Career Development

The 20 Most-Requested Certifications by Employers in 2020

October 13, 2021

There’s no shortage of certifications you can earn to advance your qualifications in a particular trade or skill. In 2020—as millions of jobless Americans are looking for work—having the right certification can be the edge that sets you apart from other candidates. In this article, we list the top 20 certifications included by employers in their Indeed job postings this year, including common requirements and job opportunities for each.

In-demand certifications in 2020

While many of the most in-demand certifications are healthcare-oriented, you'll also find in-demand tech, warehouse and hospitality credentials. Here are the certifications most frequently included in new job postings over the past year:

  1. CPR certification
  2. BLS certification
  3. Certified nursing assistant
  4. ASE certification
  5. ACLS certification
  6. First aid certification
  7. ServSafe certifications
  8. Certified medical assistant
  9. Scrum master certification
  10. PALS certification
  11. Forklift certification
  12. BC/BE
  13. PMP certification
  14. Child development associate certification
  15. ARRT certification
  16. Pharmacy technician certification
  17. NRP certification
  18. Home health aide certification
  19. CompTIA Security+ certification
  20. CISSP

It might come as no surprise that CPR (shorthand for cardiopulmonary resuscitation) training is the most commonly requested certification from employers. This certification from the American Heart Association or the Red Cross can be useful in pursuing a variety of job opportunities, even when you aren’t a medical professional or entrusted with caring for others. Many states require public school teachers to know CPR, If you work in a public-facing role, such as in a restaurant or hotel, companies can benefit from having a CPR-certified employee on staff should the need arise. Unlike many other certifications, there are no age or education requirements to take a CPR course.

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Read more: The Top 9 Medical Certifications You Need and Why

Certification for basic life support is available through organizations like the American Red Cross or the American Heart Association and can demonstrate your ability to give fundamental care in emergencies. The certification process includes attending an accredited BLS class, completing training and passing an exam. Unlike CPR certification, BLS certification is designed for first responders and healthcare professionals, although there are several professions that might require certification that’s more advanced than the standard CPR course. In addition to teaching participants how to use life-saving equipment often found at hospitals and other healthcare facilities, BLS also emphasizes the importance of working in teams in emergency situations.

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To work as a certified nursing assistant (CNA) in the U.S., you are required to become certified in the state in which you intend to work. While each state has a unique process for becoming certified, the credential typically requires you to attend an accredited certified nursing training program and pass an exam. The CNA certification exam includes a written portion with multiple-choice questions and a clinical portion where you have to perform tasks that showcase your skills, such as knowing how to assist a patient with their bedpan or changing sheets while a patient is still lying in their hospital bed.

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Read more: Your Guide to a CNA Career: How To Obtain CNA Certifications

Automotive Service Excellence certifications are the industry standard for testing a mechanic’s skills. The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence provides a number of certifications to protect auto technicians, shop owners and consumers by ensuring a mechanic's abilities. ASE certification tests cover most aspects of the automotive industry, from Automobile and Light Truck Certification to Transit Bus Certification. Technicians are required to have two years of on-the-job training or a two-year degree in automotive repair plus one year of on-the-job training in order to take an exam. Related jobs like service advisors are not required to have an ASE certification, but several optional certifications can make a candidate more attractive to hiring managers and increase their earning potential.

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Advanced Cardiac Life Support certification trains professionals in the urgent treatment of cardiac arrest, stroke, myocardial infarction (also known as a heart attack) and other life-threatening emergencies relating to the heart and blood vessels. Only qualified medical providers can be certified in administering ACLS, as it requires the ability to manage someone’s airway, initiate vascular access, read and interpret electrocardiograms and understand emergency pharmacology. Nurse practitioners, respiratory therapists, and other emergency responders may be required to take this training from accredited organizations like the American Heart Association.

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The term “first aid” is relatively broad, but essentially, it refers to the primary (or first) aid given to individuals suffering from both minor and life-threatening conditions. So while CPR and BLS skills both broadly fall into the category of first aid, they are not synonymous. First aid certification classes cover additional skills that the more common certification classes don’t, such as how to give stitches for deep cuts, address minor injuries or even identify and respond to broken bones. It provides the necessary tools and knowledge so you can confidently react during a crisis before medical professionals arrive. This type of certification can be achieved in one to two days and can be earned in-person or online.

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Read more: 10 In-Demand Career Certifications You Need Now and How To Achieve Them

ServSafe’s certificate programs teach about a variety of food and hospitality topics, such as cleanliness standards, foodborne illnesses, how to manage food allergies, food preparation and proper storage. Some states require waiters to be certified in the safe handling of food, and if they serve alcohol, they are required to take a separate certification for the safe sale of alcoholic beverages. ServSafe’s classes are offered both in-person and online. Following the course, participants must pass a multiple-choice exam.

ServSafe’s certification programs were essential before the COVID-19 pandemic to help prevent the spread of other illnesses, but the training has become even more vital this year for food handlers. After the pandemic forced restaurants across the country to close in the spring, ServSafe began offering free COVID-19 precaution training, delivery and takeout training videos, and reopening guidelines with tips for how to de-escalate conflicts with patrons regarding state mandates.

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A certified medical assistant (CMA) is a medical professional who assists nurses and physicians in a variety of healthcare facilities, such as doctors' offices, clinics, rehabilitation centers and hospitals. A CMA needs a certification that has been approved by the American Association of Medical Assistants. Typically, medical assistants complete an accredited program and earn certification before entering the field, but in some instances, employers are willing to hire medical assistants while they are still pursuing their education.

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Scrum is a framework for managing a complex project, usually software development. The Scrum Alliance offers an entry-level credential—Certified Scrum Master—to give professionals getting started as Scrum practitioners an understanding of the project management methodology.

The course includes two days of training taught by a Certified Scrum Trainer, but it’s helpful to familiarize yourself with the basic principles of Scrum theory beforehand. Consult the Scrum Foundations eLearning Series, read the Scrum Guide and go through the Agile Manifesto to study before enrollment. During the course, your CST explains all aspects of the Scrum framework, including key concepts like events, roles and artifacts that assist in organizing and supporting a Scrum team.

After the two-day course, participants need to pass the 50-question CSM exam and accept the license agreement to become a Certified Scrum Master with a two-year membership in Scrum Alliance. You must also demonstrate your participation and continued proficiency by earning Scrum Education Units. You can earn these points by offering your Scrum master services for free in the community, attending events and demonstrating your ongoing education.

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Pediatric Advanced Life Support, or PALS, is a certification for professionals who want to work in facilities that specialize in the care of infants, children and adolescents. Certification from accredited organizations like the American Heart Association or the Red Cross shows competency in the skills needed to care for seriously ill or injured children. Before enrolling in a PALS course, you should already be certified in BLS.

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Much like having a driver’s license is required before you can drive, certification by the Occupational Safety Health Administration is required before you can drive a forklift. Forklift operators move large or heavy objects around warehouses, storage facilities and construction sites. Training helps prevent accidents, such as overturned forklifts and injuries to you and other employees around you.

OSHA safety guidelines, employer requirements and worker rights vary from state to state, but the certification process typically involves several days of in-person or online learning and hands-on training, as well as an exam. In-person training typically costs between $150 and $200, while online courses can cost as little as $50. Since employers are required to have certified forklift operators, some companies might pay for your training.

You should receive training related to the type of forklift you will be operating. This might include sit-down, stand-up, counterbalance and other forklift types. Find an OSHA-approved training program through your employer, forklift dealers, local community colleges or vocational schools.

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Read more: Forklift Operator Certification: How To Get Forklift Certified

12. BC/BE

Being board certified / board eligible in medicine refers to a physician who has completed residency but hasn't yet passed their board exam. Residency typically lasts for three to five years after medical school, where physicians receive training in a medical specialty like pediatrics, surgery or internal medicine. At the end of your residency training, passing an exam administered by the American Board of Medical Specialties results in board certification in that particular specialty.

The ABMS does not permit physicians to be “board eligible” for their entire careers. After finishing an approved residency, you will need to pass the board exam within a few years. Physicians can be board certified in several specialties or subspecialties (such as both pediatrics and pediatric intensive care).

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The Project Management Professional certification is offered by the Project Management Institute for project managers. Unlike other certifications, the PMP is global, and it serves to connect project managers worldwide.

Though a four-year degree isn’t required to take the PMP exam, you will need more experience in the field in lieu of one. Regardless of education level, 35 hours of project management education is required before taking the PMP exam. The experience requirements for each education level vary, but the 200-question exam costs $405 to $555. PMP certification isn’t always a requirement, but it can offer an advantage over other job candidates as it gives employers confidence in your knowledge and project management skills.

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Read more: All About the PMP Certification: Definition, Requirements and Tips

The Council for Professional Recognition offers a Child Development Associate certificate. You can get this credential by completing the required coursework, gaining work experience and demonstrating your skills in a work setting. They must also pass an exam and renew their license every three years. Requirements vary by state and the type of work environment; for example, public schools often have stricter requirements than private daycare facilities. In addition to this professional credential, teachers and childcare providers typically also need first aid and CPR certifications.

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Certification with the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists can provide radiation therapists with more job opportunities and higher earning potential in a variety of specialties. Because they work with radiation and X-rays, radiation therapists are required to have this specialized training before they can work in a hospital or clinic.

These certification programs teach how to administer cancer treatments, monitor patients' conditions and maintain accurate records. Anatomy, dosing and how to use imaging technology to deliver radiation are all part of the coursework, but students also learn how to communicate and interact with nervous or anxious patients to make the treatment process comfortable. The radiation therapy exam is a 200-question computer-based test that can take up to four hours to complete.

To be eligible for ARRT certification, you need a high school degree and at least an associate degree in radiation therapy or a related field from an accredited program. Your degree does not have to be in radiologic sciences, though that can offer a good foundation for certification.

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Read more: 10 Six-Month Certificate Programs That Lead to High-Paying Jobs

Pharmacy technicians can be certified by the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board or the National Healthcareer Association. Both certification programs require applicants to have at least a high school education and to have completed an accredited pharmacy technology program. You can find these training programs at community colleges and vocational schools, and they typically take a year or less.

Pharmacy technician programs teach students about recordkeeping, basic math, pharmaceutical laws, ethics, medical terms and insurance. They might also provide students with direct experience in a pharmacy setting. You might be eligible, however, if you already have at least 500 hours of experience as a pharmacy technician.

The exam is computer-based and includes 90-100 questions on pharmacology, medication safety, quality assurance, patient services, inventory management, pharmacy laws, billing, information systems and compounding. Specialized pharmacy technician certifications—such as sterile product, chemo and compounding certifications—can help you advance your career.

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Read more: How To Become a Pharmacy Technician

Offered by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Neonatal Resuscitation Program certification is designed for neonatal nurses and uses a blended learning approach to teach the basics of neonatal resuscitation. It includes online tests and hands-on case-based simulations that focus on communication, critical leadership and teamwork skills.

NRP certification is a basic requirement for neonatal nurses, but if you want to specialize within the field, become a more competitive candidate for positions or advance in your career, you might also consider additional certifications, such as pediatric transport or electronic fetal monitoring.

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Accredited organizations like the National Association for Home Care and Hospice offer home health aide certification to show a professional’s basic medical skills for home-bound patients, such as administering medications, dressing wounds, checking blood pressure and heart rates, and other activities that require a level of competence in using medical instruments and procedures. The course emphasizes how to provide emotional support for patients as well as how to prevent the spread of infectious diseases. Candidates must complete at least 75 hours of training and pass a written exam to earn HHA certification.

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This CompTIA certification is a network security certification for professionals in entry-level information security roles. Security+ provides a baseline for performing essential security functions, such as managing risk, cryptography, identifying threats and working with network components.

CompTIA suggests having two years of experience in the field with a focus on security as well as the Network+ certification before enrolling in the Security+ course. The 90-minute test for the Security+ certification has a combination of performance-based and multiple-choice questions.

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20. CISSP

Becoming a certified information systems security professional is recommended for information security professionals who already have a few years of experience. CISSP is arguably the most popular network security certification, offered by the International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium (ISC)². It is a globally recognized certification for information security professionals.

CISSP requires candidates to have a minimum of a college degree (or an accepted alternative credential) and four years of relevant work experience, or a minimum of five years of relevant experience. When trying to decide on the network security certifications that are right for you, consider the unique features and price points of these top security certifications as well as your career path. Certifications like CISSP can be a boost to your resume for managerial roles in the cybersecurity industry.

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