Professional industry certifications are specialized credentials that are awarded to individuals who have demonstrated their proficiency and knowledge in a specific field or industry. These certifications are typically offered by professional organizations or governing bodies and are recognized as a mark of excellence and expertise in a particular area.
Why Earn Industry Certifications?
When combined with a degree in the same field, professional certifications can provide significant advantages. This is because they demonstrate not only a strong academic foundation but also practical skills and real-world experience, which are highly valued traits in the job market. Moreover, certifications can help individuals stay up to date with the latest industry trends and best practices.
Benefits of Professional Certifications for a College Graduate
Earning professional certifications in addition to a degree can provide several benefits in your industry, including:
- Enhanced Credibility: Professional certifications are often considered a mark of excellence in a specific field. Having a certification on top of a degree shows that you have gone above and beyond the requirements to prove your expertise, which can increase your credibility and value in the eyes of employers, colleagues, and clients.
- Increased Opportunities: Some certifications may be required for certain jobs or may give you an edge over other candidates when applying for a job. Employers may prioritize candidates who have certifications that demonstrate their proficiency in specific areas, and having certifications in addition to a degree can help you stand out in a competitive job market.
- Broadened Skill Set: Earning a certification can help you develop new skills and stay up to date with the latest trends and technologies in your industry. This can make you a more well-rounded professional and increase your ability to adapt to changing circumstances.
- Networking Opportunities: Earning a certification can also provide networking opportunities, such as attending conferences, webinars, and other events where you can connect with other professionals in your industry. This can help you expand your professional network, learn from others, and potentially find new opportunities.
How Are Certifications Different from Degrees?
Industry certifications and degree programs share some similarities—both are educational programs of study which aim to impart industry knowledge. A college degree is much more in-depth than an industry certification, although they work best together. Here’s a look at some more key differences:
Degree programs typically provide broad education across an entire field. Industry certifications focus on specialized skills or knowledge related to a particular aspect of the field, such as operating a specific type of equipment or working in a niche role.
While a degree takes years to earn (even an accelerated bachelor’s degree takes 2.5 years), a certification can typically be earned in weeks or months.
Finally, a degree is highly recognizable, whereas a certification may only be recognized in certain areas of certain industries. As you can see, these two educational puzzle pieces work best when used together.
Are There Prerequisites for Earning Certifications?
Degree programs require students to achieve a predetermined level of academic performance. Certifications may only require a passing grade for one exam, or prior work experience to qualify. This may vary by industry, university, degree program, and certification.
How Much Do Certifications Cost?
Degree programs, as the standard of higher education, also cost significantly more than a single industry certification—although these can run upwards of $200 to sit for a single exam! Lucky for you, some colleges and universities offer discount vouchers for students to drastically reduce the cost of certification exams.
What is the Certification Process Like?
There are several common steps that you can take to find and register for industry certification courses and exams:
- Research the certification: Begin by researching the specific industry certification that you are interested in earning. Visit the website of the organization that offers the certification to learn more about the requirements, exam format, and study materials.
- Choose a training provider: Many industry certification exams require candidates to complete a training course before taking the exam. Look for training providers that are accredited by the certification organization or have a reputation for providing high-quality training.
- Register for the training course: Once you have chosen a training provider, register for the course through their website or by contacting them directly. Make sure to check the course schedule and availability to ensure that it fits your schedule.
- Schedule the exam: After completing the training course, you will need to schedule the certification exam. Most certification organizations allow you to schedule the exam through their website or by contacting their testing provider.
- Pay the exam fee: You will typically need to pay a fee to take the certification exam. The fee varies depending on the certification and the organization that offers it.
- Prepare for the exam: Use study materials provided by the certification organization or training provider to prepare for the exam. Practice exams, study guides, and online resources can also be helpful.
- Take the exam: Arrive at the testing center at least 30 minutes before the exam start time, and bring a valid government-issued photo ID. After completing the exam, you will receive your score and can begin the process of earning the certification.
Overall, the process of registering for industry certification courses and exams can be straightforward if you research and follow the steps provided by the certification organization and training provider.
Will I Need to Renew My Certification?
Whether or not you’ll need to renew any certifications you earn will depend on the certification and the organization who issues it. Some industry certifications are good for life, while others may need to be renewed or require re-certification after a certain period.
Many industry certifications require renewal every few years to ensure that the certified professional stays up to date with the latest industry trends and technologies. Renewal requirements may include passing an updated exam, earning continuing education credits, or completing a certain number of hours of professional development.
It is important to check the renewal requirements for each certification that you hold and keep track of any expiration dates or renewal deadlines. Failure to renew a certification may result in the loss of the certification and the need to retake the certification exam.
Some organizations that offer industry certifications may also offer support and resources to help you renew your certifications, such as training courses or study materials for the renewal exam.
What Industry Certifications Are Popular?
There are a wide range of professional certifications that are valued in today's industries, depending on the specific field or industry:
- Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA)
- Advanced Network Administration & Management
- Helpdesk Administration & Management
- Networking Administration & Management
- Amazon Web Services (AWS)
- Six Sigma Green Belt
- Business Analyst
- Management Skills
- Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)
- Registered Nurse (RN)
- Certified Medical Assistant (CMA)
Overall, professional certifications can help individuals showcase their expertise, credibility, and commitment to their respective fields.
Where Can I Register for Certification Courses and Exams?
The process for registering for industry certification courses and exams varies depending on the certification and the organization that offers it. Some colleges and universities may offer registration and examinations on campus, as well as discount vouchers for students to earn certifications at reduced costs.
Get Certified with ECPI University’s Discount Vouchers
ECPI University students have access to our Get Certified portal, where you can find many available industry certifications—all at significantly discounted rates. You could earn a degree and valuable industry certifications—at the same time—at ECPI University.
TL;DR: You could earn a bachelor’s degree and numerous certifications—at the same time—in as little as 2.5 years at ECPI University.
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