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In certain industries certifications are mandatory to advance a person’s career further.  In other domains certifications are a helpful tool in the pursuit to earn more money and obtaining a coveted promotion. Certifications look great on a resume and can help a candidate stand out from their competitors. Not everyone can obtain a certificate – it takes hard work and dedication – not to mention some certification are more expensive than others. Before registering for a certification course it’s important to weigh the positives and negatives. Is the amount of time and effort worth obtaining? Is the monetary benefit from the certificate going to more or less than the cost of the certificate itself?  

According to the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce, studies have shown that employees with certificates earn 20% more than their counterparts who just hold a high school diploma - but not as much as a person with a college degree. Certifications are offered throughout all domains from cosmetology to accounting. Some are mandatory in order to get licensed while others are great to pad a resume and obtain knowledge on a particular subject.

The need to obtain a certificate depends on the industry itself. There are many career paths where a certificate is absolutely necessary to not only get hired just as a doctor would never get hired without a Ph.D.  For instance, a vet technician needs a certificate to be a licensed vet tech. A realtor cannot practice without taking their state’s Real Estate Salesperson license and passing the Real Estate Salesperson exam.

There are other careers where a certification is necessary to advance one’s career in a certain domain but not necessary to get hired. Those who wish to pursue a career in accounting benefit from holding a CPA certification which signifies to employers that they passed the CPA exam and can be trusted as a financial advisor. This does not mean that all accountants must obtain their CPA license. But if they want to advance their career – a CPA license is necessary.

Then there are careers where certifications are offered but are more or less useless. Take it from a former bartender who doesn’t have a bartending certificate. Most bar owner prefer to hire a bartender with experience and no certificate over a bartender with a certificate but no experience.

“It’s not realistic to think that you can go get a certificate and immediately demand more money. You have to use those skills to achieve more…” explains Chrissy Scivicque in her article, “Are Professional Certifications Worth It?” Scivicque brings up an important point. Having a certificate is one great, but employers are ultimately going to look at how you use those skills to benefit the company. A bartending certificate shows an employer that you can make drinks, but it doesn’t show them that you can work under pressure or have a personality that’s suited to be a bartender. Only experience can convey that.

If you’re still confused as to whether or not you need a certificate I would suggest speaking to recruiters and hiring managers in your desired field. What certificates (if any) do they look for on an applicant’s resume? Do they recommend any certifications in particular? By speaking to those in your profession you will gain knowledge and insight on what’s needed to excel. By obtaining this information you will be in a better position to decide whether or not a certification is right for you.

Last modified on Monday, 06 July 2020
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Danielle Loughnane

Danielle Loughnane earned her B.F.A. in Creative Writing from Emerson College and has currently been working in the data science field since 2015. She is the author of a comic book entitled, “The Superhighs” and wrote a blog from 2011-2015 about working in the restaurant industry called, "Sir I Think You've Had Too Much.” In her spare time she likes reading graphic novels and snuggling with her dogs.

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