The Best Certifications for In-Demand Careers
Published on January 7, 2021
- Certifications help professionals learn new skills and increase their earning potential.
- Candidates usually need to pass an exam hosted by a professional organization or company.
- Role-specific certifications can help professionals advance in their careers.
Professional organizations offer certifications to help workers learn new skills and pursue advancement opportunities in their workplace. Some certifications also help professionals increase their earning potential.
Broadly, there are three main types of certifications: professional, role-specific, and software.
Earning certification often requires passing an exam. Some professional organizations may offer classes and continuing education opportunities for professionals as part of the certification process, as well as practice materials for the exam. Earning a certification typically takes less than a year.
In the following sections, you can find more information about certification options for a variety of professionals, such as accountants, business analysts, human resources specialists, supply chain managers, and computer and network specialists. Learn what kinds of certifications are available for these careers and how much certification may cost.
The 8 Best Professional Certifications to Earn Right Now
Below, we describe some career-specific certifications in detail. These certifications relate to popular careers such as project management, human resources, and information security. You can also learn more about how individuals in these fields benefit from professional certification and which certifications are most valuable in each field.
Many of the careers described below are projected to grow much faster than average from 2019-2029, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Project Management Certifications
Project managers oversee the goals and timelines of different projects within a company. Project manager certification offers opportunities for advancement and salary increases. The Project Management Institute offers a certified associate in project management (CAPM) certification and a project management professional (PMP) certification.
CAPM certification indicates that professionals can manage large projects and big caseloads. The credential requires candidates to pass a 150-question exam, hold a secondary degree, and complete 23 hours of project management education. The exam costs $225 for members and $300 for nonmembers.
PMP certification demonstrates competencies related to meeting goals and deadlines while completing projects. The credential requires a four-year degree, 36 months of experience in project leadership, and 35 hours of project management education. Applicants must also pass an exam that costs $405 for members and $555 for nonmembers.
Business Analyst Certifications
Business analysts use data to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of a company. Business analyst certifications demonstrate skills in data analysis and can increase a worker's earning potential.
The International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA) offers a certified business analysis professional (CBAP) certification and an IIBA agile analysis certification (IIBA-AAC).
CBAP certification builds skills in management, consulting, and data analysis. The certification maintains the following requirements:
IIBA-AAC certification demonstrates a professional's ability to successfully collaborate during project delivery. This certification requires candidates to pass an 85-question exam that costs $250 for members and $375 for nonmembers.
Supply Chain Certifications
Supply chain managers oversee inventory and logistics. Supply chain managers who earn relevant certifications can create more streamlined operations.
The Association for Supply Chain Management offers the following certifications:
CPIM certification explores materials management and production planning. Professionals must complete a two-part exam. Each part costs $495 for members and $690 for nonmembers.
CSCP certification demonstrates a worker's competencies in supply chain technology. This certification requires three years of business experience, a bachelor's degree, and active CPIM or CLTD certification. Applicants must pass an exam that costs $695 for members and $965 for nonmembers.
CLTD certification indicates a worker's skills in order management and distribution. Professionals must pass an exam that costs $475 for members and $625 for nonmembers.
Human Resources Certifications
Human resources managers oversee recruiting and interviewing, hiring new staff, and managing communication between management and employees. Certification demonstrates that a worker holds essential skills related to communication and good hiring practices.
The Human Resources Certification Institute offers two certifications: professional in human resources (PHR) and senior professional in human resources (SPHR) credentials. Both certifications require a $100 application fee.
The PHR certification helps HR professionals learn federal HR regulations and best practices for logistical operations. Professionals must have one year of experience and a master's degree or two years of experience and a bachelor's degree for eligibility. The required 150-question exam costs $395.
The SPHR certification demonstrates competencies in policy-building and implementation. Candidates must have four years of experience if they hold a master's degree or five years of experience if they hold a bachelor's degree. They must also pass a 150-question exam that costs $495.
Accountants and auditors handle and prepare financial records, including tax statements. Some accountants need certification to meet state requirements for accounting licensure and to file reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Certification also signals that a professional holds important skills related to assessing financial operations and auditing companies.
The wages of certified public accountants are often 10-15% higher than those of their noncertified peers.
The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants offers the certified public accountant (CPA) credential, which allows professionals to practice public accounting.
This certification requires candidates to have completed a bachelor's degree and a total of 150 credits of postsecondary coursework, including specific classes in accounting topics. Candidates must also have 1-2 years of experience as an accountant and pass the CPA exam.
The CFA Institute offers chartered financial analyst certification, which demonstrates advanced skills in investment analysis and portfolio management. Professionals must pass a three-part exam that costs $450.
Computer Network Certifications
Network and computer systems administrators oversee day-to-day network operations and maintain computer systems to support their company's needs. Most companies require network administrators to earn certification in computer systems products to ensure a high level of expertise.
Cisco provides networking technology and offers two main types of certification: Cisco certified internetwork expert (CCIE) and Cisco certified network professional (CCNP) credentials.
CCIE certifications demonstrate mastery of networking skills in design and optimization. Professionals must pass three different exams: a qualifying exam, a lab exam, and a practical exam.
CCNP certifications allow professionals to choose a focus area, such as security. Professionals must pass a core exam covering general IT topics and a concentration exam. Core exams for CCNP certification count as qualifying exams for CCIE certifications.
Information Security Certifications
Information security professionals protect data and computer systems from cyberattacks.
The BLS projects the number of information security analyst positions will increase 31% from 2019-2029 — one of the fastest-growing jobs in the country.
CISM certification demonstrates expertise in incident and risk management, while CRISC certification indicates that a professional is skilled in implementing and maintaining information systems controls. To earn each certification, candidates must pass an exam and have relevant full-time work experience. Certification exams cost $575 for members and $760 for nonmembers.
Additionally, (ISC)² offers a certified information systems security professional certification. This certification focuses on cybersecurity program management. Professionals must pass an exam and need at least five years of relevant work experience. The exam costs $699.
Desktop Analyst Certifications
Desktop analysts find and fix problems on desktop computers. These professionals need specialized knowledge related to Windows and Apple products and applications. They may also fix hardware issues for their clients.
CompTIA, a professional organization for tech and IT professionals, offers two kinds of certification: A+ certification and network+ certification. CompTIA recommends that candidates have at least 9-12 months of professional experience before attempting to earn a certification.
A+ certification indicates that desktop analysts possess important skills involving problem-solving and technical support. Professionals must pass two 90-minute exams to earn certification. Each exam costs $226.
Alternatively, network+ certification demonstrates that a professional knows how to successfully configure and maintain network devices. Desktop analysts can troubleshoot network problems, implement system security, and design functional networks. This certification requires candidates to pass a 90-minute exam that costs $329.
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