How To Decide If Professional Certificates Are Worth It

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated June 22, 2022 | Published December 7, 2020

Updated June 22, 2022

Published December 7, 2020

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

If you're working toward a professional career field or advance in the field you're in right now, consider education as a way to get ahead. College degrees aren't the only way to get a great job; another option is a professional certification program. You can get some certificates in as little as six months, while other programs can take as long as two years to complete.

In this article, we explain how to decide if certificates would benefit your career and share certificates that employers value the most.

What is a professional certificate?

A professional certificate is a credential provided to an individual after the completion of a standardized certification course and exam. This certificate provides evidence to potential employers that the individual has a quantifiable understanding of their field of work. These certificates are especially important if your career path doesn't require a degree. With a certificate, you can demonstrate that you are a trained professional in your field and hold important hard skills to potential employers.

Read more: What Are Certifications? Definition, Benefits, Types and Examples

Are certifications better than degrees?

In many situations, certifications can be better than degrees for several reasons. Certificates often match current standards better than degrees, which is especially important in fast-paced fields like information technology (IT.) Unlike degrees, where the quality can vary depending on the school you go to, certificates have a universal standard that is the same no matter where you take the course and exam.

These certifications also allow you to learn exactly what you need to know for your career without the filler courses that come with degrees. The focus allows you to save time and money and shows potential employers that you are an expert in your field.

Read more: Certificate vs. Degree: What's the Difference?

What are the benefits of getting professional certifications?

There are a lot of benefits to getting professional certifications in certain industries like IT, marketing or business management. Some of these benefits can include:

Higher pay

Many employers are willing to offer higher pay to candidates who have certain certificates. The reason for this pay increase is that these candidates won't require as much on-the-job training as those without certification.

Advancement opportunities

If you find a career that you enjoy, deepening your understanding of your field by acquiring professional certificates may allow you to advance in your career.

Competitive edge

When multiple applicants have the same credentials, employers can have a difficult time deciding who would be a better fit for their company. In this instance, having the right certifications could help you edge out your competition.

Tuition reimbursement

Sometimes companies will require their employees to take certification courses to deepen their understanding of the work they do. In these instances, your employer may reimburse you for the cost of your certification.

How to decide if certifications are worth it for your career

One of the quickest ways to stand out from other candidates when applying for jobs is to acquire certifications that highlight your area of expertise and add value to your education or experience level. Follow these steps to decide if a professional certificate is worth your time and money:

1. Determine your career path

Certain careers, like medical transcriptionist or veterinary assistant, require certifications to get into the field. In these instances, you may want to consider complementary certifications to show potential employers that you have are willing to invest your time to improve your expertise in your field. On the other hand, if you're in a field like IT or web development that allows an individual to take an entry-level job without credentials, you may want to research relevant certifications that can help you stand out from other applicants.

2. Look for accredited certificates associated with your career

Not all certificates have equal value. When choosing the right certification program, make sure that it's accredited. Otherwise, you could spend a lot of time and money on a certificate that has little to no value to employers.

3. Decide how much you want to invest

Some professional certification courses can take as long as two years and could cost thousands of dollars. Before deciding which course to take, think about how much time and money you're willing to invest.

4. Think about your future goals

As with so many other aspects of your career, it's important to keep your goals in mind when making the decision about which certificates you should get. If you are just starting out in your field, you may want to get an industry-wide certification to give your career path flexibility. On the other hand, if you have been with your employer for a long time and would like to advance within the company, you may find more value in getting a company-specific certificate that shows your commitment to your current employer.

Read More: Impress Recruiters With These Desirable Professional Certifications

Which certifications are the most valuable to employers?

There are so many certification courses available both through colleges and as stand-alone courses online that it can be hard to figure out which of these certifications actually matter to potential employers. In general, you should look for certificate programs that are offered directly from software producers or ones that have an industry-wide standard.

Here are a few certifications you should consider adding to your resume to impress employers:

HubSpot Inbound Marketing

HubSpot Academy offers this globally-recognized certification course to the public for free. In a few short hours, you can learn how to identify your buyers, how to use automation software and integrate that software with other SEO tools and more.

Project Management Professional

To apply for this certification, you must have a four-year degree, three years of experience leading projects and thirty-five hours of project management education. If you don't have a degree, real-world experience counts, too; as long as you have a high school or global equivalent diploma, you can meet the requirements with an extra two years' experience leading projects. Once you meet the requirements, you can apply for the PMP certification through the Project Management Institute and take your exam. You must also earn sixty professional development units (PDUs) every three years to maintain your certification.

CompTIA A+

This globally-recognized certification course gives candidates the skills they need to solve a variety of networking and security issues and provides them with an in-depth understanding of different operating systems and mobile devices. To keep this certification current, you must earn twenty continuing education units (CEUs) every three years to renew your certificate.

Certified Business Analysis Professional

The Certified Business Analysis Professional (CBAP) is a level three certification from the International Institute of Business Analysis. You must have five years of business analysis experience, complete 900 hours in four out of six BABOK Guide Knowledge Areas and have thirty-five hours of professional development over the last four years to apply for this certificate. You'll also need to give two references, agree to the code of conduct and terms and conditions and pass the exam. To keep your certification up to date, you will need to earn sixty continuing development units (CDUs) every three years.

Google Certified Professional Cloud Architect

Google Cloud offers the exam for this certification in over 1,100 locations worldwide, or you can take it at home. The exam assesses the candidate's ability to design and plan a cloud solution for security and compliance, implement cloud architecture and ensure reliability. There are no prerequisites for the exam, but you may find it helpful to have three years of industry experience before you take this test.

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