Certification is one of the hottest trends in the adult learning and employment space.
Over the next 20-30 years, I believe we will see a shift from getting advanced college degrees to getting certifications.

The question I am often asked is:

Should I get “XYZ” certification?

My response is almost always – Maybe!

Before we jump into whether you should get a certain certification, let’s define what it means.

My definition for certification is: Some person or organization has deemed that you have attained a certain level of expertise and granted you a certificate.

There are three general classifications of certifications:

Federal or State issued

These are certifications like teaching, legal, social work, and medical. You must attain a certification to be able to perform this work. In the field of social work, it is often who pays the bill will determine whether you can work. For example, the Medicaid program requires practitioners have attained a certain level of certification to be paid by Medicaid. Practioners can see patients that self pay with a lower level of certification. If you want to be hired by an agency that handles Medicaid patients you must get the certification required by Medicaid.

Industry certifications

Industry-sanctioned groups issue these certifications. A good example of this is the PMP certification issued by the Product Management Institute (PMI). Another example, SHRM (Society of Human Resources Management) issues a variety of certifications like PHR or SPHR. You may see job descriptions that say “PMP certification preferred”.

Corporate certifications

Corporations issue these certifications. Most are technical in nature, like CCNA from Cisco or MCP from Microsoft. This is a huge industry! I even designed, developed, and implemented one of these programs for my last employer! They can be time consuming and expensive to attain and maintain.

How do I determine if I should get a certification?

The first question you need to ask yourself is, Do I have to have this certification?

I made a mid-career decision to go teach high school math. I have a Texas Educator Certificate for Standard Classroom Teacher Mathematics (Grades 8-12). I initially attained a Probationary Certificate, which allowed me to be hired. With some exceptions, I had to have the certification!

If you are looking at an industry or corporate certification, the next question you need to ask yourself is: What benefit will I get from having this certification?

Here is where this gets murky. The value of each certification is dependent on the demand in the local market.

Some certifications are hot in certain markets and not needed in others.

You need to do your research!

The process I have had clients follow is the following:

  • Go to LinkedIn Advanced Search
  • Enter the certification letters (PMI or SPHR or CCNA, etc.) in the last name field
  • Enter your zip code into the Postal Code field
  • Click on Search

The results will be everyone in your network who has placed the certification letters after their last name. Start connecting to some of these people and ask them if the certification is worthwhile. You will need to talk to enough people to make a good judgment for yourself!

The last question you need to ask is: What is the cost to get and stay certified, and is it worth it?

You will want to ask this question of everyone you contact. For example, I had a family member who had just graduated from college. He wondered whether attaining a specific certification would he useful. He was applying for an out of state position. I told him to contact the officers of the local industry association, which he obtained from their website, and ask for AIR: Advice, Insights, and Recommendations.

What several of the officers told him was that having the certification made them stand out during the dot com bust and, therefore, keep their jobs when others were laid off.  A valuable insight!

The point is, you have to ask if it is going to be valuable where you want to work!

The people who can tell you that are people with the certification where you want to work!

Make sense?

Are you going to get certified?