What Are Professional Certifications?

Professional Certifications: Benefits, Types, and More

Have you seen ads for a professional certification that sounds interesting to you? Are you considering how a certificate will affect your chances of promotion or career change opportunities?

Undoubtedly, the correct professional certifications can supercharge your career growth, especially in specific industries, such as bookkeeping, design, and web development. We’re going to investigate them a little further here.

What Are Professional Certifications? Definition & Meaning

Generally, you need to pass an assessment to receive a certification that states you have studied and mastered specific professional software or protocols.

Certificates vs Degrees

One of the critical factors in choosing whether or not to pursue a certificate is understanding how it will complement other professional education. Do you already have a degree or certificate? Or, perhaps, plans to attain one? A degree, for example, can give you more significant opportunities for career growth and a higher salary over the entire span of your career.

On the other hand, a certificate can offer you quicker and less expensive avenues to gain entry into your field. If you’re planning to build your career in a specific area, consider how far you’d ultimately like to advance. Research positions in those more senior roles to determine what degrees and certifications will be necessary to meet your long-term goals.

Not everyone wants to grow into a senior leadership position. As you explore where you’d like your career to land in five to 10 years, perhaps a certificate with practical skills and specific learning will offer the competitive edge you’d require.

Choosing the Right Certificate Option for You

As mentioned above, having a well-laid-out career plan can ensure that you are utilizing the time and money to pursue a certificate intentionally. When considering what’s right for you, you’ll want to factor in the following.

Your Available Time

Are you in a position where you need to work full-time? What are your personal obligations? Is the certificate self-paced, or is there are an average workload for each week? These are essential questions to answer before jumping into a certificate program.

Before setting yourself up for failure, consider mapping out your schedule. If the certification program states that it requires a 10-hour commitment, factor in exactly where you’re going to “find” those hours in your week. For example, if you’re working full-time and have a family, it might be tough to carve out that time regularly. You might discover that cutting down hours at work or taking a slower track to completion fits better.

Professional Development Reimbursement Plans

Do you work for a company that offers any reimbursement for professional development opportunities? Often, they’ll require you to choose programs that line up with company-related tasks. For instance, you generally wouldn’t be reimbursed for an event management certificate if you work for an accounting firm.

How Quickly You Need to Finish

Are you at a place in your life where you have a financial need to move as quickly as possible? Or, are you in a secure place with work and able to strategize for maximum return? Having longer to develop strategically will allow you to build a long-term development plan that includes advanced certifications and, perhaps, a degree that matches.

Certificates That Recruiters Value

To ensure that you receive the best value for your certification, you need to analyze the offering institution’s quality and reputation. Recruiters should be able to either recognize or easily verify the issuing institution. Otherwise, it might be that you’re spending resources on something that won’t add as much value as you would gain from a different organization.

Different Types of Professional Certifications

Certifications are generally broken into the following three categories.

Corporate (Internal) Certifications

Certifications create promotion eligibility specific to a career path within one company. While they show your commitment to career development, they generally won’t apply to other companies.

Some examples are specific security or training certifications within an airline career. Or, a particular certificate of training that allows you to support specialty areas. Fortune 500 companies frequently have internal certifications. For example, banking institutions may have certifications for business account management vs personal account management.

Product-Specific Certifications

Receiving certifications surrounding a particular software or role can be highly beneficial for your career. They’re easily recognizable by recruiters and are portable between careers.

Product-specific examples:

  • Software certifications, such as Adobe (Photoshop, Illustrator) or Microsoft (Excel, Azure)
  • Google certifications (Analytics, AdWords)

Industry Certifications

Certifications that apply to an entire profession are the most portable and often the most desirable. Generally, these certifications can help facilitate a career change farther down your development path.

Industry certification examples:

  • Project Management Professional (PMP)
  • Certified Meeting Professional (CMP)
  • Professional in Human Resources (PHR)

Getting the Right Career Tools

Certificates are not always the right choice for everyone. They can, however, set you apart from your noncertified counterparts. And used to increase specific skill sets, you can grow your career in increments that stack up.

You’ll round out your experience and knowledge, becoming more attractive to recruiters. Whether it’s certification, a degree, or licensing, devoting time to choosing the best formal instruction for you is a terrific step in your career planning process!


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