We are three weeks into 2017, and if you’re like me, you’ve probably spent time reflecting on how well you’ve followed through with your New Year’s resolutions. While I may or may not have only been to the gym once since New Year’s Eve, I have my eyes set on something much bigger for 2017 -- getting certified in Google Analytics and Google Adwords, two of the tools I use most frequently as a growth marketer.
This might not sound as impressive as finishing up an MBA programme or visiting 15 new countries, but I know having these two certifications will bring me a step closer to achieving my goal of becoming a digital marketing expert, AND it will give me more leverage for a raise and a promotion by the end of this year. In fact, regardless of the industry you’re in, it’s definitely worth pursuing professional certificates for countless reasons. Here are top five for starters:
Reason #1: How to get promoted at work? Stay competitive.
There’s a lot of talk about how the workplace has changed over the last few decades, and so have our ways of validating skills and work experiences. Employers are relying on things in addition to annual performance reviews to evaluate an employee’s achievements and growth in the organization, and professional certificates have presented itself as a popular alternative.
So, to get ready for the next promotion or your next raise, it is up to you to step up and prove yourself to management that your skills are valuable and up-to-date. The easiest way to do that would be via professional certificates in your field, even if it’s not a requirement. This is an effective way to showcase your interest in your current role, as well as your dedication and ambition to advance in your organization. Good news is that more industries are starting to recognize and even prioritize certificates over traditional degrees, so the times are definitely in your favour.
Reason #2: It’s cheaper than a degree
Technology-based credentialing methods like “Nanodegrees” and digital badging are getting most of the attention these days, so you might be surprised that professional certificates are the fastest growing credential per Inside Higher Ed. The biggest factors behind this massive growth is its low cost and high ROI.
Take accounting for example: For an undergraduate degree in accountancy, you’re looking at anywhere between £3,000-£10,000 annually on tuition alone without taking living costs, actual completion time and other factors into consideration. In contrast, many online and in-person AAT certificate courses are offered for free or at low-costs (£1000 and less) from many education providers. The vast majority of these courses take less than 1 year to complete, with some being as short as 9 weeks of full-time studying, compared to a minimum of 2 years at a university.
To make things even better, many organizations offer training reimbursement benefits to cover learning and exam expenses for their employees, so there’s an added incentive for employees to pursue continuing education and certificates. While an advanced degree will always have its value, for your everyday professional juggling multiple responsibilities, choosing certificates over degrees is probably a better choice for your wallet and your time.
Reason #3: Expand your possibilities; why career development is important
According to the Office of National Statistics, UK unemployment numbers has fallen to its lowest in the last decade, with similar trends in Canada and the US. The same report also suggests that fintech (financial technology), science/research, engineering and technology are some of the fastest growing industries in the next few years, all of which are selective industries that require lots of further education.
If you’re looking to switch into similar fields with high growth and high earning potential, professional certificates are a huge asset to help get your foot in the door. Many competitive industries across the world consider certificates to be a prerequisite for their jobs; You might get asked a bunch of additional questions about your CV if you don’t have a PMP or a PRINCE2 certificate if you’re applying for a project management position.
Career development is important as you gain experience that allows you to progress to higher levels. This in turn has a great impact on your mental wellbeing.
If you’re just starting out, don’t get intimidated by the large number of certificates out there. Do some research and focus only on the basics, because even low-level and entry-level certificates can help in the long run and act as building blocks for a better career.
Reason #4: Great minds think alike; How networking helps
This is perhaps the most overlooked yet most essential benefit of obtaining a professional certificate - developing the network that comes with it. Time and time again, academic research, industry experts, news articles and your family members have emphasized on the importance of networking in professional success. Studying for a certificate, whether online or in-person, puts yourself in a community with classmates who share similar aspirations and goals. This is a great opportunity to foster socialization, academic and professional support.
As you start working towards your certificates, you’ll also notice that being certified can open up a lot of doors to exclusive communities. The previously mentioned AAT certifications and CIPD certifications also come with membership benefits, where you’ll have access to a network of over tens of thousands of certified professionals in the country and receive invitations to online and offline networking events. Once you have advanced to more senior level certifications, you will also have additional opportunities to meet and network with more advanced professionals with similar levels of expertise
Reason #5: Why growth matters; Make personal development a priority
Motivation works best when it comes from within. While voicing negative thoughts about your job definitely helps relieve stress, it also helps to focus on the “Whys” behind them and the things you can do to make your situation better. Cal Newport’s Bestseller So Good That They Can’t Ignore You suggests that fulfillment from work develops as you get better at your job. So, it’s time to try to be the best at what you do or what you want to do professionally, and make it a goal to get there by getting certified.
Thankfully, you don’t have to do this alone. On top of courses, professional groups, and financial support, there are a variety of free tools available to make your road to certification easier. There’s Degreed, the online learning platform where you can track your study progress and create learning “pathways” from any resource; there’s Focus Booster to help you track your study time and maximizing productivity, and there’s Memrise and Quizlet for you to access and create flashcards so you can always be learning on-the-go. Given all of these tools and options, you now have one less reason to say “No” when you’re faced with the decision of signing up for the next certification course you see.
Degreed is an award-winning platform dedicated to life-long learning. Degreed hosts the world’s largest ecosystem of open learning resources — over 3 million courses, videos, articles, books, podcasts and more from nearly 1,400 sources. You can use Degreed to find, track and measure ALL your learning in one place. Free forever.
Mona works on the growth marketing team at Degreed, the free online platform to find, track and measure ALL your learning. Based in the San Francisco Bay Area, Mona is passionate about education and spends most of her time outside of work volunteering. Follow her on Twitter @monamzh and check out what she's learning and reading on degreed.com/monamzh.