When you’re looking for work, you want to present yourself as the best-prepared, most solid candidate. With that in mind, many job seekers look at industry certifications as a way to set themselves apart. But these credentials cost time and money. Are they worth it?
The answer, unfortunately, is “it depends.”
It seems as if every field has a number of industry certifications one could earn to advance your career. If you work in project management, there’s the Project Management Professional credential. If you design kitchens, you can become a Certified Kitchen Designer. Are you a plumber? The International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials offers a Green Plumber certification. The list goes on and on.
In some fields — like cybersecurity — having the right industry certifications is a requirement for any meaningful job. In others, the impact may be modest. You’ll never hurt yourself by earning a certification, of course. But before you invest hours and dollars into getting one, ask yourself these questions.
Does the Employer Expect It?
In some industries, employers consider specific certifications to be a fundamental job requirement. For instance, that cybersecurity job is hard to get without a Certified Information Systems Security Officer (CISSO) credential. Likewise, in project management, you need the PMP to be considered an “A” player.
A good rule of thumb: Believe employers when they list certifications as a job requirement.
Often, they’ll use it as a litmus test when they’re taking their first look at a resume. If you don’t have it, they won’t be interested.
How Competitive is the Field?
The most respected certifications are usually based on a combination of course work, experience, and formal exams. When you earn one, you’re demonstrating vital things to hiring managers. First: you take your career seriously enough to spend time and money to become better at your work. Second: you have expert knowledge not everyone will possess. And, third: you’ve proved your knowledge and experience through the process of earning the certification.
Let’s take kitchen designers as an example. A showroom may not require that you be certified as a kitchen designer by the National Kitchen and Bath Association. But having the credential shows that you’ve got a certain level of experience. Not just selling, but designing, building and/or managing execution of your designs. And when multiple people are applying for the same job? Your certificate is most likely the deciding factor in whether you get an interview, and the job.
Will Industry Certifications Get Me More Money?
Often, they do, but there’s no guarantee. In many high-tech jobs, having the right certification can result in a pay premium worth thousands of dollars a year. In most cases, though, the credentials simply put you in a stronger position when it comes time to negotiate.
To find out where you stand, do some homework. Search the Web for a specific job title, “certification” and “pay.” With the results, you’ll start to learn how valuable a particular certification may be. Professional associations are also a great source of information about a cert’s value. Bear in mind, however, those same groups often sponsor the credentials and can have a definite ax to grind.
Industry Certifications can be valuable not only to your job hunt but to your long-term success. Still, don’t rush into getting one. Think through what’s necessary to succeed in your chosen path and do some research to learn about what employers expect. Then you can decide whether a certification is right for you.
For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at Campus to Career!