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Certifications Provide Career Credibility

In 2010 I went through the process of attaining my CompTIA Certified Technical Trainer (CTT+) designation.

The process was brutal and intense, but I expected it to be so. The 3 day class consisted of 10-15 hour days, course material presented in class (instructor preparation, training techniques, dealing with students and specific situations, etc.), exam prep, the exam itself, and then recording a video to present to CompTIA. The purpose of the video is to showcase your knowledge and presentation skills. I found out that not just anyone can pass the CompTIA CTT certification – rather, you must already be at a high level within your career – because the requirements are not easy to meet. This is true of other certifications as well.

Why have certifications?

Also called designations, certifications are recognized in different industries, and can increase credibility for an individual in a specific career. Certifications can increase your credibility and replace your former corporate identity if you’re self-employed. Typically certifications indicate a certain level of proficiency or competency in a career field (eg. technical training) or area of expertise. In addition, certifications take significantly less time (and usually less money) to attain than a Master’s or other degree.

Specifically in the case of CompTIA CTT+, a technical training certification demonstrates that a person is capable of teaching complex concepts to others. This is an interesting idea, because I have seen many cases where an instructor actually wrote the book or training manual used in class, but when they got up to speak they mumbled through the lecture and could not explain a concept! Just because a person knows a certain software package inside-and-out, doesn’t mean that they can teach it!

Before I become Certified Life Coach (another certification!), I taught software classes in the field of GIS (Geographic Information Systems) for 15 years. At that time, I had several certifications from different manufacturers in GIS and GPS (Global Positioning Systems), as GIS and GPS go hand-in-hand. I also have a GISP (GIS Professional), which is a fairly new certification for professionals who have worked in GIS for a certain number of years, and have a certain level of experience in the field. Currently there are only about 5000 GISPs, which if you think about it, is a very small percentage of the world’s population.

Certifications can be issued by a manufacturer (software, industry, or technical), as is the case with MicroSoft, Cisco (CCNA, CCNP, CCIE), Novell, and ESRI, to name a few. CompTIA certifications are vendor neutral, and are designed to show that an individual possesses certain skills, knowledge, and expertise across a wide range of industries. A CompTIA certification demonstrates overall competency in the IT field, rather than with a certain brand of software; there are many CompTIA certifications other than the CTT.

Some certifications can be combined, and thus have more value, such as CompTIA and MicroSoft. If you are looking for a job, you should know that certain combinations of certifications are rare and will make your resume stand out against any other resume an employer receives. A PMP is a Project Management Professional. According to PMI (Project Management Institute), there are 460,000 PMPs, but there are even fewer PMPs who also have their GISP, thus making that combination particularly attractive to certain employers (looking for GIS Project Managers). Other valuable combinations that come to mind are: PMP with a CSM (Certified ScrumMaster), and CPA with a CFP (Certified Public Accountant, Certified Financial Planner).

So what is the benefit?

Certifications hold people to a higher standard. Businesses who have certified employees gain an edge against other businesses when competing for bids and government contracts. Individuals with one of the certifications listed above can command more money by either looking for a higher paying job or asking for a raise in a current job. Attaining a certification can help a career changer or a job seeker get a new job with more income, for less than the cost of investing in a master’s degree.

For instance, a client of mine has a background in nutrition. She has a college degree but she did not want to go back to school to go through the two year certification process to become a registered dietician. So we looked up certifications in her field, and lo and behold, found a new certification that requires an exam but not the extra schooling! Given her existing work experience and education, it turned out that she was already qualified.

There are many new certifications that did not exist even 10 years ago. I have met a Certified Window Treatment Specialist (for interior design); and as a coach, I help people identify new certifications everyday to help them along their career path. As career fields and the workplace changes, it pays to keep up and stay informed, because you never know how something may benefit you.

Karen Terry is a business and career coach. A native Texan, she works with people who are in career transition (changing jobs and/or changing careers), and people who are relocating to Texas. She also specializes in helping other people transition out of full-time jobs into the world of entrepreneurship to start their own businesses. Before she became a Certified Life Coach, she was self-employed in the field of Geographic Information Systems (GIS). She was the first woman to attain two key certifications in GIS and GPS (and thus knows the value of a combined certification!), and also is the only person to have been simultaneously certified by four different manufacturers (ESRI, Trimble, MapInfo, and Leica).

Karen is the award winning author of Full-Time Woman, Part-Time Career, and the brand new Entrepreneur Extraordinaire (Thrive Publishing 2012). She can be reached at http://www.fulltimewoman.com. If you’re in a career transition, please contact her for a complimentary “Career Transition Strategy Sesssion.” If you’re thinking about leaving your full-time job or starting your own business, sign up for her newsletter and brand new free report: “The ‘Getting Started’ Guide to Leaving a Full-Time Job!”.

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