Professional certifications can be helpful, sometimes

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By Erik Sherman

Janet Falk, chief strategist of Falk Communications and Research, has been a public relations practitioner for 32 years. When it comes to the professional certification, Accreditation in Public Relations (or APR) that the Public Relations Society of America has offered for years, she says no news is good.

“In my experience, employers don’t ask for it, clients don’t ask for it, and senior executives in the field don’t seem to have it either,” says Falk. If it’s useful, she argues, it should show up in job descriptions, especially when it’s a report to someone who holds an APR.

Martin Winston, a longtime public relations expert, joined PRSA and took the APR exam decades ago. Eventually, he left the organization and dropped all mention of the RPA, “and never felt it like a loss,” he wrote in an email to Zenger News. PRSA did not respond to a request for comment from Zenger.

And yet there are certifications that seem indispensable, especially in specific areas of computer science practice, and a range that falls somewhere in between the two extremes. For any professional, it is important to understand the role that targeted further training can play, whether as part of their own career path or in making smarter hiring decisions.

More attention from companies

In some cases, having a specific piece of paper can be critical. “If I go to a courtroom and I don’t have this diploma, the license with it, I don’t go,” says Joseph Gutheinz of the law firm Gutheinz. “I cannot practice law. Every diploma, every teaching diploma that I had led me to a job. And he has 10 law degrees, eight teaching degrees and six university degrees.

For years, advancing in a career meant at least a bachelor’s degree and perhaps an advanced degree. But currently, some of the labor market’s long-held standard expectations are, if not shattering, at least starting to bend. As Oxford Economics rated in July 2021“The reopening of the economy that triggered pent-up demand for services also spurred a torrid increase in demand for workers who in the past were the least employable, namely the least educated and the least skilled. “

Those with no more than a high school diploma also outperformed those with a bachelor’s degree in pay increases, at 3.7% compared to 3.4%. However, college graduates still had a higher median income.

Perhaps the change is also the recognition by many companies that they need more help than they can easily find, and therefore pay more attention to certifications, or at least to some of the many available.

“Until three or four years ago, we rarely heard employers or job seekers talk about certifications,” says Steven Rothberg, founder of College Recruiter, a site he says is used by Fortune 1000 companies. , government agencies and other organizations that hire tens to thousands of students and recent college graduates. “This is a rapidly growing and increasingly important job preference on the part of employers and we accept it. “

“More and more employers are trying to hire more objectively,” says Rothberg. “Ask the same questions to each candidate and have the same criteria. Historically, when employers are very subjective, it tends to discriminate in hiring. Employers who use a high degree of subjectivity when hiring tend to have a high number of discriminatory hiring practices.

In other words, the more a company can document its knowledge and capabilities, the better the adequacy of hire it can earn, in theory, and potentially reduce discrimination in hiring. Additionally, the right certification can provide more candidates, potentially allowing for more efficient hiring.

An example: recruitment site Indeed carried out a study over 1,000 US HR managers and technical recruiters, asking if graduates of short programming preparatory courses called bootcamps were “just as prepared” as computer science graduates. About 72% of those surveyed said that “bootcamp graduates are just as prepared and likely to perform well as applicants with a computer science degree” and 12% said bootcamp graduates were “more prepared and more likely to be very successful “.

All is not good

For all the success that such certifications can bring to both the hiring company and someone’s career, many others are not so noteworthy.

“What matters is practical knowledge demonstrated on various marketing platforms,” says Adam Gingery, COO of Majux Marketing. Various specialty marketing certificates for one platform or another may not matter.

“The certification course can be helpful in helping someone gain some rudimentary knowledge,” Gingery says, “but the literal certification part is bordering on meaningless. You can take tests over and over again until that you pass. Most universities, if you do a bachelor’s degree in marketing, they all give their students these tests. It’s like a checkbox, but that doesn’t mean they can do everything with it It just means that they have learned the correct answers to pass the test. He has found that many of those with certifications cannot answer questions beyond the test frames.

Even with its licenses and certifications, Gutheinz agrees that many of the certificates available “are not worth anything either.”

“I look at alternatives to higher education in the same way as higher education,” says Rothberg. “Some schools are good for some candidates and not for others. A bakery certification is not good if you are looking for an engineering job. A certification of being a nice person could be good for an inbound customer service person, ”although many might consider it silly.

“Now, on the other hand, employers who typically recruit elite students from elite universities have little or no interest in certifications because they seek critical thinking, and it is quite difficult to measure the critical thinking through certification, ”adds Rothberg. “But it’s really easy to measure typing speed, coding, how to slice a vegetable. A more typical kind of job that we do almost every day. And that’s the bulk of the job market.

For the person who obtains the certificate, there are a few basic questions to ask. As Falk noted, if no one asks the question, professional value is likely to be limited at best, although she said her peers with APR certification said, “It’s a good educational experience and reinforces. self-confidence “, which may be enough for some.

But if someone is paying money, make sure the institution providing the certification is reputable and think about the cost of obtaining it versus the business value.

“There’s nothing wrong with spending $ 10,000 if it’s good value for money,” says Rothberg. “If you can get the same value for $ 1,000, spend $ 1,000. But if $ 1,000 gets you crap and $ 10,000 gets you $ 100,000 of a job, the $ 10,000 is a great investment.


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