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career, job search, learning

Professional Certifications: How valuable are they in your career?

In 2009, I studied for and passed the Senior Professional in Human Resources certification. This is a widely recognized professional HR certification for mid-career HR and recruiting professionals.

I don’t have this pin. I’d never wear it if I did.

In the prior year I had moved out of recruiting into a talent program manager role. I was overseeing the entire employment lifecycle for 28 program associates, from recruiting/hiring/onboarding to performance management, salary planning, progressive discipline and employment law issues, etc. Suddenly I was well outside my scope of expertise in a number of core HR functions.

The SPHR certification afforded me an opportunity to quickly learn about these other key HR areas. I also realized that there was likely some market value to the certification itself.

But how much value is there?  Being certified in certain IT technologies can potentially add 8-13% to your base pay. And a PayScale study released this June shows that HR certifications can add significant amounts to base pay (up to $20,000) as well as accelerating career advancement. There’s good news for people pursuing their CPA or CFA, too: recent studies show that professionals holding these certifications saw an average base salary increase of 22%.

Does this mean I think everyone should run out and get a professional certification? Absolutely not. It greatly depends on your industry and whether it is certification-centric; and whether the certification will offer you strong value density in terms of the learning you achieve in addition to the brand recognition that comes with those additional letters after your name.

Many of the study programs–and the certification exams themselves–aren’t cheap, so you’ll have to weigh the cost against the potential ROI. How many job postings do you find that list the certification(s) you are considering as a required or preferred qualification? Search on LinkedIn–how many people list that certification? Are they in jobs you want? Talk with people in your field–ideally people who are in positions to which you aspire–who have achieved the certification. How has it benefited them? Do they recommend the program through which they achieved their certification?

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