Certification FAQs

With the CETL® certification, district technology leaders validate their skills and qualifications in building transformative learning environments. Want to start heading down the CETL® path?

Still have unanswered questions? Contact certification@cosn.org.

What is a CETL®? Expand

What is the CETL® Certification Program?

CETL® stands for Certified Education Technology Leader and represents the highest standards of excellence in the education technology industry.  The CETL® certification eligibility requirements, exam topics, and recertification requirements are based on The Framework of Essential Skills of the K-12 CTO-representing the competencies critical to today’s education technology leaders. The Framework, which was created and is kept up-to-date by two volunteer panels of education technology leaders, is divided into three primary areas:

  • Leadership and Vision
  • Understanding the Educational Environment
  • Managing Technology and Support Resources

Is the Program Accredited?

The CETL is accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA).

Who are CETL® candidates?

K-12 education technology leaders who are or aspire to become key members of their organizations’ leadership teams.

What are the skills and experiences of CETL® candidates?

Our candidates reflect the evolving role of CTOs in K-12 education; the responsibilities of the CIO or CTO have moved from being largely technical to being largely strategic, and CTOs must demonstrate skills in leadership and management, fiscal management, organization and culture, and business.

Education technology leaders come from diverse backgrounds, including instructional, technical, and the business sector. While each path fosters strengths, experience, and expertise to the role, it is rare that a CTO possesses the full range of knowledge and skills needed, as identified in the Framework, to help the district succeed and realize its mission and goals.

Why get certified? Expand

Why should I take the CETL®?

There are many reasons to be certified in your chosen career. For K-12 education technology leaders, earning the CETL® credential demonstrates to your staff, superintendent, and other stakeholders that you have mastered the knowledge and skills needed to define the vision for and successfully build 21st-Century learning environments in your school district or other education organization.

Certification also helps keep you current in your field. Once certified, CETL® certificants are required to continue their professional development, ensuring that they stay up to date on new technologies affecting the K-12 education technology space.

Further, certification can help you earn a promotion, a new job, and even a higher salary.*

What is the value in earning the CETL®?

In a 2013 survey by CoSN of CETL® earners, almost all (96%) planned to re-certify, and 94% would recommend certification to colleagues within the K-12 community.

The survey also showed that most (80%) of CETLs pursued certification for added professional development. Approximately 61% expected to advance their careers and believe that having the CETL® will enhance their performance and ability to advance in the job or change jobs. Almost 85% of CETL® certificants have used the Framework to guide their professional development activities, and 64% have also used it to select professional development for their departments (and 44% for their districts).

Learn more about why certification is valuable in employing certified technology leaders for school superintendents and industry leaders.

* A 2019 analysis of salary data demonstrated that on average those individuals with the CETL® credential earn more than their counterparts without the credential.


To apply for the CETL® exam, applicants must, at a minimum, have a bachelor’s degree plus four years of education technology experience. Education technology experience is defined as demonstrable experience in the three primary professional categories of the Framework, which are: Leadership and Vision; Understanding the Educational Environment; and Managing Technology and Support Resources.

If the candidate does not have a bachelor’s degree, s/he must have at least seven years of demonstrable experience in education technology and appeal to the Certification Governance Committee, in writing, with an explanation of this experience and a signed recommendation from the candidate’s supervisor.

Exam Administration

How is the CETL® exam structured?

The exam is based on a formal Job Analysis and consists of 100 multiple-choice questions all of which are scored.

All exams are administered at Pearson Test Centers located throughout the world along with additional testing options for candidate’s convenience. Additional details.

What does it cost to pursue CETL® certification?

CoSN CETL +USA Bundle Member exam fee: $489
CoSN CETL +USA Bundle Nonmember exam fee: $829
CoSN CETL +USA Bundle retake fee: $339

The initial exam fees cover the entire initial certification process (application, eligibility analysis, exam, and certificate/recognition for those who are eligible and pass the exam). If a candidate fails the exam, the retake fee will apply each time the exam is retaken.

All fees are nonrefundable; please be certain that you meet the eligibility requirements–or email us at certification@cosn.org if you have any questions about eligibility–before you apply.

Where is the CETL® exam administered?

Exams are administered at Pearson Test Centers throughout the world or via remote secure proctoring in a location convenient to the candidate.

How do I become CETL® Certified? 

Step 1: Apply to become a CETL
After completing this step, you will receive an email with instructions to complete your application and sign up for an exam. This video show the process.

How do I prepare? Expand

How can I prepare effectively?

Review the Framework and take our online self-assessment and sample exam; all of these resources can be found on our exam preparation page.

We also encourage you to join a study group; these groups help candidates stay on a schedule and will help you tap into your colleagues’ expertise and support.

Purchasing a facilitated virtual course or a self-study course is another way to prepare with a cohort.

How long does preparation take, and are the study materials aligned to the test?

It varies; some individuals took the exam immediately after reviewing our prep materials, and some prepared for a year. Study groups, and most individual candidates, typically complete preparation in two to three months.

The Framework is the basis of both the exam content and our study materials; while no one resource will “teach to the test,” all materials are aligned.

Recertification Expand

The CETL® certification will expire three years after the date of issue. To remain certified, a CETL® is required to stay current in the CTO field EITHER by completing 60 hours of CoSN-defined continuing education activities (CEAs) or preparing to retake and then passing the CETL® exam before the expiration of the certification. All CEAs must be tied to one or more of the 10 skill areas identified in the Framework. In addition, recertification activities must take place within the three-year certification cycle.

Learn more on our Recertification page.

Helpful Resources Expand

Become a CETL

Ready to apply for CETL certification? Start here.

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