Launch Your Career with These Three Professional Certifications - America's Future

February 25, 2021

Career AdviceProfessional Development

Launch Your Career with These Three Professional Certifications

By: John Dale Grover

Degree inflation is real. According to the Census Bureau, the number of Americans who are at least twenty five years old with advanced degrees jumped dramatically over the last two decades. As of 2019, 53 million Americans have a Bachelors’ and 22 million a Master’s. Many employers require either a BA or increasingly an MA as a requirement for their entry level positions, leaving young professionals increasingly worried about ways to distinguish themselves. Obtaining a professional certification in addition to your degree is one way to stand out. Having a globally-recognized certification on your resume will give you a leg up to start your career or to transition to a new field of work. Not to mention, credentials of this nature can also be useful when negotiating for a raise or a higher starting salary.

I have singled out three certifications that are well-recognized and respected. These are the Poynter ACES Certificate in Editing, the Certified Associate in Project Management, and the Associate Professional in Human Resources. Each of these introductory level professional programs will teach you the basics of three very different career fields. These courses are very flexible, they let you study at your own pace before you sit for the certification exam. These programs are no joke. They each will take a few months of studying and will  set you back several hundred dollars. In the end though, you will have gained a credential that most other recent B.A. or M.A. graduates didn’t even know existed. Moreover, even if you are a few years into the workforce, these certifications can provide a competitive advantage.

The Poynter ACES Certificate in Editing by the Poynter Institute and the ACES Society for Editing teaches the basics of editing through six online self-directed courses. These courses cover the fundamentals of editing, including grammar, punctuation, word use, and ensuring clarity. All of the classes come with assessments to test your knowledge, retention, and progress. Ultimately, the certificate will require you to pass eight smaller tests and three larger, final exams. However, it is a perk that you get three tries to pass every examination. If you are looking to enter journalism, having an editing certificate is helpful whether you are an editor or a writer. It is also beneficial for other professions such as copy editing and copy writing, authoring think tank reports, and doing corporate research. The Poynter Institute also offers other online trainings, including the Poynter ACES Advanced Editing Certificate for those looking for something beyond the basics.

The Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) is the entry-level certificate offered by the Project Management Institute (PMI). The CAPM teaches the basics of project management, including; starting, planning, executing, monitoring & controlling, and closing projects. This certification is useful if you currently manage one-off professional projects or if that is something you would like to do. After all, managing projects comes with more responsibility and so often comes with a higher income as well.

To qualify for the final exam, you do not need any experience, but you do need 23 hours of project management education. Thankfully, PMI offers an online Project Management Basics self-directed course that fulfills that 23 hour requirement. That course also comes with an online version of their flagship textbook, the Project Management Body of Knowledge Guide, and a three-hour practice exam.

The CAPM is also a good stepping stone towards the heftier Project Management Professional (PMP) certification, one of many other programs administered by PMI. The PMP requires three years of project management experience to qualify for their exam, which can take a while to get on your resume. However, if you have less experience, the CAPM is an excellent way to show that you are gearing up for a career in project management. 

The Associate Professional in Human Resources (aPHR) is offered by the HR Certification Institute (HRCI), one of the two big organizations offering human resources related credentials. The aPHR teaches you the basics of human resources management, including human resources operations, recruitment, compensation, benefits, and retention. It does not require any previous experience with human resources. 

To help you prepare, HRCI offers a variety of online self-paced classes as well as practice exams. There are many other credentials that HRCI offers and the aPHR can be used to bridge the gap until you have enough experience to qualify for the others.

The other large organization offering human resources credentials is the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). SHRM offers the entry-level SHRM Certified Professional credential, which requires either previous HR experience or that you have started a job in the field. Both HRCI and SHRM are good organizations, but HRCI’s aPHR is available to those with no prior HR experience. All in all, from editing to project management to human resources, these three certifications will make your resume stand out. You could also just be looking to improve your skills for your current role to increase the value you bring to your organization. Degree inflation and changing technology means that today’s professional workforce must be lifetime learners. And these three certifications are one way to edge out the competition.