They offer certification, which I have never bothered to pursue. But now I am ready. There is no business reason for me to do so since I won't be giving myself a raise as a Certified Executive Pastry Chef, but I am craving the recognition of my professional peers. Lots of people can decorate cakes, and there are many thousands of successful small business owners. Certification from the ACF will officially recognize that I have the education, practical skills and experience of any other executive chef.
I have learned though experience at the bakery that a diploma from culinary school guarantees absolutely nothing in terms of credentials and references. You can, unfortunately, graduate from culinary school with extremely limited or useless skills. Without attending many classes. Without enthusiastic participation. All you need is the ability to pay tuition.
I've seen lots of graduates that call themselves chefs. But I wouldn't take them on as unpaid interns. Too much ego, too few useful skills, and, more often than not, very little practical intelligence, sense of urgency, or pride in the profession.
On the other hand, there are many self-taught cake decorators who can ice a cake but have no idea how or why baking works, and don't really care.
And finally there are the business owners who have the management skills, but lack practical knowledge of the industry. Their products are only as good as their current bakers and decorators.
Certification involves documenting education and experience. I'll need to take a restaurant management and nutrition class. Then a written exam and a practical exam. You have to prove that you can practice what you have learned, preparing a number of items within a limited time frame, and I am pretty certain you cannot buy your way through the documentation and exams.
I'm sure it will make for interesting blog posts, so I invite you to follow me through this odyssey as I establish a position among professional chefs.