Do You Really Need a Certification to Boost Your Career?

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Clients often ask me if they need to obtain a certification to boost their careers. The answer isn’t always clear-cut, at least not for every client, and not for every industry.

Benefits of certifications

It’s obvious in some industries that a certain certification or license is a must to work in a specific role. This is especially true in industries such as healthcare, finance, and various trades.

In other industries, certifications aren’t necessary, but they can:

  • enhance and build your resume,
  • show that you value lifelong learning and professional development,
  • indicate your commitment to growing or diversifying your skills set,
  • and can sometimes earn you slightly more money.

Certifications can be an affordable way to obtain some training you may be lacking for a particular field, as opposed to going back to school and paying for a full degree. This can be especially helpful for those who are trying to make a career change from one industry to another.

For example, I currently have a client who wants to change careers from education to project management. In her situation, it makes sense for her to get a PMP certification to show she has the skills to successfully transition to this field.

Not all certifications are created equally

On the other hand, there are so many certification programs out there, you can be certified in just about anything, perhaps even underwater basket weaving. These are what I call “fluff” certifications. They aren’t required to be hired for a specific job. And they aren’t really all that impressive to hiring managers.

In talking with a colleague recently, he said he actually chooses NOT to hire candidates who have a lot of certifications. He says because there are so many unnecessary certifications out there, they no longer carry any weight in his mind.

These types of certifications typically are designed as money-makers for the organizations administering them. They can cost a lot of money, especially if you feel like you have to keep getting more and more certifications in similar niche topics. In addition, they can quickly become obsolete, requiring you to re-take them to keep them up to date.

Choose wisely

If you’re not sure if you should spend the time or money on a certification program, consider these factors to make a wise decision:

  • Ask yourself if you really do need it for your job. Is it listed as a requirement in the job ad? Will it help you bridge the gap from one industry to another?
  • Will the program actually teach you some new things, or will it just test you on your current knowledge?
  • Is it a necessary stepping stone to your longer-term career goals?
  • Does the program offer any kind of career placement once you’ve completed the coursework?


Certifications can be a great way to boost your career and enhance your resume. But you must choose carefully. Do your research on any organization charging money for their certifications, and research the industry to find out if you really need the certification to be hired.

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