Certification can improve your career prospects in a shrinking job market

Published 7:00 pm Wednesday, March 14, 2012

(ARA) – With the economy still recovering from the Great Recession and increased global competition, many disillusioned workers have been left wondering: “How can I set myself apart within a shrinking job market?” Beyond degree attainment and experience, achieving specialized certification in your chosen field may be your best bet.

Earning certification is a signal to current or prospective employers of your dedication to your craft, and a demonstration of your expertise and experience. It is a validation of your skills and knowledge and it can simultaneously enhance your professional reputation while providing an opportunity for continuing education and professional development.

For service or product-based industries, certification helps demonstrate to consumers the quality of your work.

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Another significant benefit – and one most often cited anecdotally – is salary. While earning a certificate in your chosen field is by no means a guarantee of a pay raise, it may raise your salary ceiling and strengthen your negotiating power.

To be true, achieving certification is a process, and one not to be taken lightly. Depending on your industry, it could mean passing challenging field assessments or certification exams. In some fields, candidates may need to undergo a rigorous application process through an industry-specific certification agency or may have to win over a panel of their peers with a presentation of their work portfolio. Each industry has unique procedures and practices.

And the market for certification is larger than ever, with employers placing continued emphasis on advanced skills in global business management, project management, information technology, skilled trades and other traditional fields to more modern credentials in sustainable and green energy or next generation design.

National and local professional organizations are a valuable resource for learning more about certification. Many provide training courses, workshops or prep materials for those contemplating pursuing a credential. You’ll also be able to learn from peers who have already gone through the process. In addition to professional organizations, many colleges and universities offer professional development and continuing education programs. The Center for Professional Development at Excelsior College offers more than 100 online, non-credit courses and career training programs, from business marketing and entrepreneurship to project management, human resources and even investigative science.

The important point to remember is that you are your greatest asset. By continually investing in your skills and capabilities, you open doors of opportunity and further your potential. You signal to your colleagues, employer and future employers that you have the motivation and drive to remain on the forefront of advancements in business practice, technology and industry standards. The challenges employers face and the dynamic, constantly evolving marketplace in which they operate require a highly skilled and flexible workforce. Certification programs can be an effective means to ensure your knowledge base is well aligned with valued and sought after competencies and capabilities.