Should I Get Certified?

Certifications can be costly and time-consuming, so as a job seeker, it’s important to determine which certifications are worth your while. JG Carver (ITAC’s Market Development Leader), Charles Baughman (ITAC’s Chief Administrative Officer PHR, SHRM-CP) and Kemper Trull (ITAC’s Nashville Market Leader) weighed in on this frequently asked question.

“I’ve found in my career that it depends on the type of work one’s doing and the environment in which it’s being done,” Carver said. “For instance, someone working in the government sector in a network security role may be required to have applicable, up-to-date certifications.”

Similarly, Trull said, “Certifications benefit job seekers, to a point.  To me, each field has 2-3 critical certifications. I like to see someone who has found a career path and has dedicated themselves to mastering their individual path

Getting certified is a great way to:

  1. Stand out in a job market saturated with advanced degrees. Trull pointed out that because a bachelor’s degree has become a given and the job market is becoming more saturated with advanced degrees, a certification is the next step in separating oneself from others. It not only shows commitment to a particular field, but it also sets a candidate apart as dedicated and retainable. Baughman emphasized that ongoing education and remaining certified throughout your career further proves your commitment to your profession.
  2. Kick start your career in IT. With his IT concentration, Carver noted that acquiring certifications in the MS Office Suite, A+ or Network + are low-cost and less time-consuming options that will serve as a catalyst for one’s IT career.
  3. Validate your skillset. “When one’s skill level increases to an extreme focus in a particular technology trade, individuals often gain certifications to help validate their unique value in this skill, which is a great credential to have,” Carver said. Employers often rely on certifications to validate the skills and knowledge of their employees and potential employees, Baughman affirmed.

Trull and Carver emphasized that certifications are highly-valued in these professions:

  • Technology: In the technology sector, government, education and other regulated industries require certifications, Carver stressed. Valuable technology certifications include CCNP (Cisco Certified Network Professional), CCNA (Cisco Certified Network Associate), CCIE (Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert), CISA (IS Audit), MCSE (Systems Administration), AWS Certified Solutions Architect (Amazon Web Services), Certified Scrum Master (Agile software development), and PMP (Project Management).
  • Accounting/Finance: In accounting and finance roles, the CPA (Certified Public Accountant) is the most desirable designation in the accounting world and is a critical step to becoming a controller or CFO, Trull said. Other valued certifications include a CMA (Certified Management Accountant), CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst), CA (Chartered Accountants), CPP (Certified Payroll Professional), CIA (Certified Internal Auditor), CFE (Certified Fraud Examiner) and CTP (Certified Treasury Professional). Trull pointed out that each discipline within the accounting field has additional certifications that will help propel individuals into lead and management roles.
  • Human Resources: Baughman highlighted three certifying bodies in the human resources space that employers use to validate their employees' skills: SHRM, HRCI and World at Work. Earning your SHRM-CP (Certified Professional) or SHRM-SCP (Senior Certified Professional) credential sets you apart as a recognized expert and leader in the HR field. HRCI offers a variety of certifications depending on your level of experience. World at Work offers compensation-focused certifications. For instance, its CCP (Certified Compensation Professional) designation is known throughout the total rewards community as a mark of expertise and excellence in the fundamentals of compensation. Though it is not required, Baughman said, AIRS (Alliance of Information and Referral Systems) offers various certification opportunities for recruiters. Most employers prefer SHRM and HRCI certification, according to Baughman.

Ultimately, certifications can help you advance your career by showcasing a certain skill level, but be smart about the certifications you invest time and money in. Consider your desired job carefully and take recommendations from industry experts as you go.