credentialing or accreditation or combinations thereof and experience may be accepted.
  3. Ethical Behavior
    The applicant’s signed Affirmation of Principles Form is required and shall denote the candidate’s commitment to ethical behavior; employees must be in good standing at their organization.

    Any disciplinary events, lawsuits past or pending, suspension of privileges from care facilities or professional organizations, or any actions by a state/province or other licensing body related to complaints or actions against an individual must be reported and reviewed by the committee. NADD has established a process for receiving complaints regarding ethical behavior of people who have received this certification. Any intentional misrepresentations or falsehoods submitted by an applicant would be sufficient to deny certification as an unethical act.

Application Elements

When an applicant can satisfy the above prerequisites, they will submit the following items together via the online application:

  1. Application Form
  2. Resume or CV
  3. Three Letters of Reference
  4.  Brief Scenario Description and Presentation Outline
  5. Completed Confirmation of Experience Form
  6. Signed Affirmation of Principles

The Certification Process – Timeline & Stages

Once a Specialist application has been processed and accepted, NADD will communicate directly with the applicant about the status of their application and the next steps in the process. The certification process usually takes between 1-3 months to complete, and encompasses the following stages:

  • Interview/Exam
  • Certification Evaluation


Once the application has been received and reviewed by NADD Staff, an examination interview, via video conferencing will be arranged. The applicant will be asked to prepare a presentation of approximately 20 minutes in duration (no more than 30 minutes). These scenarios should reflect an understanding of the NADD’s 6 core competencies and how they are aligned to the work you do to support individuals with intellectual disabilities and co-occurring mental illness.

The final presentation outline must be provided at least 5 days before the interview

The scenario presentation should include the following elements:

  1. Brief description of the scenario
  2. Relevant background information
  3. Structure/format for addressing the issue(s) presented in the scenario
  4. Issues that arose and how these were addressed
  5. Description of the outcome and any follow-up
  6. Citation of at least two journal articles within the past 5 years regarding aspects of the service delivery, training, emerging best practice techniques etc. (JMHRID, JABA, AJIDD, etc.)
  7. A rationale for approaches used to resolve the issues presented relating directly to the impact on people with a dual diagnosis.

The scenario presentation should demonstrate a thorough understanding of the Specialist Core Competencies.

Certification Evaluation

Final evaluation of the applicant’s Interview/Exam will be determined based on the candidate’s demonstration of knowledge in the 6 core competency areas. Candidates will receive a copy of their evaluation, with scores and Examiner feedback, at the conclusion of the evaluation process.

The applicant’s competence in each of the six competency areas will be evaluated using the following scale:

1 = Insufficient evidence of competence in this area of Best Practice

2 = Evidence of minimal competence in this area of Best Practice

3 = Evidence of average competence in this area of Best Practice

4 = Evidence of above average competence in this area of Best Practice

5 = Evidence of a superior level of competence in this area of Best Practice

Candidates are required to demonstrate at least an average level of knowledge (a score of at least 3) in all competency areas.

Certification & Recertification

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

To renew their credential a NADD-DDS may apply for recertification by paying the Recertification Application Fee for access to our online application to document the completion of 10 hours of relevant continuing education.

Additional Links

Core Competency Areas

Executive Summary

Program Manual 


For questions about the Specialist Certification Program, please email us at specialistcerts@thenadd.org