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Are Professional Certificates Worth It? 5 Considerations

Female sitting behind her laptop with a professional certification icon popping out of the screen

Are professional certificates worth it? It’s a question many students, job seekers, and professionals ask themselves while exploring career advancement options. Throughout this article, we’ll examine the case for professional certifications. 

Considering their benefits and weighing them against traditional degrees, we’ll help you decide whether they’re right for you. You will also find examples of valuable certifications and recommendations of the best online platforms for obtaining them. 

Our goal is to provide you with all the details to make an informed career decision, no matter where you are in your journey. Let’s begin!

What is a professional certificate?

It is a formal recognition awarded by a university, organization, or company that signifies you’ve completed a course or series of courses. Unlike a traditional degree, they focus on specific skills and knowledge relevant to a particular industry or occupation. They generally take less time and money to pursue than bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

Professional certificates come in a variety of forms. Some will enhance skills you already possess, while others will introduce you to new ones. They can range from highly technical programs, like coding boot camps, to soft skills courses, like project management and human resources.

So, what differentiates a professional certificate from other forms of education? Unlike diplomas and degrees, which cover a broad range of topics, they focus exclusively on the skills you need to succeed in a specific area. The right certification could give you a competitive edge in your industry or help you master a particular skill set.

Benefits of professional certifications

Skill enhancement

Obtaining a professional certification is like investing in a specialized skill set. The courses will provide practical, hands-on training to enhance your existing skills and equip you with relevant new ones. Designed with real-world applications in mind, you’ll find the training applicable to your daily tasks. As you gain skills, you will be more effective in your role, resulting in better performance metrics and work quality. You can quickly become an expert in your field.

Increased earning potential

Specialized skills and earning potential often go hand in hand. Certifications indicate to employers that you possess a certain level of expertise. Your newly acquired skills may help you get promoted or receive a salary increase, as they add value to your team. According to a Human Resources Certification Institute survey, certified professionals earn up to 29% more than their uncertified counterparts. There is no doubt that professional certification can have a high ROI.

Career advancement

It takes more than tenure and good performance reviews to climb the corporate ladder; you must also differentiate yourself. Regarding job promotions or career transitions, professional certificates can make all the difference. These credentials verify your specialized knowledge, giving employers confidence in your abilities and making you a strong candidate for promotion. Some roles may even require or strongly encourage a relevant certification.

Networking opportunities

Many accreditations provide access to exclusive industry groups, online forums, and special events. These platforms offer networking opportunities with industry leaders, mentors, and peers. Getting in touch with professionals in your field can lead to collaboration, mentoring, and job referrals. According to a recent LinkedIn survey, 85% of all jobs are filled through networking; a certification program might be the key to landing your dream job.

Job security

The job market is rapidly changing, so staying relevant is an absolute must. You demonstrate a commitment to your career development by earning professional credentials. Doing so will make you more valuable to your employer and less likely to suffer during a layoff. They show you are up-to-date with current trends and technologies, making you an indispensable asset to your organization. Ultimately, certifications can’t guarantee job security, but they can definitely enhance it.

Should you pursue a professional certification instead of a degree?

There are numerous factors to consider when choosing a professional certification over a degree, including career goals, time commitment, and financial resources. By earning a bachelor’s or master’s degree, you gain a comprehensive understanding of a particular career area and recognition and credibility. Many professions require a degree as a baseline educational requirement for entry-level positions.

Conversely, professional certifications are career-oriented, don’t take as much time, and cost less. These courses benefit those looking to upskill quickly, change careers, or gain a competitive advantage. As employers increasingly recognize them as valid credentials for specific roles, they can effectively advance your career.

If you are choosing between the two, think about what you hope to achieve in your career. A degree may be more appropriate if you’re starting and need a foundational education. Professional certifications, however, can be a valuable tool if you are already in the workforce and want to specialize, climb the career ladder, or switch career paths. So, evaluate your situation, weigh the pros and cons, and make a decision that aligns with your goals.

How to decide if a professional certification is right for you

Assess your career goals

First and foremost, consider your long-term career aspirations. Are you seeking a managerial position? Is there a particular niche in your field you want to specialize in? These goals can be achieved through certifications, offering specialized skills and knowledge to make you a stronger candidate for specific jobs. An accreditation that aligns closely with your objectives could be an excellent choice for you.

Examine the industry demand

Find out what skills are in demand within your industry before you enroll in a program. Is this certification in high demand by employers? Possessing certain certified skills is beneficial and almost necessary for career advancement in some industries. You can learn whether a particular certification is in demand by researching job postings, reading industry reports, or talking to mentors.

Evaluate time and financial commitment

Earning professional certifications requires time and money. Courses can take anywhere from a few months to a year to complete. There are also wide variations in costs, ranging from a few hundred dollars to several thousand. Consider whether you can devote the time and resources required to complete the program. Becoming certified could be a good investment when the return on time and investment are favorable.

Consider the credibility and recognition

The institution’s reputation that issued the certificate can significantly affect its quality. Certification from a well-known and respected organization will likely be more impressive on your resume than from an unfamiliar group. Look into the institution’s accreditations and ask professionals who have completed the program for testimonials on its credibility and recognition.

Weigh the alternatives

Last but not least, weigh your options. Can similar career advancements be achieved via on-the-job training, mentorship, or other educational paths like workshops or webinars? You may find that other methods can provide you with the skills and recognition you need at a lower cost or with a shorter time commitment. Certification, however, can be a compelling option if it offers specialized knowledge and skills that are otherwise difficult to obtain and highly valued in your field.

Examples of valuable professional certifications

Project Management Professional (PMP)

The PMP certification, issued by the Project Management Institute, is globally recognized and highly sought after. This certification validates your ability to manage projects efficiently, from conception to completion. Financially, PMP-certified professionals typically earn up to 20% more than their non-certified peers. Thanks to this certification, which is not sector-specific, your skills are transferrable across various industries. Anyone looking to advance in a management position can benefit from obtaining a PMP certification.

Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)

The CISSP certification, offered by (ISC)², is one of the most widely recognized cybersecurity credentials. It covers many topics, including risk management, asset security, and network security. CISSP-certified professionals are often considered cybersecurity experts, making them ideal candidates for information security leadership roles. It’s also worth noting that these professionals often earn more than those without it.

Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)

The CFA certification is regarded as the most prestigious in the finance industry. Several aspects are covered in this rigorous program, including investment management, financial analysis, and portfolio management. Obtaining this designation opens doors to investment banking, portfolio management, and financial planning careers. Over 70% of those who pass CFA exams report immediate career benefits, including promotions and salary increases. 

Google Analytics Individual Qualification (GAIQ)

From tracking website traffic to making data-driven decisions, the GAIQ certification from Google provides an in-depth understanding of Google Analytics. This certification will benefit most from marketing professionals, data analysts, and small business owners wanting to optimize their online presence. By completing the GAIQ certification, you will be able to measure, analyze, and optimize the performance of websites, directly contributing to the growth of your organization.

Six Sigma Green Belt Certification

Six Sigma is a set of techniques and tools to improve the performance of an organization’s processes. A Six Sigma Green Belt Certification indicates proficiency in these methodologies, including data analysis and project management. The certification is applicable across various industries and can lead to roles focused on quality control, operational excellence, and process improvement. Those with this certification often hold leadership and management positions, overseeing projects that allow operations to run more efficiently.

Top online platforms for obtaining a certification 


Coursera partners with top universities and organizations to offer high-quality courses. The certifications you earn here often come directly from these reputable institutions, adding significant credibility to your resume.


Udemy certificates are not accredited, but they are widely recognized in many industries, especially for tech-related skills, and can boost your career prospects.


EdX courses typically come from top universities like Harvard, MIT, and other prestigious institutions, making the certificates highly respected among academics and businesses.

LinkedIn Learning

With LinkedIn Learning, you can integrate these certificates into your LinkedIn profile, showcasing your new skills immediately to recruiters and connections in your network.

  • Become a Software Developer: This learning path offers a series of courses with a LinkedIn certificate at the end, perfect for those just starting in software development.
  • Strategic Human Resources: This course is designed to enhance your HR skills and offers a LinkedIn badge that can be displayed on your profile


With a focus on technology-related courses, Pluralsight is an excellent platform for IT and software developers.

  • JavaScript Core Language: This certification tests your foundational knowledge of JavaScript, one of the most widely used programming languages.
  • Ethical Hacking: This certification is intended for cybersecurity professionals seeking to develop ethical hacking and penetration testing skills.

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