How Important Are Certifications for Job Advancement? (Part 1) | Advancing on the Job Series

So, you’re ready for the next step at work, but there’s no promotion on the horizon. Maybe a professional certification is the missing piece that will turn all your career dreams into reality.

Slow down there, partner! You don’t want to just jump into a process that could be a serious investment of time and money without first understanding if it’s worth it.

There’s a lot to know about the world of certifications, which is why we’ve developed this 2-part series to help you out. Once you know if this is a path you want to pursue, our next article will help you determine which certificate is the right one.

Whether you’re in IT, healthcare, or any other field, there are probably plenty of opportunities for obtaining certification, and there are certainly a lot of reasons why continued education is useful in career growth.

But will a certification directly impact your ability to advance? The frustrating answer is: it depends. Here are some factors to consider in the decision-making process.

Also read: How to Be the CEO of Your Career | Advancing on the Job Series

Field Requirements

Every field is a little different with respect to the weight placed on certifications. Some truly consider them requirements, while others see them as nice to have or, in some cases, totally unnecessary.

For example, many project management roles require the PMP (Project Management Professional) certification. If you’re aspiring to advance in this field, getting your PMP is practically a no-brainer.

On the other hand, as a corporate trainer, I’ve found that the CPLP certification (the most common in my field) is certainly not considered a necessity. However, it’s always looked upon as a plus because it shows deep commitment to the profession and a level of interest that goes beyond what’s typical.

If you’re not sure how certifications are viewed within your field in general (and within your organization in particular), it’s time to do some research. Sit down with people who are in the roles you’re aiming for. Ask for their insight. They are in the best position to know what will be most useful.

Impact to Value

Possessing a certification can, indeed, help position you as someone who is serious about your career. But far more important to an employer is the question of how the certification actually makes you a better employee.

To be truly worthwhile, your certification will need to provide you with useful education that can be applied in the workplace to deliver added value. Only then will the investment truly payoff in the mind of the employer.

The certification itself has no value to the company; it’s what you can do with it that really matters.

Don’t expect that merely obtaining the certification will be enough to finally land that promotion. However, if you’re able to use the skills you gained in the process to create more tangible, positive outcomes for your organization, that’s the thing that will position you for advancement.

If you’re not sure whether a certification will help you in this regard, pose the question to people who already have it. Ask them, “What added value have you been able to deliver to your organization as a direct result of what you learned in the certification process?

Then, listen closely and see if these things really require certification, or if you already have the abilities and just need to put them to use in a new and different way.

Also read: Professional Development — Your Ticket to a Career Change?

Confidence & Image

In some cases, certification is less about learning new things and more about gaining a stamp of approval for the things you already know. This kind of acknowledgment can be a real confidence boost, which can positively impact your ability to advance. After all, when you feel confident in your own work, you’ll inspire others to have confidence in you.

Additionally, a new designation can do a lot to elevate your image within the organization and outside. People may perceive you differently simply because you now have a few letters after your name. Even if your performance hasn’t actually changed or improved, they may see you in a more positive light.

Though it’s impossible to know exactly how a certification will impact your ability to advance, it’s also not a total mystery. With a little research, you can better understand the potential payoff. Only then can you truly weigh whether the investment is worthwhile.

If you’re curious about how to know which certificate might be right for you, stay tuned for the next article in this series. You’ll learn exactly what questions to ask when you’re trying to decide between certification options.

Continue to Part 2
Which Certifications in Your Field are Worth Obtaining?

About the Author

Chrissy Scivicque is a career coach, corporate trainer and public speaker who believes work can be a nourishing part of the life experience. Her website, Eat Your Career, is devoted to this mission. Chrissy is currently a contributing career expert for U.S. News & World Report and the author of the book, The Proactive Professional: How to Stop Playing Catch Up and Start Getting Ahead at Work (and in Life!), available on Amazon.