Is a Professional Certification Right for You?

Career Wisdom
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Acquiring new skills can lead to professional growth and advancement — or possibly even a career change.

You want to advance your career but taking the steps to get ahead often comes at a financial and time-consuming cost. Is it worth the effort? Learn the benefits of pursuing a certification program to establish your expertise and move ahead.

What Exactly Is a Certification Program?

A certification program is a professional credential awarded after taking an intensive course. They provide even experienced professionals with additional skills or specialized training in an emerging area. Certification programs showcase that you’re a motivated professional who has taken the time to refine your job skills. Having these hard skills on your resume can set you apart from other job searchers and help show that you are committed to your career.

Who Benefits from Certification Programs?

“Certification programs can help recent college graduates and young professionals stand out from the crowd applying for an entry-level position,” says Lacey John, director of Alumni Career and Professional Development at the University of Arizona Alumni Association. “Experienced professionals re-entering the workforce can also make their skill sets more relevant with certification programs.” For certain fast-paced industries such as information technology, certification programs are practically prerequisites.

Certification programs offered at the University of Arizona such as Coding Boot Camp and Certified Cloud Security Professional keep IT pros up to date with the latest technology, thinking and advancements in a field. For rapidly changing industries, acquiring multiple certifications to stay competitive is a best practice to seriously consider.

How Do I Get Started?

The Arizona Continuing and Professional Education professional development catalog offers many nationally recognized certification exams plus non-credit certificate programs that appeal to professionals from business, science, healthcare, law and many other fields. Find the path that complements your professional objectives, then determine if an intensive live course or self-paced online training better fits your goals and current obligations.  

You can also search LinkedIn for role models who are on similar career paths as yours. Check out their experience and the Licenses and Certifications section of their profile. Do they have the certification you’re considering? Follow in their footsteps to keep your professional skills sharp and in demand.  

What should you look for when evaluating certification programs?

How Much Work (and Time) Is Required?

Certification programs do require extra effort. Be prepared to make time for online discussions, written assignments, research projects and experiential learning activities over the course of many weeks. Find details on the level of commitment needed for each of the certifications offered by the Continuing and Professional Education program.

So, we turn the question back on you: Does learning more about a career specialty sound challenging but exciting? Certification programs are fast-paced and intense. If you can’t keep up — and don’t want to — don’t start. Your motivations for continuing your education should ignite your interests and make you feel like you’re increasing your potential. If you are thinking about a career change, consider this advice from career mentors.

How Can I Spotlight My Certification Program?

Whether you are brand new to the field or several years into your career, certification programs can be valuable additions to your resume or a cover letter when applying for a job. LinkedIn prominently displays these accreditations with symbols and logos that make your professional development efforts stand out. When you complete a certified program, add the certification under the Licenses and Certifications section of your profile.


Certification programs can be a beneficial route to upward career mobility. Discover your own path on the Bear Down Network, a professional networking platform for Arizona alumni that supports professional growth.