When you have been working for several years, it is easy to feel stuck in neutral. You like your chosen career field, but you feel like there is not anywhere for you to go at this point. Perhaps in a few years, you might be able to move up a few rungs, but you want to get there faster.
There is a way to improve your career prospects — and your standing within the organization. Earning a certification from an independent credentialing body can give your career a major boost.
Often, a credential can make the difference between earning a promotion or staying put — and lead to a boost in salary. A credential can open doors to new opportunities, but even more than that, it can build your confidence and standing within the field, giving you a new perspective on your career.
Earning a credential is challenging, but here are six more very good reasons to take the plunge.
1. Certification Improves Credibility
When you earn a certification in any field, it immediately tells others that you have knowledge and experience — in other words, you know your stuff, and are a credible expert. This is especially important when you are starting a new position, or when you are working as part of a team with people from other departments or who have different specialities.
Certification immediately lends credibility to your ideas and advice, and helps build trust and collaboration more quickly.
2 . Certification Grants Access to Resources
Becoming certified in your field grants you entrance into a community of other practitioners. Many certifying bodies offer conferences or other events for networking, publish directories, maintain online discussion boards, and provide other opportunities for individuals to network and share ideas.
For example, the Regulatory Affairs Professional Society offers an annual conference as well as sponsors local chapters around the world for members to network. In addition, most organizations offer education and training opportunities; RAPS, for example, provides e-books, webcasts, and online courses to keep regulatory affairs professionals engaged with their careers, as well as a job board and career resources and information.
3. Certification Demonstrates Commitment
Employers want to hire people who are committed to the field and to their careers, not those who are just marking time or earning a paycheck until they land their real dream job. Earning a certification requires commitment, to not only complete the education and time in the field required to even qualify, but also to studying for the examination and completing the certification process.
For example, to earn a credential in regulatory affairs, you must not only have a degree in the field, but a minimum number of years of experience working in regulatory affairs as determined by your degree level; if you have an advanced degree, you can take the test after one or two years, as opposed to three if you only have a bachelor’s.
4. Certification Demonstrates Knowledge
Almost every certifying body in every field requires applicants to pass an examination. These exams are challenging, and require knowledge in every aspect of the field. Most include both questions testing recall of principles and facts, as well as questions testing one’s ability to apply knowledge and think strategically and critically.
You must have in-depth knowledge of the field in order to pass, and employers recognize a credential equals a high degree of insight and expertise.
5. Certification Highlights Critical Thinking Skills
Again, certification exams are not simply an opportunity to regurgitate facts and figures. They usually include at least one section (but often more) devoted to the application of that knowledge.
It is not enough to know the basics of the field — you have to know how to use them. When you earn a certification, you show that you know how to evaluate and solve problems — and the proper procedures for handling common scenarios.
6. Certification Requires Continuing Education
Most people, once they earn their degrees and begin their careers, do not seek out many opportunities in terms of continuing education. They may attend some trainings as necessary or required by their employers, or even take a course here and there to gain some new skills, but most people learn as they go.
However, if you gain certification from a professional association, most require that you complete a certain number of continuing education credits each year in order to maintain your certification. This not only keeps your knowledge fresh and your skills up-to-date, but you also stay on the cutting edge of tools, techniques, and issues in your industry, which is very appealing to employers.
Almost every field offers some type of certification or credential, so take some time to explore your options. The process requires commitment, but the result is worthwhile.