I'm revamping our registration page with a lengthy list of professional certifications. I am using a plugin that dynamically searches the drop-down based on user input.

Is it preferable to have two drop-downs, with one that denotes a field of certification that dynamically narrows the second down?

Or is it preferable to have one drop-down that is able to be searched based on partial input?

In this case, I am creating this for a job-search website. Considering the user's time and frustration with lengthy forms, I would opt for the second, simpler solution, but wanted input from those well-versed in the field.

Edit for clarification: For example, in the dual-drop-down solution, the first drop down would be a list of categories, ie:

  • Accounting and finance
  • Actuarial
  • Architecture
  • Association, credentialing, and not-for-profit management etc...

Selecting one would narrow the contents of the second dropdown to only include certifications that pertain to the selected category. For example, selecting "Actuarial" will dynamically alter the second drop down to only contain actuarial certifications.

I felt that this solution might be more cumbersome than effective when compared to the second alternative, which is to have a full list of dynamically searchable professional certifications, and no dropdown for category.

  • If I'm understanding it correctly, the purpose is for the user to select which certification he has while applying for a job, right? Could you also give an example for clarification?
    – BatlaDanny
    Jul 15, 2015 at 14:24
  • You are correct, however the user need only input information once, and thankfully not every time they apply. I have edited the question with a clarifying example. Thanks! Jul 15, 2015 at 14:53

2 Answers 2


Its preferred to have one dropdown list with the option to filter.

Its always better to have one UI control for one action. The other crippling fact about two drop-down list is writing a javascript controller to update the other when you change the first one. And then wiring up logic to remember the second option (should the user accidentally change the first one again, causing the UI to refresh its data). Bottomline, it should not be a chore, and two dropdowns sounds like a chore to me.

However, that does not mean you can't include categories. For example, you could do this:

enter image description here

Here's the plugin if you are interested.

  • Delicious. Thank you for your input. Coincidentally, this was the very plugin I was planning on using! :) Jul 15, 2015 at 16:14
  • Its a good plugin. I've used it in several projects.
    – Rayraegah
    Jul 15, 2015 at 19:50

The interface suggested by @Rayraegah is quite good. I'm expanding on it here with a few more use cases

You want to implement a functionality for adding professional certifications on a job-search website.

  • In your use case, the user would know the exact certification which he'd want to enter.

The user would thus approach your interface with the objective of directly entering the particular certification. Thus, not allowing the user to do that and forcing him to first enter the field of certification is not ideal.

  • Also, there are bound to be many multi-disciplinary certifications.

In cases, where the user wants to enter a multi-disciplinary specialisation, he'd stumble when first asked to enter the field of specialisation.

  • Don't discount categorisation though since it is useful for speedily and efficiently finding information and this is applicable to your interface.

Thus, you can use an interface suggested by @Rayraegah and include field categories along with the certifications

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