Professional Credentialing for PIOs

Take your career to the next level

The Center for Public Safety Excellence (CPSE) Public Information Officer professional designation has been live since November 2022. It gives you the opportunity to be truly recognized for the work you do in the field of public communication.

This is the first of CPSE’s designations that is open to multiple disciplines and to civilians. This is not limited to fire and emergency services but rather it is open to law enforcement, local, state, and federal government communicators, quasi-government agencies and organizations, non-profits, etc. Persons who are full time PIOs whether paid, volunteer, or contracted (even if it’s a dual role) can apply.

Eligibility criteria ranges from education to cumulative experience, and there are two pathways by which PIOs can obtain the credential. Category A does not require the applicant to write to the technical competencies; Category B does require the applicant to write to the technical competencies.

Even if a candidate is not eligible at the time the application is downloaded, the PIO can use it as a career roadmap for professional development with the objective of eventually qualifying for the credential.

 You can access the application HERE. It is free to download.

FAQ about CPSE Designation

How did this designation come about?

This effort started in early 2020 as a result of conversations among PIOs across the country who were near burnout or experiencing issues proving the value of their role within their organizations. The thought then became, “How do we add value to the position from an agency head standpoint, but also intrinsically, knowing how hard we’ve worked to get to this point?” A focus group was formed to research the possibility of creating a professional designation for PIOs by a nationally or internationally-known and established organization.

The Center for Public Safety Excellence was approached first. CPSE requested the imaginative and achievable markets and national standards to which the technical competencies could be attributed. The final proposal complete with survey data, letters of support, pinpointed national standards, and more was submitted in October 2020. CPSE’s Commission on Professional Credentialing (CPC) did not review this proposal until its first in-person meeting in September 2021. It was unanimously passed by the commission and ultimately by the Board of Directors in December 2021.

Program development began in early 2022, beta testing occurred in late summer, and the designation officially rolled out in November 2022. This was CPSE’s first designation added in a decade, first available to civilians, and first to broaden its eligibility by not limiting it to fire and emergency services professionals.

What is credentialing and why is it important?


  • Highlights professional and personal growth and provides an individual source of pride.

  • Provides external validation, recognizing career excellence and achievement.

  • Demonstrates that an individual has developed a strategy for continued improvement and development.

Who is eligible? 

Any person actively employed full or part-time with, contracted with, or as a volunteer for a federal, state, local or tribal government agency, public safety agency, emergency services organization, or a privately owned industry that is supported by government or that serves in emergency support functions (ESF) can apply.

How do I apply? 

Visit and download an application from the CPSE store. It’s free. Fill it out entirely and provide the required accompanying documents, and submit via the instructions given. 

Does FEMA/EMI recognize the CPSE and where does it fit in with the various PIO classes and levels of instruction?

Professional designation isn’t in itself a certification. It’s a process by which we document our training, education, and experience to demonstrate having achieved a credible level of professional excellence. Certificates from FEMA and other courses are only one component of the credentialing process.

Others include but are not limited to professional affiliations and contributions, technical competencies, community involvement, etc. The credential is a third-party verification of your certifications and other accomplishments by peers in the field. 

How are you letting non-PIO people (the ones who hire us) know how important this designation is?

This is a great question. CPSE and its CPC’s designations are known throughout the emergency services. However, with the broader spectrum of eligible applicants from other disciplines, there is a need to create awareness in other types of agencies. The plan is to host webinars, create articles, and attend conferences where these agency heads may be present and provide the information to them. Additionally, should anyone need CPC to reach out directly to their agency, we’re happy to do that as well via a letter or scheduled call. 

What are you looking for in the Development Goals section?

As a candidate, you are asked to write to ways you plan to develop both personally and professionally, displaying your commitment to further education, contributions to the field, and overall pursuit of excellence. The categories to which you will write are: accountability, response policies, and public education. References for each of these sections are provided in the application, and mentors can assist in steering you in the right direction   

Does an applicant's agency needs to be an accredited agency?

No. It does not. 

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