Equine Assisted Learning is a growing industry that is opening many career opportunities to help others through horses. There are many EAL Certifications available, each with their own approach and standards of practice. The fact is there are a lot of people doing great work in this field! So it is important to take the time to do your research and find the one that is right for you. One that enables you to achieve your career goals and serve the clients you want to serve. When I was researching which certification I wanted to pursue when opening Dreamwinds, there were a number of factors that came into consideration. Time and of course cost were obvious considerations. Having completed a master’s degree and various certifications during my corporate career, I wasn’t looking to enroll in program that would take months or years to complete. But as I looked back, there were 12 key areas that weighed heavily in my decision to choose Cartier Farms for my EAL Certification. I hope the following checklist will help you evaluate the various options to find the right path for your own EAL career! 1. Program History How long has the company been in place, offering EAL certification and services? How successful are they? 2. Validity Does the company have any third-party research to validate its effectiveness? Are they able to provide graduate success stories from people they have trained? If you merely want to obtain certification to expand your knowledge, that is fine, but if you want to build a business, you need to know that it is feasible. 3. Suitability to your customers Will your customers buy it? This is critical. It is important to understand whether the program will appeal to your market. Some certifications offer an intuitive or spiritual approach, some are strictly therapeutic and others, like Cartier, take on a logical/objective-based approach. What would your customers want? 4. Flexibility What you wish to do at first may not remain your passion forever. You may discover other areas of interest or market opportunities. When I was looking for a certification, all I wanted to do was corporate team building. But, as my business grew, I realized that more people needed my help and the opportunities were endless. Thankfully, I was equipped for that through my certification. Flexibility enables you to grow your business in more than one area and create multiple income streams from your EAL certification. 5. Inclusions Each program has its own package, which could include literature, classroom time, time spent with the horses, hands on facilitation and so on. Some programs offer a few hours of classroom time and a certificate, while others have apprenticeships, tools, and more. Be sure to get a clear understanding of what you’ll receive with your certification and assess what the value is to you. 6. Time commitment How much time do you have available to devote to learning about EAL? Choose a course that is sustainable and can fit into your lifestyle. 7. Re-certification Some courses will require re-certification, logging of hours or further investment to retain your EAL Certification. Be sure to understand what is required by each of the schools you consider. 8. Operating restrictions Operating restrictions may apply if you want to maintain your certification and keep it valid. In some cases, you may only work with people who have also been certified by the same program. Consider how these operating restrictions will affect you not only now, but also in the future. 9. Current Operations Do they actively practice, or merely offer training? Do your research and see whether the company offers many services other than just training and certification. Their social media profiles should provide you with great insights. You want to learn from a company that offers more than just certification. Be sure you are learning from someone who has built an EAL career and business running actual programs, not just teaching certification. 10. Apprenticeship Opportunities While most programs offer a hands-on component, some provide the opportunity to apprentice. Being able to do an apprenticeship helps ensure that you are confident in your training, which enhances your level of success. 11. Continuing Education Advanced EAL Certification will be important for many people, but it may not be a priority for others. If it's important to you, be sure to find out that it is available. 12. Ongoing support Finally, does the company offer ongoing support after you have been certified? Is there coaching available and at what cost? Do they have a strong community of alumni that supports one another? Having the support of those who have been where you are and share your passion is a huge help as you grow your career/business. This is an exciting time to embarking on a career in EAL! It is a growing industry offering wonderful and diverse opportunities to turn your passion for horses into a fulfilling career. Take the time to understand what education options are available, who is doing the kind of work you want to do and succeeding at it and most importantly what will be the best fit for you and the clients you want to serve. As you navigate your way, I am pleased to be a resource and welcome you to connect with me for more information or to schedule a free consultation at www.dreamwinds.ca/eal-certification. Enjoy the journey! Download your free copy of the checklist here!