There is a certification process to become a professional genealogist. It is directed by the Board for Certification of Genealogists founded in 1964. It is headquartered in Falmouth, Virginia and is not affiliated with any other organization. Its purpose is to maintain standards for genealogical quality.
Three or more certified members serve on the evaluation committee to determine if a given individual is qualified for certification. A $125 fee accompanies each certification application along with the required work done by the applicant. Once certified, each person is re-evaluated every five years. Roughly two thirds of all first-time applicants are approved. Eighty percent of all certified members are re-certified. A list of certified members is distributed to libraries, genealogical societies and certified members.
Certification is in one or more of the following categories (the first four are researchers and the remaining two are teachers):
Certified Genealogist Records Specialist (C.G.R.S.) – expert with records of a particular geographical area, subject or ethnic group; editor of a genealogical newsletter or newspaper column; assist other persons research their roots.
Certified American Lineage Specialist (C.A.L.S.) – actively participate in lineage societies; help others prepare lineage applications; focus primarily on your direct line of ascent.
Certified American Indian Lineage Specialist (C.A.I.L.S.) – document Native American lineages; assist Native American communities with petitions for federal recognition.
Certified Genealogical Lecturer (C.G.L.) – speak to genealogical societies, lineage organizations and civic groups on topics related to genealogy.
Certified Genealogical Instructor (C.G.I.) – teach a full-scale structured genealogical curriculum for an educational institution or library.
At some point you will probably determine that you need the service of a professional to help you get past some hurdle. Seeking assistance from the experts usually pays in the long run. You pay an hourly rate for any research done and you authorize a maximum number of hours. You should send what you have already done and specifically what you want to be done. He/she will mail you a report of the findings along with any photocopies made. Most likely, you will gaze over these results with awe and say "This is definitely worth it!".