Do You Need Professional Certification?

I have several types of career consulting clients who have asked me about professional certifications: those who do not have a college degree, but want credibility with their clients, those who have a college degree  that needs updating and those who have a degree, but want to pursue a different career field.

My answer to “Do I need professional certification?” It depends. some fields such as IT usually require a college degree and sometimes certifications in order to stay current. Other fields such as life coaching can be pursued with a degree in counseling, but the life coaching certification may give you more credibility.

So how do you know if you need certification? There are several ways to find out. You can do an internet search for the national association for your career field. If you need certification, your association will list what certification you need. They will often also provide certification education and access to exams or recommendations on how to get them.

Another way to determine if you need certification is to search for jobs in your interest area. If you need a certification, the job description should list it either as a must have or like to have if it is preferred.

You can also ask people in your targeted field. Post the question to LinkedIn career groups or on your timeline. Set up an informational interview in your targeted career field and get a professional’s thoughts on certifications such as which ones are the most relevant for you. You should also ask what knowledge the certification should provide.

Once you determine, yes you should have a certification, it is time to look at certification programs. Investigate whether they are accredited and whether they provide legitimate certifications, diplomas, etc. The Corinthian Colleges debacle should be motivation enough to do your research – you do not want to spend a lot of money on a useless certification. It is NOT enough that a program is accredited. Research the accrediting body to see if they actually exist and how they determine whether to grant accreditation to a program. You can also check the Better Business Bureau to ensure that the program you are considering is not a scam.

A professional certification should provide you with the knowledge you need to pursue the career you want. It is up to you to decide if the program is affordable and will teach you what you want to learn.

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