Looking to advance your career? Learn about the benefits of professional certifications, and explore programs that can boost your credibility in your field.

What Is a Professional Certification?


  • Certifications allow professionals to build networks, skills, and credibility.
  • Professionals who complete necessary coursework and exams can earn certifications.
  • Certification programs can be corporate, role-specific, or software/product-specific.

For professionals looking to expand their career opportunities, certifications can be a fantastic way to develop industry skills, gain a competitive edge, and maximize earning potential.

Professional certifications differ from licenses and certificates — state governments use licensing to regulate industry standards, permitting professionals to work in specialized fields, while academic and vocational institutions offer certificates to those who have completed necessary coursework.

Certifications are usually awarded by professional associations or companies and focus on providing workers with advanced credentials in their industries. This guide outlines what professional certifications are, why certifications are vital career advancement tools, and what kinds of professional associations might award these certifications.

What Is a Professional Certification?

Professionals typically earn certifications through professional organizations. While specific certification requirements differ, candidates often need to complete courses and take a test as part of the process. Once earned, a certification may require upkeep. Professionals must renew most certifications every few years.

Earning a certification helps professionals learn new skills and stay current with emerging technologies in their fields.

Some professions, such as graphic design, require expert knowledge of specific software like Adobe products. In many cases, companies like Adobe provide software-specific certifications for professionals.

Earning a certification helps professionals learn new skills and stay current with emerging technologies in their fields. Professionals with a certification can show their current or future employers concrete evidence of essential competencies and skills. Certifications can also lead to career advancement or a career change.

What Are the Benefits of Earning a Professional Certification?

Certifications allow professionals to pursue career advancement and potentially earn a higher salary by improving their skills and broadening their expertise. Below, learn more about the common benefits of earning a certification in your field, including discovering networking opportunities and gaining both a competitive advantage and credibility.

  • Expand Your Knowledge and Skills

    While requirements differ by program, earning a certification often requires taking specialty courses. These classes and workshops provide new knowledge and skills, including information about emerging technologies and methodologies. These skills offer both practical and theoretical value. Professionals can also renew old competencies through these educational courses.

  • Get Credibility

    Certifications from an independent professional organization offer employers concrete proof that they possess useful skills, competencies, and knowledge related directly to their career. These certifications prove that an individual possesses valuable skills and continually hones these abilities to maintain their certification.

  • Gain a Competitive Advantage

    Certifications can help professionals distinguish themselves from their peers. Not only do certifications provide useful knowledge and skills, but they also show initiative on behalf of the certified professional. Workers with a certification demonstrate their willingness to grow in their role and their desire to perform their duties to the best of their abilities.

  • Networking Opportunities

    Most certifications come from professional organizations. Many of these organizations offer networking opportunities for members and certified professionals to connect with peers in their field. Networking can help professionals find new career opportunities and discover ways to grow within their current job. Certified professionals should strongly consider taking advantage of networking opportunities.

  • Increased Earning Potential

    Many employees increase their earning potential by receiving a promotion or returning to school for another degree. However, professionals can also increase their salary outlook by earning a certification. Certified professionals demonstrate commitment to their careers, and employers may reward this commitment with a pay raise.

Types of Professional Certifications

Professional certifications present different types of opportunities for those looking to enter new fields or advance in their current role. Corporate certifications can help professionals advance within a company, while role-specific certifications help prepare recipients for specialized positions. Additionally, software- and product-specific certifications help professionals refine their technical knowledge.

Read on to learn how the various certification types can apply to different career objectives.

Corporate Certifications

Many corporations offer certification programs that bolster the skills and education of their employees. Corporate certifications provide recipients with in-depth training tailored to a company's needs. These programs can also provide professionals with excellent networking opportunities.

For example, Goldman Sachs offers a new associate certification, giving prospective employees greater insight into company practices. Similarly, Walgreens' certification programs, including a pharmacy technician certification, offer employees the opportunity to build business and leadership skills.

Role-Specific Certifications

Role-specific certifications can help professionals gain authority in their fields. For example, many human resources specialists enhance their resumes with a professional in human resources certification. Some certifications are required for those looking to practice more specialized positions. Individuals looking to pursue certain accounting careers, for instance, might need to become a certified public accountant.

Software- and Product-Specific Certifications

Many professionals fear that gaps in software knowledge might exclude them from advancement opportunities or cause them to fall behind in their current fields. Fortunately, software- and product-specific certifications provide training in software like Microsoft Office and Adobe Creative Suite, or cloud computing programs like AWS and Google Cloud. These programs equip professionals with the tech skills needed to succeed in their fields.


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