Top 5 Ways Certifications Advance Your Career

There are countless reasons why you may be considering a professional certification. Maybe you feel stuck in the same position at work, want to build your expertise, or are thinking of switching professions entirely.

These thoughts are bound to happen since it’s only human to wonder, “what’s next?”. However, this raises the question of how much you can advance professionally by earning a certification. We help answer this question and others you may have as we break-down the greatest benefits to your career.

If you are already sold on the benefits, read our top recommended actions to achieve your certification goal.

How will a certification benefit my career?

  1. Increase in overall pay.
  2. Improves the likelihood of promotion and advancement with your current employer.
  3. Opens door to job opportunities outside of your current employer.
  4. Expands knowledge and expertise in your profession.
  5. Gain college credits for continuing education with some certifications.

Breakdown of How Certifications Advance Your Career

Top Reasons Certifications Benefit Your Career

Pay Increase

An increase in pay from a certification can be realized in a couple ways. The first is that it provides you with a stronger case to request higher pay during salary negotiations or your job performance reviews. Not to mention it is a point of differentiation from your peers.

Another way is that some employers increase your wages simply for receiving training or earning a certification in a competency.

This is often the case in service professions where you’re directly working with customers (e.g., product sales) or providing support for certain technologies (e.g., Microsoft, Oracle, Java). By having a credential, you become more marketable to customers (external or internal) and act as a subject matter expert in a particular area.

This helps build trust in your (and even your company’s) capabilities to meet the customer’s needs. You will want to confirm with your management whether this would be beneficial for your role.

In addition, many companies pay or reimburse for training and certifications that align with your position. So not only may your salary increase, getting certified can be a large expense that doesn’t come out of your pocket!

The employer-sponsored education benefits are often the least utilized since we get caught up in our day-to-day lives at the expense of our long-term career goals. You should consider that money part of your salary since it’s an expense you would otherwise have to cover. Don’t leave the money on the table if it’s available!

Promotions and Advancement

Often times, a certification can be a crucial tie-breaker when ranked against your peers when promotion opportunities come along. While you may have the same responsibilities and are equally qualified for a promotion as a peer, the initiative demonstrated in achieving higher learning can give you a big advantage.

Your competence in a skill and the desire to continuously advance your knowledge is often noticed by those around you. It typically means you’re more likely to push the employees you manage to be better as well. After all, how can you effectively support the careers of those that work for you if you’re not taking charge of your own?

This applies if you’re looking to take on additional responsibilities or move into a different area of the company. There is a phrase I’ve heard many times related to career advancement that stuck with me:

You need to demonstrate your ability to operate in the role you want, before you can earn it.

This means you are either already responsible for certain activities or have shown your capacity to support those activities.

However, what if you are applying for a position with a new team you haven’t worked with before? This often means the only way to demonstrate you have the knowledge and ability to succeed in a role is through a certification. While it may not seem like much, having that “proof” goes a long way in providing comfort to the hiring manager.

New Job Opportunities

Even if you are not actively looking for employment externally, this is something to consider when thinking about which certifications to obtain. There is a large job market for those with the most in-demand skills and experience to offer. Showing you can help the company keep up with the latest market trends is what hiring managers are looking to see.

Nowhere is this more evident and ever-changing than with information technology (IT) professions. It feels like there is a new technology trend every few months that causes a lot of buzz. Knowing what’s a short-term fad versus a long-term market trend will help you understand what skills will keep your career grow for years to come.

This is where doing a simple search on job posting sites like Indeed, Glassdoor, or LinkedIn Jobs can help narrow down the list of certifications to target. You should do additional research to understand the trends in your industry, but this will give you an idea of the demand for a given practice. Often, having a technical degree or certification puts you at a higher level than the tens or hundreds of other candidates going after the same position.

Lastly, this can open the door to opportunities that may not exist otherwise. The designation next to your name (PMP, CISM, CRISC, etc.) draws the attention of recruiters searching for skilled talent with those particular credentials.

Expanded Subject Matter Knowledge

Who doesn’t like learning about new and upcoming topics? This may come easy to those that have a learner’s mindset. However, many struggle to focus on a topic long enough to sufficiently understand it. This usually means what they learned is not retained or put it in practice, so the skill is lost.

It can especially become more difficult later in life when your list of responsibilities grows. You may even have others dependent on you, so dedicating the time becomes a challenge.

This is where having personal goals becomes crucial. Goals help motivate you to make time to get training or do research to move you closer to making them a reality.

By setting a target to complete a certification, it provides a tangible goal that you can build a learning path towards in order to obtain the certification.

For those unsure where to start, I would recommend following the S.M.A.R.T. approach to begin establishing your goals. The acronym stands for “Specific”, “Measurable”, “Achievable”, “Relevant”, and “Time-Bound”. It’s a great framework for setting concrete goals you can obtain.

This way, you can take meaningful steps to continue building your knowledge in a way that benefits you in the long run. You are expanding your expertise on a topic while setting yourself up for a salary increase, more rewarding responsibilities, and new career opportunities. With dedicated time, training, and practice, you’ll become the go-to person at your company because of your breath of expertise.

Continuing Education Credits

Many credentials have multiple levels depending on years of experience and other prerequisite certifications. The order in which you need to obtain the certifications is important to understand to define the best learning path. It also helps confirm your desire to reach the higher levels of subject matter expertise. More importantly, this helps make sure you invest time and money in the direction you want to continue growing in.

In most cases, you won’t need to reach the top level of certification to advance your career. This is where you’ll need to weigh the costs against the long-term benefits to your career. You’ll want to assess this need based on your personal situation since there are many factors in making this decision. Things to consider include the obvious costs such as training or exam fees, but you’ll also want to take into account your family situation and your long-term career goals.

In addition to the employment benefits, many colleges offer course credits for certain certifications and on-the-job experience. The Academic Council on Education (ACE) provides the guidelines for what counts towards credits. They previously expanded the criteria for counting previous training, certifications, and work experience. This is an unexpected benefit for those thinking about pursuing a higher degree.


The benefits you can receive from a certification can have an incredible impact on your life. It opens the door to pay increases and job opportunities which may not have been available otherwise. There are a wide range of certifications out there, so do your research and consider training courses to build your knowledge on the subject.

To take the next step, read our top recommended actions to achieve your certification goal.

I hope this has sparked some thoughts about your career, which certifications to pursue, or maybe has reshaped your perspective on the benefits of getting a professional certification. Please feel free to leave a comment below to share your questions or personal experience on this topic.

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