By Margaret Michaels

Professional certifications are difficult endeavours. Even though technology has made it far easier (with online self-study and practice exams), time and effort are still required. Often people have to pursue professional certifications at their own expense and spend their few non-working hours doing test prep. But the pay-offs can be worth it: increased credibility and recognition from peers and superiors that you know a thing or two about the job you are doing. Certifications are also the thing that prevents your future self (who may have just been passed over for a promotion or rejected from a firm that they really want to work for) from experiencing the regret of never having tried.

Certifications are a stamp for professionals that they have expert knowledge and are part of a larger professional community. Not many people know the strict credentialing standards professional associations must meet in order to offer certifications.

A good sign that a credentialing body is keeping pace with changes in technology, management, and the roles and demands of industry professionals is if they conduct on-job analyses. These analyses can reveal if a certification needs to be updated to stay relevant. For instance, IMA® (Institute of Management Accountants) recently undertook a comprehensive job analysis to identify areas where the CMA® (Certified Management Accountant) certification needed to be updated to keep pace with changes brought on by digitisation and the increased use of automation in the profession.

What resulted were updates to the CMA, taking effect in January 2020. A recent Accounting Today article discussed the topic, noting areas where questions would be “beefed up.” These include data analytics and other forms of technology, as well as ethics and decision-making.

As employers increasingly leave professional development and training up to workers to pursue on their own, certifications like the CMA are a critical tool for workers. Forbes coach Natasha Bowman has written about the benefits of certification which include:

  • Affordability
  • Less time-consuming than degree programmes
  • Expedient way to develop industry-specific skills

Recruiters who are in the know about the value of certifications offer this advice:

“Certifications certainly can make a difference, but not all certifications are created equal.”

So do your homework. Glassdoor has recently published a list of “8 Certifications That Actually Impress Recruiters.” Because this is an accounting/finance blog, I would be remiss if i did not include a list of the “Accounting Certifications Employers Really Want to See” from Robert Half. In many cases, according to Robert Half, CFOs support certifications by either paying for all the costs (33%) or some of them (39%).

If you don’t try, you can’t fail. But the long-term rewards that certification offers will not be available to you and someday you may just find yourself caring less about failing, and more about succeeding.

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