In the first part of this series, we explored the question of whether professional certifications are really useful for career advancement.
While there’s no simple answer, it’s fair to say that some are potentially more useful than others. In this article, you’ll learn how to tell the difference.
It’s true that professional certifications are a dime a dozen, but not all are created equal. If you’ve already explored the opportunities in your field, you may be wondering how you’re supposed to separate the good from the bad and the ugly. After all, obtaining certification is often a time-consuming, expensive process. You want to choose wisely, so you know your investment is worthwhile.
Before making your selection, do your research. The questions below will provide a useful guide for your exploration.
How Well Known Is It?
Name recognition is important when it comes to certifications. If no one knows what those letters after your name mean, it loses some of the impact. You want to choose a certification with a name that is meaningful, at least to people in your field.
Also read: How Important Are Certifications for Job Advancement? (Part 1) | Advancing on the Job Series
What Organization Created It?
Did you know that any organization can create a professional certification? In fact, it can spell big money for a lot of companies. Of course, just because it’s a profitable business doesn’t mean you’re not going to get a quality certification. You just need to do your due diligence.
With the emergence of online learning, it’s very easy for fly-by-night companies to throw together a certification program that has little value in the real world. Before you invest, be sure to check the Better Business Bureau and do an online search for reviews of the program.
It’s also a good idea to check with the primary professional association(s) in your field. Many offer their own certifications and, because associations are responsible for setting the professional standards within a field, their programs tend to set the bar in terms of quality. Association staff and members are often well-versed in the resources available in the profession; they can provide useful insight regarding which organizations are credible and which aren’t.
What’s the Investment?
A lot of certification programs come with a hefty price tag, which is meant to suggest exclusivity and high value. However, just because a certificate is expensive doesn’t mean it has any practical benefit for your career.
Don’t let price sway you one way or another. It’s merely a factor to consider. You want a certification that can potentially provide enough career benefit to outweigh the immediate expense.
Likewise, you need to consider the time investment and any other requirements for certification, such as work experience, testing, or reference checks. In some cases, there may be a large amount of preparation necessary. You have to consider what you’re willing to sacrifice to make it happen.
At the same time, remember: You want a certification to be somewhat difficult to obtain. Otherwise, if it’s too easy, what’s the point? Anyone can get it so having it is nothing special.
The primary point I’m trying to make here is to do your research. Don’t simply choose the first certification you find, or the one that’s most expensive, or the one that seems fastest to obtain. You have to choose what’s right for you and your career. Weigh the options thoroughly and understand what you’re getting into before you commit. It’s an investment in yourself; it shouldn’t be an impulse decision.
With the help of this article series, we hope you feel more prepared for making a smart career decision.