Conquent: Without Limits
Conquent: Without Limits
Kristen Fife's Blog

What Are Professional Certifications Really Worth?

2016-02-03 13:21:22

A lot of people look at obtaining professional certifications, either in their field or as a way of transitioning into a new field. There are a few exceptions, which I will mention in just a bit.

As a recruiter, I have a very pragmatic view of most professional certifications:

-If it is in your existing field you are paying to take a test saying you know how to do your job.
-A certification intending to help you move into a new field is nothing more than a passing grade in an elective class.

The truth is, THEORY and PRACTICE are vastly different things and for an experienced candidate (and I am speaking of workforce experience in this instance, not specific job-related skills), practical application will win out every time. And, depending on the actual certifications, may do more harm than good. For a certification to have any impact at all in terms of being an asset to your job search, it must be sponsored and administered by a professional organization that is recognized as a valuable market resource for the field; or, it must be something you need to become licensed to practice your occupation, such as a CPA. Usually the more valuable versions require a minimum amount of time actually practicing your profession before you can even apply to take the certification exam.

Some examples of relevant certifications:

-PHR - this is an extensive certification process requiring a minimum amount of HR experience and intensive testing. It is administered by the de facto international HR professional organization, the Society or Human Resources.

-PMI/PMP certification - Project Management certification by the Project Management Institute

MSCPx - Microsoft Certifications for a variety of technical disciplines.

CCP- Certified Compensation Professional

SixSigma if you are in manufacturing.

Some employers require specific certifications to even apply for a position, but most will look at a certification as a "nice to have" that will help make the decision between two or more relatively equal candidates.

If you choose to list certifications on your resume, make sure that they are relevant to the role you are applying for. A certification will never substitute for matriculated education or experience. Listing a certification you took in 1998 for a job in an industry you haven't even been in for over a decade is a waste of space and conveys the wrong message to potential employers. You want to make sure you are focusing on what you bring to the table *now* and how you can solve a need the employer has.

Think very carefully before you pay money for a course to become certified in something for which you have no experience just because it sounds interesting or appealing. For example, there has been a surge in "life coaching" in the last decade or so. Life coaching is a nebulous field with absolutely no regulation or professional standards. (I personally would never consult a "life coach" that didn't have a background in counseling of some sort.) Setting yourself up as qualified for something you are not can backfire and do more harm than good.

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Jason Cavness: Re: - What Are Professional Certifications Really Worth?
2016-02-10 21:40:41


There has been a lot of discussion lately in the HR world on benefits of having or not have certification. Add that we now have the HRCI and SHRM certifications and things are even more confusing for us HR types.


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