Certifications: A power tool for career advancement

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Want to improve the impression you make in your job search or advance in your current job? Earning one or more professional certifications demonstrates your subject matter knowledge and skill, as well as your motivation to add a credential to your qualifications.

What are certifications?

A certification is a nationally recognized award that shows you have specific skills or knowledge in an occupation, industry, or technology. To earn a certification you usually have to pass a test or demonstrate a skill.

Certifications are sponsored by professional associations, product manufacturers, corporations, unions, and others. Training to pass a certification test is often available at community or technical colleges, or from the organization that offers the particular certification exam.

Many certifications must be renewed on a time-specified basis by earning continuing education credits or keeping up to date on advancements in the subject area. Some product-related certifications, which are common in technology fields, may lose value when the related product is no longer widely used–so it’s alwasy a good idea to keep your certifications updated.

Certifications are more commonly earned or required in certain occupations and industries, particularly Information Technology, Accommodation and Food Service, Finance, Construction, and Health Care and Social Assistance.

What are the benefits of certifications?

There are several key benefits to earning a certification:

  • It’s portable. Having a certification is widely accepted as proof that the individual holding it has particular skills and knowledge, so it’s considered “portable”—when you earn one, you take it with you to other jobs—and it can translate across occupations, industries, and geographical locations.
  • It may be required for the job. Employers in some fields require that candidates have certifications before they even apply for a job, or that they are willing to obtain them immediately upon being hired.
  • It gives you an edge. A certification can also be seen as a marketing tool that gives you an extra edge over other job seekers who may meet the requisite qualifications for a job but haven’t gone above and beyond the essentials.
  • It can provide a professional development goal. To pass a certification test requires that you develop the specified knowledge and / or the technical or professional skill. Earning one certification or a series of them can serve as a goal to work toward in your professional development.

How to get started?

As a first step, you can look up certifications that fit your career goals using CareerOneStop’s Certification Finder. You can start your search based on the name of an occupation, industry, or a specific skill or technology. If you know the occupation’s O*NET code, or the industry’s NAICs code number, you also use those as search terms. Or you can browse a list of occupations or industries to start your search.

Once you click “Search” you’ll see a list of certifications that match your search term. There are filters to narrow your results for related industries, types of certifications, and organization names.

From your results, you will be able to visit an association’s website by just clicking the link in the URL column.

Certifications marked with a chili pepper indicate those that are frequently mentioned in online job postings, according to CareerOneStop analysis.

What are some certifications that are popular with employers?

Check out the Certification Finder to learn about these examples of in-demand certifications from a variety of disciplines:

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