What's the deal with certification?
Sellers of certificates will sing the praises of being "certified." They have to. They are contractually obligated to recruit you for the franchiser who wants your dues and the opportunity to sell you stuff. We will tell you we severed the tie with franchise sailing education in 2011 because the hustle was disquieting to us and the curriculum diluted and packaged.
It sounded plausible when it began. A privately held for-profit company in California and an east coast not-for-profit both establishing standards and authorizing certification under their authority. But standardization and sailing are not a good fit. Students on the Columbia River should not expect to work from the same curriculum as their counterparts on Minnesota lakes and San Diego Bay. So that's a problem. Over time another has appeared, one as old as humanity. Generating income has become too much of a priority for the franchise sellers and many of their affiliated schools, and naturally their paper has lost value. Now, the only universally respected sailing credential is a U.S Coast Guard Master's License because it is not easy to get.
But don't take our word for it. Talk to veteran sailors. Or better yet, ask the bareboat charter company you might want to rent a boat from. Unless they are themselves sellers of some sort of certfication (as a few are) they will tell you that their interest is in your experience (and your credit card): how much time have you served on what boats, on what waters, and in what capacity.
So if you want paper, sorry, we can't help you unless you become actually competent. We will certify Basic sailors who in our judgment are competent to rent one of our boats unsupervised in most sailing conditions. How long it takes to attain this level of competence varies. Students who achieve this level can also receive certification for completion of Sea Trials, our 220 mile, fifty-hour over-the-bar trip (it's no vacation).
But really. Obviously. Experience trumps paper. Get out there as often as you can. Sail different boats with different people in different places in a variety of conditions. Experience builds competence and confidence, and a well maintained logbook is your affidavit of your experience.