How Important Are Professional Certifications?

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Category: Value of Education

By Matt Rowley
Posted on

In some industries, education and work experience may not be the only requirements for job seekers. Some employers may expect their staff to have earned professional certifications, but certain certifications may require a significant investment of time studying, as well as the cost to take the exams.

Are certifications worth it? The answer is yes for many types of careers. In this article, we explore what professional certifications are, how valuable they can be, and when it makes sense to pursue them.

What is Considered a Professional Certification?

A professional certification is a credential that verifies someone’s knowledge, skills and abilities to perform a specific job. Certifications are typically awarded by a professional association after a candidate completes an assessment of some kind.

After earning a certification, an individual typically can then start using a designation after their name. For example, someone who earns the Certified Safety Professional® designation can begin using “CSP®” after their name. Many certifications have ongoing requirements to maintain that designation.

Finally, it’s important to note the difference between certifications awarded by professional associations and certificates awarded by educational institutions.

  • A certificate – awarded by an educational institution – recognizes a student who finishes a focused, industry-specific training within an academic setting.
  • A certification – awarded by a professional organization – recognizes a working professional who has completed an assessment that evaluated their ability to do their job.

How Valuable is a Certification?

Before pursuing a certification, evaluate how valuable it will be and if it will help you achieve your goals. The value of a certification will depend on several factors.

1. Difficulty

Requirements for getting certified can vary. Some certifications simply require paying a fee and taking a test. Others may require having work experience and other eligibility requirements. Also, many certifications require you to take a test periodically to maintain your certification.

Difficulty is an important factor, but don’t avoid certifications that are more difficult to earn and maintain – or require more experience – as they may be more valuable long term.

2. Reputation

Just about any organization or individual can create their own certification program. Certifications that are widely recognized by an industry are more helpful than ones that aren’t.

For example, two leading certification providers for human resources professionals are the Human Resource Certification Institute® and the Society for Human Resource Management. Also, there are many kinds of certifications in occupational safety and health, but the Board of Certified Safety Professionals is a recognized industry leader. Certifications from well-known organizations like these demonstrate an elevated level of knowledge in your field.

A company’s name recognition can also increase the perceived value of a certification. For example, Google Ads Certifications are recognized by marketing professionals due to Google’s brand recognition.

3. Your Employer

The usefulness of certifications also depends on your employer or prospective employer. Some organizations may require their employees to be certified – and even pay for them – while others might not see any value in them at all. Job descriptions may mention certifications, but candidates may also be able to overcome such requirements if they are strong in other areas.

Should You Get Certified?

So, how do you decide if getting certified is worth your time and money? Before pursuing certification, ask yourself the following questions.

1. Are Other Professionals in Your Industry Getting It?

Observe whether other professionals in your field are getting certified. Do people with certifications appear to have higher salaries or desirable positions? Talk with others who have gotten certified as well as hiring managers to get their opinion on the value of their certification.

2. Will It Help Strengthen Your Knowledge and Career?

The process of getting certified can also help you gain more knowledge as you study and prepare for the test. Good certification programs aren’t just about getting a piece of paper or a designation after your name.

A high-value certification ensures that you maintain a high level of knowledge and skill in your profession. Certifications also help show that you are committed to mastering your skills and knowledge in your field.

3. Does It Help You Develop and Showcase a Complementary Skill?

Some certifications can help you develop a skill related to your field. For example, a Salesforce certification can be helpful for a salesperson looking to work for a company that uses Salesforce for lead generation, or a Microsoft certification might help an IT specialist interested in finding employment with organizations that use Microsoft products.

The Value of Certifications

Earning certifications is generally useful and recommended as many employers will view them as a sign of commitment to your profession at the very least. Studies in industries like occupational safety and health also show that workers who invest in certifications tend to earn higher salaries.

Here at Columbia Southern University, we’re committed to helping our students and alumni achieve their career goals, from career coaching to continuing education and more. To learn more about our online degree programs at the associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral levels, visit our website.

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