Understanding the Job Task Analysis Process

By Karen Sturges-Vera


Certification programs are established to provide a mechanism to promote the competent performance of practitioners in the respective fields. As such, they need to keep up to date on what the practitioners in the field are expected to do, how they are expected to do it, and the knowledge they need to be able to do it. What constitutes expected or current, best practice can change as the industry evolves over time. One of the key ways a certification program can keep abreast of changes in best practice is to conduct regular job task analyses (JTAs).

Also known as a role delineation, practice analysis, or job analysis, the JTA is the process by which a certification program defines the tasks that are performed as an essential part of the profession and the areas of knowledge needed to be able to perform those tasks. By specifying which tasks and knowledge areas are important to the profession, JTAs can provide evidence of content validity for the certification program, in that the test is representative of what it aims to measure, i.e., the candidate’s competence in the profession.

In general, a JTA is performed periodically to capture such changes in best practice.  The frequency between JTA studies varies by how rapidly the field changes. Some fields that change quickly and frequently might need to conduct one every two to three years, while others that are not expected to change as often might be able to have a longer cycle, such as every five to seven years.

The certification program designates a task force of subject matter experts (SMEs) to draft the lists of tasks and knowledge areas that currently are required for competent performance in the profession. One of the initial steps is to review the tasks and knowledge areas used in the previous JTA, or the current exam content outline, to determine if there are changes that need to be reflected in the new JTA. The task force might find that new methods have been devised that did not exist or were not widely used before.

To find out if such judgements are appropriate, the JTA is expanded beyond the initial Task Force to include additional SMEs as part of an independent review, focus groups, or respondents to a validation survey. The larger and more representative the group of people who participate, the more likely it is that the JTA will be able to capture significant changes in the field as practiced by the overall population of those practitioners. Participants typically rate the frequency the stated tasks are done and the importance of those tasks to competent performance to be able to provide a quantifiable basis on which to weigh the different parts of the certification examination. This then becomes the basis for the content outline for the certification examination. Participants also can provide input about the eligibility requirements, recertification requirements, or other relevant aspects of the examination.

If it is time for your program to conduct a new JTA, please contact your PTC program manager for more information.