Is Certification Worth It?

Marc Miller
Marketing News
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Key Takeaways
  • The value of each certification is dependent on the demand in the local market. Some certifications are hot in certain markets and not needed in others.

  • Do a quick search on LinkedIn to see whether experts in your desired field are certified. 

  • Start connecting with people in your desired field and ask them if the certification is worthwhile.

Certification is one of the hottest trends in the adult learning and employment space. Over the next 20 to 30 years, I believe that we will see a shift from getting advanced college degrees to getting certifications. The question I am often asked is, “Should I get ‘XYZ’ certification?” My response almost always is, maybe.

Before we jump into whether or not you should get a certain certification, let’s define what it means. There are three general classifications of certifications:

• Federal or state-issued: These are teaching, legal, social work and medical certifications, for example. You must attain a certification to be able to perform this work.

• Industry: Industry-sanctioned groups issue these certifications. A good example of this is the PCM certification issued by the American Marketing Association or PMI issued by the Product Management Institute.

• Corporate: Most are technical in nature, like CCNA from Cisco or MCP from Microsoft. They can  be time-consuming, and expensive to attain and maintain. How do I determine if I should get a certification?

If you are looking at an industry or corporate certification, the question you need to ask yourself is, “What benefit will I get from having this certification?” The value of each certification is dependent on the demand in the local market. Some certifications are hot in certain markets and not needed in others. You need to do your research. The process that I have had clients follow is:

  • Go to LinkedIn Advanced Search.
  • Enter the certification letters (for example, PCM) in the last name field.
  • Enter your zip code into the postal code field.
  • Click on “search.”

The results will list everyone in your network who has placed the certification letters after his last name. Start connecting with some of these people and ask them if the certification is worthwhile. You will need to talk to enough people to make a good judgment for yourself.

The last question you need to ask is, “What is the cost to get and stay certified, and is it worth it?” Ask this question of everyone you contact. For example, I had a family member who had just graduated from college. He wondered whether attaining a specific certification would be useful. He was applying for an out-of-state position. I told him to contact the officers of the local industry association, and ask for advice and insights. Several of the officers told him that having the certification made them stand out during the dot-com bust and, therefore, allowed them to keep their jobs when others were laid off. A valuable insight.

Ask the right questions and do the research to find out if a certification is going to be valuable in the industry or marketing specialty in which you want to work. 


This article was originally published in the March 2014 issue of Marketing News.


Author Bio:

Marc Miller
Marc Miller is the founder of Career Pivot, which helps baby boomers design careers that they can grow into for the next 30 years. He authored the book, Repurpose Your Career: A Practical Guide for Baby Boomers, which has been featured on, and in U.S. News & World Report, CBS MoneyWatch and PBS’ Next Avenue. Career Pivot was selected for Forbes’ “Top 100 Websites for Your Career.”
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