If you’re looking to change careers to pursue a promotion, you may be looking to improve your application. One cost-effective option is seeking professional certifications, as you can add credibility without spending money on another degree.
But not all certifications for jobs are created equal. While some career certificates lead to increased pay, others can be a waste of your hard-earned cash. Below, we’ll outline five certifications worth the expense — plus how to pay for them.
- 5 fields with worthwhile professional certifications
- What to look for in professional certifications
- How to pay for professional certifications
Some certifications are well-known and highly valued in their fields. Below are five certifications that can help you take the next step in your career.
Most job listings for human resources professionals include a caveat that “SPHR/PHR certifications are preferred.” Offered by the HR Certification Institute, the Senior Professional or Professional in Human Resources (SPHR/PHR) accreditations can set you apart from other applicants.
In fact, certified human resources professionals earn nearly $20,000 more than their non-certified peers, according to PayScale. The programs are rigorous and the tests difficult, but the payoff may be worth it for you.
|Need some inspiration?|
|Read about how a human resources professional paid off student loans — and then borrowed again to further his career.|
Less than 20% of the Public Relations Society of America’s membership has the Accredited in Public Relations (APR) certification. Well known for its rigorous application and test, getting your APR can be a way to stand out in a crowded public relations job market.
While the process can be expensive — it involves an application fee, an online course charge and textbooks — the results can pay off. Professional development scholarships could also soften the blow of initial costs.
According to PayScale, the average salary for a public relations specialist is $48,846. But a PR specialist with an APR certificate has an average salary of $56,464, an increase of over 15% in salary.
In a constantly changing field, programmers need to keep on top of the latest languages and trends. One of the hottest areas in web development is Ruby on Rails.
And being proficient in Ruby can be lucrative. Ruby on Rails developers have among the highest pay in the U.S. among programmers, with annual salaries averaging around $122,000, according to Indeed.
While certification is not necessary to enter the field, it can help show your knowledge. The Ruby Association offers the Certified Ruby Programmer distinction, which shows that you have high-level expertise in Ruby development capabilities.
You might also check out coding boot camps that specialize in Ruby on Rails or similar skills.
Back to non-IT certifications: Lean Six Sigma is an approach to business that uses the full team to eliminate waste and inefficiencies. It’s an in-demand accreditation in a wide range of fields, from manufacturing to banking.
People certified in Lean Six Sigma — and there are White, Yellow, Green and Black Belt certifications available — can command high salaries.
Lean Six Sigma black belts earn an average of $83,107 a year, and that’s not counting any bonuses.
If you are looking into a career in project management, you may want to consider pursuing a Project Management Professional (PMP) credential. It is one of the most well-known certifications.
While a PMP looks good on a resume, it can also lead to an increase in salary. A 2020 survey performed by the Project Management Institute found that PMP certified professionals earned 22% more on average than non-certified project managers.
In some situations, a professional certification can make the difference between landing a job and getting passed over for an interview. But in others, a certification is just a nice-to-have, or can even be completely ignored. It is dependent on your field and the program you complete.
While you may be hoping for easy certifications that pay well, worthwhile accreditations are challenging and rigorous. That’s what makes them valuable additions to your application.
|Easy to get||Hard to earn|
|Some certifications are very simple. You pay a fee, then take a test. Assuming you pass, the testing company issues a certificate. These are typically the least valuable forms of certification.||Other certifications require you to join a professional organization and have a certain number of years working in the industry before you can apply for the certificate program and testing. These forms of accreditations tend to be more highly respected, as they show you have the expertise and knowledge in the field. They can result in better job offers and higher salaries.|
When you are evaluating the best certifications for you, check out the profiles of leaders in your field — LinkedIn can be a great resource for your research. Find out what societies they joined and what certifications they have; those are likely to be well-respected programs that would be beneficial to you, too.
If you’re earlier in your career, your professional network could be bare. In that case, visit the Department of Labor’s CareerOneStop website to find certifications related to your role.
The harder-to-earn certifications are usually harder to pay for. Whether they cost hundreds or thousands of dollars, it’s always best to save up before resorting to student loans.
In fact, your first stop should be your current employer, if you have one. Many companies offer education reimbursement to employees pursuing professional development courses that will make them more valuable in the workplace.
Without employer support, affording a costly but worthwhile professional certification can be more difficult. Try these strategies, too:
- Ask the certifying organization about scholarships
- See if your state provides grants for continuing education
- Work a side hustle and sock away earnings
- Negotiate a raise at work and leverage your larger paycheck
- Wait for tax season and apply for tax refund
- Cut down on current expenses and tally up savings
If tactics like these aren’t enough, borrowing a student loan could be necessary. Check with your certificate-granting program to see if it’s eligible for federal student aid, including grants and federal student loans. If it’s not, private student loans could come in handy.
Long-standing lender Sallie Mae, for example, has career training loans if you’re pursuing a culinary, aviation or technical certificate, among others. (Although licensure is different from certification, Sallie Mae also provides bar study loans for aspiring lawyers.)
Before zeroing in on a specific loan, however, seek out lenders like Sallie Mae that allow borrowing for professional development certificates. Many banks, credit unions and online companies limit their lending for undergraduate degrees.
You might begin your quest with our recommended private student loan companies. Then you can shop around for your best deal.
Andrew Pentis contributed to this report.
Interested in a personal loan?Here are the top personal loan lenders of 2021!
|Lender||APR Range||Loan Amount|
|5.99% – 18.85%1||$5,000 - $100,000|
|7.86% – 35.99%||$1,000 - $50,000|
|5.94% – 35.97%*||$1,000 - $50,000|
|99.00% – 199.00%2||$500 - $4,000|
|5.99% – 24.99%3||$5,000 - $40,000|
|7.99% – 29.99%4||$7,500 - $40,000|
|7.99% – 20.88%5||$5,000 - $50,000|
|9.99% – 35.99%6||$2,000 - $36,500|
|10.68% – 35.89%7||$1,000 - $40,000|
|9.95% – 35.99%8||$2,000 - $35,000|
|1 Includes AutoPay discount. Important Disclosures for SoFi. |
2 Includes AutoPay discount. Important Disclosures for Opploans.
Direct Deposit required for payroll.
Opploans currently operates in these states: . *Approval may take longer if additional verification documents are requested. Not all loan requests are approved. Approval and loan terms vary based on credit determination and state law. Applications processed and approved before 7:30 p.m. ET Monday-Friday are typically funded the next business day.
3 Includes AutoPay discount. Important Disclosures for Payoff.
4 Important Disclosures for FreedomPlus.
5 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.
Citizens Bank Disclosures
6 Important Disclosures for LendingPoint.
7 Important Disclosures for LendingClub.
All loans made by WebBank, Member FDIC. Your actual rate depends upon credit score, loan amount, loan term, and credit usage and history. The APR ranges from 10.68% to 35.89%. For example, you could receive a loan of $6,000 with an interest rate of 9.56% and a 5.00% origination fee of $300 for an APR of 13.11%. In this example, you will receive $5,700 and will make 36 monthly payments of $192.37. The total amount repayable will be $6,925.32. Your APR will be determined based on your credit at time of application. The origination fee ranges from 2% to 6% (average is 4.86% as of 7/1/2019 – 9/30/2019). In Georgia, the minimum loan amount is $3,025. In Massachusetts, the minimum loan amount is $6,001 if your APR is greater than 12%. There is no down payment and there is never a prepayment penalty. Closing of your loan is contingent upon your agreement of all the required agreements and disclosures on the www.lendingclub.com website. All loans via LendingClub have a minimum repayment term of 36 months or longer.
8 Important Disclosures for Avant.
*If approved, the actual loan terms that a customer qualifies for may vary based on credit determination, state law, and other factors. Minimum loan amounts vary by state.
**Example: A $5,700 loan with an administration fee of 4.75% and an amount financed of $5,429.25, repayable in 36 monthly installments, would have an APR of 29.95% and monthly payments of $230.33.
Based on the responses from 7,302 customers in a survey of 140,258 newly funded customers, conducted from August 1, 2018 – August 1, 2019, 95.11% of customers stated that they were either extremely satisfied or satisfied with Avant. 4/5 Customers would recommend us. Avant branded credit products are issued by WebBank, member FDIC.
* Important Disclosures for Upgrade Bank.
Upgrade Bank Disclosures
Personal loans made through Upgrade feature APRs of 5.94%-35.97%. All personal loans have a 2.9% to 8% origination fee, which is deducted from the loan proceeds. Lowest rates require Autopay and paying off a portion of existing debt directly. For example, if you receive a $10,000 loan with a 36-month term and a 17.98% APR (which includes a 14.32% yearly interest rate and a 5% one-time origination fee), you would receive $9,500 in your account and would have a required monthly payment of $343.33. Over the life of the loan, your payments would total $12,359.97. The APR on your loan may be higher or lower and your loan offers may not have multiple term lengths available. Actual rate depends on credit score, credit usage history, loan term, and other factors. Late payments or subsequent charges and fees may increase the cost of your fixed rate loan. There is no fee or penalty for repaying a loan early. Accept your loan offer and your funds will be sent to your bank or designated account within one (1) business day of clearing necessary verifications. Availability of the funds is dependent on how quickly your bank processes the transaction. From the time of approval, funds should be available within four (4) business days. Funds sent directly to pay off your creditors may take up to 2 weeks to clear, depending on the creditor. Personal loans issued by Upgrade’s lending partners. Information on Upgrade’s lending partners can be found at https://www.upgrade.com/lending-partners/.