Would you like to catch the attention of recruiters and increase your earning potential?
Include certifications on your resume.
According to a blog piece by Robert Half, “recruiters and hiring managers tend to look at the Certifications section of a tech resume before anything else.” Certifications show that you’ve invested time and effort into further developing your skill sets and refining your expertise. They also show that you have real-world experience, since most certifications require extensive hands-on experience in addition to coursework.
And, when it comes to salary, The Balance Careers reports that:
23% of IT professionals experienced a 20% salary increase after getting certified. According to CompTIA, 72% of employers actually require IT certifications for certain positions, and 92% believe IT certifications help ensure the credibility of their IT staff.
Certifications are especially helpful for working professionals who would like to move into a new field of specialization. While there are many certification programs available, let’s take a look at the most valuable ones below.
Project Management Professional (PMP)
Skilled project managers are in high demand. The Project Management Professional (PMP) certification, administered by the Project Management Institute (PMI) is one of the top project management certifications in North America. It validates the skills that you’ve already acquired as you’ve managed projects and teams, including:
- The soft skills needed to be an effective people leader;
- The technical skills required to manage projects; and
- The tools needed to successfully navigate the business environment.
While the certification is quite helpful for those who manage tech-focused projects, it can also provide a path to management positions.
Applicants need to confirm their project management experience and education before taking the exam to earn their certification. It costs $405 for PMI members and $555 for non-members to take the exam. Once certified, you need to earn 60 Professional Development Units (PDUs) over the following three years, in order to maintain your certification.
It’s well worth the effort and cost to become certified. The PMP website states that: “The median salary for PMP holders in the U.S. is 25% higher than those without PMP certification.”
Certified ScrumMaster (CSM)
Scrum is a project management framework that is used to organize and manage complex work. A Scrum Master, then, is:
the Scrum team member tasked with fostering an effective and productive working environment and guiding others to understand Scrum values, principles and practices. Scrum Masters tend to be people-oriented, have a high level of emotional intelligence, and find joy in helping team members to grow.
You can become a Scrum Master by completing a Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) course. There are a number of different courses within the CSM program, each providing hands-on skills that anyone can use to solve complex problems and apply to management practices.
Each CSM course consists of at least 14 hours of online interactive instruction. Once you complete the course, you will need to write and pass a test in order to receive your CSM Alliance certification. To stay valid, the certification should be renewed every two years. Renewal is earned by completing the required number of Scrum Education Units (SEUs) through reading articles, attending classes, and/or pursuing related opportunities.
A CSM credential is highly-regarded, and demonstrates your commitment to acquiring knowledge and to fostering a productive job site.
Certified Quality Engineer (CQE) Credential
A Certified Quality Engineer (CQE) is a professional (but not necessarily an engineer) who has the experience needed to design and implement quality control systems. In their role, CQEs may also test products, analyze those test results, and analyze statistical data. CQEs are typically also people leaders, supervising other quality assurance professionals.
CQEs play an important role in many different industries, including:
- Aviation, space, and defence;
- Industrial equipment;
- Energy; and
- Engineering and construction.
Although many employers prefer to hire CQEs who have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, a degree is not necessary to become a CQE. The American Society for Quality (ASQ), which oversees the certification process, requires that candidates have:
- Eight years’ work experience in a full-time paid role; with
- Three years of work experience in a decision-making role.
Additionally candidates must pass a 175-question multiple choice exam. It can take a substantial amount of time to prepare to write the exam. The cost is $398 for ASQ members and $498 for non-members. Candidates who fail their initial exam attempt may retake the exam at a cost of $298 within the next two years.
Although the time investment is significant, the CQE credential can improve employment and promotion prospects and can also contribute to increased income. It’s well worth the effort to obtain.
Certified Six Sigma Green – Black Belt Credentials
Six Sigma is a methodology designed to improve efficiency and decrease defects in all work processes, by using statistical methods. Six Sigma is designed to reduce waste, improve understanding of customer requirements, reduce production time, and introduce significant cost savings.
As explained in a blog piece by Kate Eby, Six Sigma:
aims to improve quality by finding defects, determining their cause, and improving processes to increase the repeatability and accuracy of process results. By improving efficiency and decreasing defects, the quality and timeliness of product delivery improves, and with it, ideally, employee enthusiasm and confidence–and the company’s bottom line.
Six Sigma typically uses teams to sponsor, manage, and complete projects. Each team member has a different role. Six Sigma uses the martial arts concept of belt levels to distinguish between the different roles. There are five different belt colors in total, each with a certification process. Two colors are of particular value for job seekers, as explained by Kate Eby:
- Black Belts are responsible for executing the Six Sigma methodology for specific projects. Their sole focus is the statistical analysis and the correct execution of Six Sigma methodology. The American Society for Quality (ASQ), which oversees the Six Sigma certification process, further explains that Black Belts “should demonstrate team leadership, understand team dynamics and assign team member roles and responsibilities.” Black Belts are supervised by Master Black Belts.
- Green Belts are employees who implement Six Sigma recommendations as part of their regular duties. They may also lead projects part of the time. Green Belts have at least three years of work experience and they are guided in their role by Black Belts.
Six Sigma certification is meant to validate existing knowledge. Candidates for certification must meet work experience requirements, which are defined by the ASQ as:
- Green Belts: Three years of “on-the-job experience in one or more of the areas of the Certified Six Sigma Green Belt (CSSGB) Body of Knowledge.”
- Black Belts: Three years of work experience in one or more of the areas of the Certified Six Sigma Black Belt (CSSBB) Body of Knowledge and “one completed project with signed affidavit, or two completed projects with signed affidavits.”
If a candidate meets the qualifications as outlined by the ASQ, they may take the exam (110 questions for Green Belts and 165 questions for Black Belts). The cost is as follows:
- Green Belts: $338 for ASQ members and $438 for non-members. Candidates who fail their first exam attempt can retake the exam for $238 within the next two years.
- Black Belts: $438 for ASQ members and $538 for non-members. Candidates who fail their first exam attempt can retake the exam for $338 within the next two years.
Kate Eby points out that “a Six Sigma certification presents well on a resume, and can garner as much in salary as an MBA.” Eby provides a link to another self-penned blog piece that has a table comparing salary differences between employees with a belt to employees without a belt. The difference is quite noticeable, making the certification process quite worthwhile.
Lean Six Sigma Certification
Lean and Six Sigma are separate methodologies that complement each other so well that the lines between them have become blurred, converging into a single methodology referred to as Lean Six Sigma.
The American Society for Quality (ASQ) oversees certification for Lean Six Sigma. The ASQ explains that:
Six Sigma focuses on reducing process variation and enhancing process control, whereas lean drives out waste (non-value added processes and procedures) and promotes work standardization and flow.
Lean Six Sigma is a fact-based, data-driven philosophy of improvement that values defect prevention over defect detection. It drives customer satisfaction and bottom-line results by reducing variation, waste, and cycle time, while promoting the use of work standardization and flow, thereby creating a competitive advantage. It applies anywhere variation and waste exist, and every employee should be involved.
Like Six Sigma, Lean Six Sigma also uses teams wherein different roles are distinguished by belt colors. Also as with Six Sigma, two colors are of particular value for a job seeker.
Lean Six Sigma Green Belt Certification
The ASQ explains that “Green Belts are traditionally Lead process stakeholders and may also be assigned specific process-level improvement projects to conduct on their own—projects that normally do not require the statistical rigor demonstrated by a Black Belt.”
Training is required for Lean Six Sigma certifications. For the Green Belt, the training entails 67 hours of instructor-led coursework. In order to qualify for training, the ASQ stipulates that a candidate must meet the following prerequisites:
- Current work on a defined, management-approved business improvement project that provides a positive business impact to your organization of $10,000 – $50,000. The knowledge and skills learned during the training will be directly applied to this project.
- A commitment of at least 25% of your time at your work environment to work on your project.
- Understanding of basic college-level statistics, at minimum.
Given that the coursework is instructor-led, the cost of Lean Six Sigma Green Belt Certification is quite a bit higher than the other certifications we’ve recommended thus far, at $5179 for ASQ members or $5749 for non-members. However, as pointed out in an article by PECB, the certification is widely applicable and could be used to strive towards roles such as:
- Lean Six Sigma Consultant;
- Lead Manufacturing Engineer;
- Process Development Engineer;
- Compliance Structural Engineer;
- Reliability Engineer;
- Operating System Specialist;
- Senior IT Project Manager;
- Warehouse Operations Manager;
- Business Process Analyst;
- Data Scientist;
- Project Engineer; and
- Director, Performance Excellence.
Lean Six Sigma Black Belt Certification
Training for the Lean Six Sigma Black Belt builds on the skills and knowledge base of Lean Six Sigma Green Belt certification. According to the ASQ, those who achieve the level of Black Belt will be able to “lead project teams to achieve breakthrough business improvements for their organizations.”
The cost of training is quite hefty, at $11,499 for ASQ members and $12,649 for non-members.This includes 134 hours of instructor-led coursework. In order to qualify for training, a candidate must meet the following prerequisites:
- A defined, management-approved business improvement project that provides a business impact to your business of $100,000 or greater. The knowledge and skills learned in this training course will be applied to this project.
- A commitment of at least 40 percent of your time at your work environment to work on your project.
- Basic statistics primer or understanding of basic statistics.
Lean Six Sigma Black Belt certification could have an impressive impact on your career. In a blog piece, Megan Bell points out that:
As of May 2020, Indeed.com, one of the best job search sites, reports the average salary for a Lean Six Sigma Specialist as over 100K per year in the United States. In some organizations, achieving additional levels of Lean Certification can translate to bonuses or promotions.
But, further, as with any certification, listing the Lean Six Sigma Black Belt credential on your resume or profile shows your commitment to acquiring knowledge and increasing your value to the company that you work for. The cost and difficulty of obtaining this particular certification will most definitely help you stand out from the pack.
Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)
The CISSP credential is one of the most sought-after and highly-regarded cybersecurity certifications available. Candidates who hold CISSP credentials are in high demand since they understand the vulnerabilities in networked systems and are skilled in designing, implementing, and managing world-class cybersecurity systems. An in-depth piece on the best IT certifications at The Balance Careers, published in 2020, indicates that those holding the CISSP earn an average salary of $141,000 annually.
The CISSP is designed for experienced IT professionals. The certification is offered by the International Information System Security Certification Consortium (ISC)2, which suggests that those pursuing the CISSP have “a minimum of five cumulative years of paid, relevant work experience in two or more of the CISSP Common Body of Knowledge (CBK) domains.” However, those who hold a four-year college degree or an additional credential from (ISC)2 will meet those prerequisite requirements with four years’ of experience. Additionally, if you don’t fully meet these requirements, you can still sit the exam. You will have up to six years after passing the exam to gain the required experience and become fully certified.
While it is meant to validate already existing qualifications, training is required in preparation for the rigorous CISSP exam. The training may be self-paced or instructor-led and includes seminars, coursework, and self-study aids.
For one of the world’s most sought-after cybersecurity certifications, the cost is reasonable at $699. The exam is 100-150 questions long and takes about three hours to complete.
Once certified, you will have access to exclusive resources, educational tools, and peer-to-peer networking opportunities. You will need to pay an annual maintenance fee of $125 to keep your certification current. To renew the CISSP, additional training needs to be completed or the exam retaken.
CompTIA A+ Certification
The CompTIA A+ is one of the best certifications for those beginning their careers in the IT field. Offered through the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA), and also accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), the CompTIA A+ is a foundational certification that confirms your competency in installing, maintaining, and using hardware and software.
The CompTIA A+ certification is earned by passing two exams. There are different programs that candidates can enroll in, depending on their needs and time:
- To write the exam only, without any access to prep material offered through CompTIA, the cost is $232.
- The Basic Bundle is $349 and includes access to a digital book that covers the exam objectives, as well as the exam itself.
- The eLearning Bundle is $649 and includes access to an interactive and self-paced online prep tool in addition to the exam.
- The CompTIA Bootcamp is $3,999 and includes 20 days of instructor-based coursework, as well as the digital book, online prep tool, and the exam.
Each exam has a maximum of 85 questions and should take about 90 minutes to complete. Once you pass the exam, your CompTIA A+ certification is valid for three years. It can be renewed by completing additional Continuing Education Units (CEUs), which demonstrates your competency in this ever-evolving field.
Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA)
Like many of the other credentials that we’ve recommended, the Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) certification validates your existing skills, with a focus on “network fundamentals, network access, IP connectivity, IP services, security fundamentals, and automation and programmability.”
As pointed out in a blog piece by David Zomaya, there are no prerequisites to take the CCNA exam. However, the following are recommended:
- At least one year of experience implementing and administering Cisco solutions;
- Knowledge of basic IP addressing; and
- A good understanding of network fundamentals.
Cisco also offers 30 hours of exam prep for free; as well, instructor-led coursework is available through many Cisco partners for cost. When you’re ready to sit the exam, which can be written online or in-person, the cost is $300. A passing mark entitles you to the CCNA certification, which is valid for three years. Cisco recommends that you either advance to the next level of certification or sit for a renewal exam in order to recertify.
Certifications are a terrific way to validate your existing subject matter expertise. They also demonstrate to potential employers that you are keen to increase your knowledge base and learn new skills. While there are many different certification programs available, the ones we’ve discussed here provide a solid base to move forward on in the IT and engineering fields.