Today’s job market is so competitive that many workers pursue career certifications as a way to edge out the competition.
But are the extra initials on your resume what you need to stand apart from the crowd? Consider the following when determining if pursuing career certifications is right for you.
What is the purpose of a career certification?
You pursue certifications to learn applicable skills for a certain field or to demonstrate to a potential or current employer — or even yourself — that you’ve attained a certain level of knowledge in a field.
How about the “return on investment” (ROI)?
A career certification can help you get a job, raise or promotion, or break into a new field altogether. According to the Salary Guides from Robert Half, the best career certifications can increase starting salaries by up to 10 percent. A designation specific to a profession — such as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) for accounting professionals, or the Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) for IT specialists — increases your marketability, employability and financial ROI.
Still on the fence? General certifications can often help you get your foot in the door if you’re just starting out. These types of certifications are in subjects such as project management, for example, that translate across many fields and industries. A general certification could also help you decide where you want to take your career.
Which is better — another degree or a certification?
Working professionals often choose to earn career certifications instead of going back to school. Why? A traditional degree setting may not afford you the targeted learning experience you want and need. There is also the financial and time commitment to consider. Do you have the time and stamina to complete all of the program requirements within the specified time frame? A certification is an excellent way for those in the workforce to develop professionally for less time and money. In fact, many certification programs take less than a year to complete.
When are career certifications not worth the effort?
Make sure the certification is from a reputable source. If it’s not, you’ll waste time and money. And remember: Career certifications help you sharpen your skills for current or potential jobs, but employers consider several factors when hiring or promoting, such as general business knowledge, communication skills and leadership abilities.
Certifications are usually worth the extra time and effort to distinguish yourself in the job market. However, keep in mind that certification is only part of the equation for scoring a new job, raise or promotion. You’ll want to combine your certification with professional experience as well as technical and soft skills to get where you want to go.