Get a certification

Overview

Earning a certification within a field of interest can be a valuable way to leverage your experience, knowledge, talent and skills. It can provide access to additional income while keeping you active in the work world. Certifications can be applied to a variety of industries and environments including private, nonprofit, or government agencies, and allow for part-time or full-time employment, giving you a high degree of flexibility and control over your time. A certification also lets you be self-employed or work for a company. You can earn certification in an entirely new area of expertise or within one you are already familiar with. Most of all, certifications give you the credential to quickly enter a field and begin generating income. Whether you’re just exploring this option or have already decided to pursue a certification, the information on these pages will provide you with clarity and direction.

Am I right for this?

10 yes/no questions to help you determine if this is a good direction for you

Am I willing to invest the time and energy required to obtain a certification?

Do I enjoy studying and learning an existing body of knowledge that is specific to an industry or skill?

Am I clear in my mind about how I would leverage the certification?

Am I prepared to pay to keep my certification active?

Am I prepared to pay for membership in a professional organization if necessary?

Am I prepared to accept that my initial certification may only be a starting point and the certification path may require further coursework and investment?

Do I need a certification to be more marketable in the field I’m interested in?

Am I willing to attend in-classroom or take courses online, whichever is required?

Am I willing to go through whatever testing is necessary to earn the certification?

Do I have the support of family members or others who will be directly impacted by the time commitment involved in gaining a certification?

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If you answer six or more “yes,” this is probably a good direction to pursue.

In-demand functional areas that have certifications*

* Some may also require licensure.

  • Information technology
  • Healthcare
  • Project management
  • Business analyst
  • Supply chain
  • Cosmetology
  • Human resources
  • Sales and digital marketing
  • Accounting

Top IT certifications

  • Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)
  • Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA)
  • Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) Foundation
  • Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP)
  • Project Management Professional (PMP)

Certifications that make you marketable to companies

  • Human Resources Certifications (PHR, SPHR, SHRM)
  • Project Management Certifications (PMP)
  • Sales Certifications (Challenger Sales, Spin Selling, SandlerTraining)
  • Help Desk/Desktop Analyst Certifications (A+, Network+)
  • Network Certifications (CCNA, CCNP, CCIE)
  • Salesforce.com

Self-employment / independent professional certifications

  • Financial advisor
  • Web developer
  • Life coach
  • Construction and building inspector
  • Architectural and civil drafter
  • Industrial engineering technician
  • Medical transcriptionist
  • Massage therapist
  • Real estate agent
  • Digital marketer
  • Social media strategist
  • Content marketing specialist

Human services certifications

  • Certified Nurse Assistant (CNA)
  • Medical Assistant
  • First Aid, CPR and AED Instructor
  • Human Services – Board Certified Practitioner (HS-BCPT)
  • Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (NHA)
  • Mental Health Assistant/Qualified Professional (QP)

Q&A

Here are questions and answers that address common issues and concerns for those interested in getting a certification.

Question

How can a certification benefit me during retirement?

Answer

A certification lets you remain in the work world during retirement without necessarily being employed in a full-time job, while at the same time supplementing your income. Whether you develop a familiar interest or want to dive into something brand new, certifications are valuable during retirement because they often take less time to complete than a degree. You can earn some certificates in as little time as a couple of months. Certifications also tend to cost less than a degree program.

Question

Is it worth getting a certification if I already have experience in the field but am not officially certified?

Answer

While your career experience may be highly relevant to the work you want to do in post retirement, obtaining a certification not only helps you build upon your current knowledge of a topic but it gives you a credential that you may need at this point in your post career. You would want to determine what kind of activity you will be seeking and then determine if in fact a certification is necessary. Even if it isn’t, it can give you a competitive advantage in landing an opportunity.

Question

How do I find the right certification program for me?

Answer

It could be helpful to browse job listings for positions you might be interested in to see whether there is a particular certification that is required. Then research the entity(ies) that offer the certification; it may be available through a local school or online association.

Things to consider:

  • Is the program accredited by a respected accreditation agency?
  • Does the program work with your schedule?
  • Consult with officers from affiliated professional associations.
  • Consider if a company you would want to work with/for offers an accreditation.
Question

How important is the accreditation of the certifying organization?

Answer

There are typically multiple certifying agencies within any given certification functional area. Some are going to be more recognized and credible than others. Naturally you would want to get the most notable agency to certify you.

Question

Are all certifications recognized nationwide, or is it a state-by-state matter?

Answer

Many certifications are valid only in or by the state in which they are granted. Others are valid nationwide. And often these considerations are evolving with changing laws and regulations. You would want to make sure the certification or certifying agency is recognized where you want to use it or work related to it.

Question

What is the difference between getting certified and getting licensed?

Answer

A certification indicates that you have studied and been tested in a particular area, and are typically issued by non-government agencies. Licenses are granted by government entities. Certifications say you are knowledgeable in a particular area; a license says you are permitted to legally practice in that profession.

Question

If I have an undergrad or even graduate degree, is a certification going to add anything to my qualifications or credentials?

Answer

It depends on the nature of the work you want to do at this point. If you’re entering a new field, it may either be required, or give you a leg up in landing an opportunity. Beyond that, it provides personal and professional growth while keeping you current on skills and knowledge in that particular area. Employers like to see evidence of continuing education, even if the certification you pursue is a free online certification course.

Option Evaluator

Assess this option against the following eight criteria:

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Additional resources

Next steps:

Step 1

Determine if it makes sense for you to get a certification based on the “Is this Right for Me” section.

Step 2

Review your financial plan to determine if pursuing a certification is feasible including post-certification fees.

Step 3

Select the certification that you want and determine the necessary time commitment.

Step 4

Identify sources for the certification training, activity and testing that are convenient for you.

Step 5

Get feedback from alumni of the program you are considering as well as individuals who are working within the area of certification.

Step 6

Check with your family members or others who will be directly impacted by your decision and gain support accordingly.

Step 7

Build a budget and timeframe to ensure that completing the certification is within reach.

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Get started

Talk to an expert. Explore the options. Dig a little deeper. See if this is right for you.