A certification is an excellent way to validate your skill set. Obtaining a certification has become more common in most professions, particularly in information technology where there are rapid changes in the adoption of applications and technologies.The advantage of a certification is bringing in a third-party to validate an expertise with a skill, and in many cases, it is done objectively – like the results of a test. Using certifications has a few benefits. First, becoming certified is a way to evaluate how well you have learned a skill when you have to learn it quickly (such as learning a new technology). For example, I learned to design websites in ASP classic but was required to begin designing websites in ASP .Net so I bought a book to learn how to code in this new language; I now want to become certified with ASP .Net to demonstrate my proficiency. Second, some professions demand a high degree of skill and require a certification to “set the bar” – lawyers must pass a bar exam in their state to practice law. Third, it can be used to demonstrate understanding of the ethics required in a profession; financial analysts must pass a series of tests before they can sell and distribute certain equities. Finally, a certification can be used for personal branding – presenting a badge makes a great first impression.
It is worth discovering what certifications are available for your skill set and whether they are a requirement for careers you are targeting. Many professions have an umbrella organization that manages information about them; you should visit their website to learn about related certifications. For example, an accountant can learn more about the CPA exam by visiting the website of American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. If you cannot find a representative organization, you can utilize a search service to find available certifications. I used a service provided by CareerOneStop (sponsored by the US Department of Labor) to find a Microsoft certification for ASP .Net, for example.
Certifications might have a prerequisite, such as taking a course, and usually require a significant time and/or financial investment, so it is worth investigating everything upfront. You should conduct a cost versus benefit analysis and assess your capabilities in completing the certification before making any commitment.
Once you get certified, you will want to brandish a badge representing your certification on your professional website. The concept of a badge is to present and validate a skill with a simple graphic that is verified by a third-party; it is meant to function similar to a SSL certificate, where a website is verified to be secure. Badges are an excellent way to brand an expertise with a skill set.