Professional Certifications: A Quick Path to Career AdvancementAshley Nottingham | Online Instructor Coach, Harrison College
Usually, it is considered the norm to pass linearly from school to work, making that transition as you proceed across the stage to obtain your degree at graduation. However, career paths are becoming less conventional, with many employees returning to school or making job changes along the way. If you are seeking to advance or modify your career, acquiring a professional certification can offer a quick path without investing a significant amount of time into another degree.
All valid, recognized professional certifications are sponsored by an industry-approved certifying body. These organizations create boards and committees of experts in the chosen field to identify the key knowledge and skills to be assessed that would speak to a mastery of the subject. Often, these same organizations offer membership options and continuing education opportunities that are required to maintain certification, or simply to stay updated on current trends in the field.
Local education providers, such as community colleges or universities, can become registered education providers of both continued education credits (CEUs) and test preparation classes. Certifying organizations approve these providers based on a review of their content and instructor qualifications and may offer lists of approved course locations in your area on their websites. It is important to note that education centers may deliver similar training without being a registered provider—these courses may be equally effective, but they are not always accepted as official CEUs. A local chapter of the industry organization can usually assist you with this process.
One popular example is the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification. There are various levels of eligibility required to sit for the exam based on the number of hours of experience in managing projects and your level of education; the higher your education, the lower your required experience, and vice versa. Most professional certifications require this type of balanced scale for eligibility, which levels the playing field, whether you have a GED or a Master’s degree, as the certification is obtainable if you can show your depth of knowledge. And as project management covers a diverse range of industries, from IT to construction, from healthcare to manufacturing, an individual can use this certificate to move into a multitude of job opportunities.
Unlike vocational certifications, what you are saying when you show your certificate is not, “I have learned the basics of this skill and am ready for entry level work.” Instead, you’re saying, “I have proven mastery of this topic.”
These types of certificates are often used in the process of job screening to identify a candidate’s skill, even before an interview, making a resume much more competitive. Occasionally, industry recognized certifications are so valued by employers, that they will require them when hiring new employees, or sponsor the costs of classes and testing as part of internal professional development plans.
Whether you are looking to move into a new field, or advance to the next level of your current career, acquiring a professional certification aides in a rapid and smooth transition—expanding your job opportunities and increasing your earning potential.
Author Perspective: Administrator