American college debt stands at about $1.5 trillion, and that number is going nowhere but up. In the face of this growing financial crisis, what course of action can we pursue to a more promising and less debt-laden educational future? One multi-faceted tool that I would recommend for consideration is certifications. For me, having the option to pay approximately $30 – $40 a month for an e-learning library of courses means that I have an accessible, more affordable means to pursue knowledge in a specific IT sector. These have been offered by companies such as Cloud Academy, Cloud Guru, and LinkedIn Learning. Or, if you’d prefer a single-serving course, you can search for offerings at budget-friendly sites such as Udemy. And, of course, we can’t forget about IEEE learning resources. The opportunities offered range from Cybersecurity Nexus (CSX) Training Platform to the IEEE Learning Network (ILN) which provide certificates of achievement, Continuing Education Units (CEUs) and Professional Development hours (PDHs) that can be used to maintain professional licenses. The end result is that individual professionals are provided an established means to gain certification and prove their learning efficacy both within the industry and potential employers.
Why invest in certifications?
While there are many benefits to be gained from certification, two primary functions are establishing expertise and offering career flexibility.
- Establish expertise
According to CompTIA, “91% of employers believe IT certifications play a key role in the hiring process and that IT certifications are a reliable predictor of a successful employee.” In this way, certifications offered by industry-renowned organizations and corporations garner credibility for your knowledge and skills in a specific topic — which helps to establish yourself in the sometimes dubious process of applying and interviewing for employment. That same report goes on to say that 93% of HR professionals say they value IT certifications, and 72% of employers require IT certifications for certain job openings.
- Establish expertise
- Career flexibility
Whether looking for new employment or trying to shift to take on a new role at your current workplace, credentials serve as an opportunity to open doors to new areas of interest. With the current tech talent shortage, employers are finding it necessary to reconsider the requirements for job placement. In this way, certificates serve as a great way to fill those gaps without investing time, energy and money to update your degree. It provides an industry-specific upgrade to your resume.
- Career flexibility
How to determine which certification(s) to pursue
Not all certifications are created equal or beneficial to your career path. That’s why it’s helpful to do some research before pursuing a specific accreditation. Start by reviewing the lists posted by sites such as CIO.com or GlobalKnowledge.com that provide insights on the highest-paying jobs associated with these certifications, and provide a synopsis of the skills and knowledge that certification entails.
A little online career stalking can also be insightful. By checking out the LinkedIn profiles of colleagues who’ve career trajectories you would like to emulate, you can spot common certifications. Scroll past the “Education” section to the “Licenses & certification” to see the badge complete with credentials (often provided by a company like Credly that creates, issues and manages credentials).
Why now is the right time
Finally, I don’t know about you, but with the Covid Delta variant affecting so many areas in the United States, I’ve found myself, once again, spending more time inside. Instead of over-indulging in YouTube and Amazon Video, I’m attempting to use my time indoors in a more purposeful, self-empowering manner. The increased time away from people isn’t easy, but it makes now the perfect time to add a few new certifications that will aid me in the future.
This comes with the bonus that some businesses seem to have the same thought and are running deals to lure potential customers away from competitors. For example, Amazon is currently hosting its AWS Certified: Solutions Architect Challenge, which guides you through a recommended preparation path to earn your certification. This includes free training, and you’ll also be eligible for a 50% discount voucher for the exam. Microsoft is also offering a deal on certification exam testing for the discounted price of $15 for an exam to those who’ve been unemployed or affected by Covid.
Between the pandemic and the deals, here’s hoping we can make the most of this complicated season. We can flex our skills in our industries and grow as individuals. Of course, there will be moments when we duck our heads and go into survival mode. However, I hope that when the moments of reprieve come, we can remember that this won’t last forever and try to invest in a brighter future.
Opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of IEEE or IEEE-USA.
Jacquelyn Adams is a storyteller and an award-winning CEO. She lives in a world of constant exploration, whether it’s summiting Mount Kilimanjaro, vlogging about the future of work… or discovering how she’d do in a chocolate eating contest (answer: last place). Find more of her Lessons on Leadership articles here or connect with her on LinkedIn here.