PM Center Insider
The Road To Becoming a Certified Professional
By Emad Rahim, Kotouc Endowed Chair of PM Center of Excellence
Dr. Emad Rahim, PMP®, OMCP®, serves as the Endowed Chair of the Project Management Center of Excellence and Associate Professor for the College of Science and Technology at Bellevue University. He has earned fellowships at Fulbright, Beyster Institute, Kauffman Foundation and the Jack Welch Management Institute, and has been invited to serve as a Visiting Scholar at Rutgers University, Oklahoma State University and Syracuse University. He co-authored Foundations of Social Responsibility and Its Application to Change, Leading Through Diversity: Transforming Managers Into Effective Leaders, and The 4-Tions: Your Guide to Developing Successful Job Search Strategies. Emad has also contributed columns for Forbes, CEO Magazine, IntelligentHQ and TweakYourBiz.com, and has been featured in the Huffington Post, US News & World Report and NY Post.
Connect with him on Twitter @DrEmadRahim
While the objective of a degree program is to help students build knowledge and skills in a particular area of study, a certification program goes beyond that. Degree programs must meet standards set by regional and national accrediting organizations, the Department of Education and state licensing agencies. In an engineering, project management, or computer science program, for example, you’ll gain a thorough education. At the same time, these disciplines have industry-related certifications, and though you may complete a degree program, you’re not guaranteed to successfully pass a corresponding certification exam.
The typical full-time accounting student pursuing a master’s degree, for example, completes education in topics like business accounting, statistics, economics and financial management for two or three years, but along with hundreds of other accounting students, a graduate still has to pass the CPA exam to become a Certified Public Accountant. Certification exams specifically test for professional competencies and knowledge gained outside of your college education. They often require you to have significant career experience within your discipline, perhaps along with professional references and other requirements beyond those needed for graduation from a degree program.
Here are other examples of professional certifications that require a significant amount of study hours after earning the academic degree:
PE (Professional Engineer): http://ncees.org/exams/pe-exam/
PMP (Project Management Professional): http://www.pmi.org/en/Certification.aspx
PHR (Professional in Human Resources): https://www.hrci.org/
Also law students must pass the Bar exam after graduating before they can practice law, and there are dozens of medical licenses and credentials for those pursuing a career in healthcare.
On the other side of a professional certification, however, are some real advantages: employers respect the accumulated years of high-level work that underlie a certification, and they see you as more accomplished in your field than the average graduate. Certifications are based on having relevant experience in addition to college knowledge, and they let employers know you can get the job done well.
If you’re interested in pursuing a certification after earning your degree, keep in mind that you may first need to put a few years into your field to gain the kind of real-world understanding it takes to pass the exam. Make an excellent name for yourself in the small pond of your professional career, and you’ll be poised to move ahead of the class as a certified professional.