Seven certifications that add big value to your resume

Certificate programs are increasing in reputation and carrying more weight around the office. These certificates can add big value to your resume and your wallet.

John Nordell/The Christian Science Monitor/File
Sterling R. Alam asks a question to Stephen C. Gross, chief actuary of the Social Security Administration, who spoke at a public forum on Social Security reform, held on the campus of the University of Massachusetts in Boston (2005). An actuary certificate can help advance careers

A certification can strengthen your degree, and maybe even improve your income. Better still? It can do all this without you ever having to set foot inside a classroom, as all of the seven certifications listed below are offered online. Take a look, and start moving ahead today.

1. Project Management

Aside from IT, project managers work in engineering, healthcare, and construction. They are responsible for overseeing the completion of a project — on budget, and on time. It's a high-pressure career, but the salary is great (average $89,000 for entry-level). Fortunately, you don't have to quit your day job to earn your certification. The average cost varies widely, but reputable UC Berkeley lists it as around $5,600. Here is a list of online project management programs where you can study.

2. Microsoft Certified IT Professional

My friend Chad, who has a degree in IT, obtained this Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) certification on his own, reasoning that "I thought it might be helpful." Upon completion, he showed it to his manager...and was immediately promoted and reimbursed for the cost of obtaining the certification. The cost? A very affordable $150 for the first level (Microsoft Certified); then you can take more courses and build into Professional (MCITP), Architect (MCA), Professional Developer, etc.

How much can you expect to earn from certifications? From Microsoft:

"In high-growth industries, entry-level employees who hold a Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA) certification or Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS) certification can earn up to $16,000 more, annually, than their peers."

3. CPA

An accountant with a Bachelor's degree can expect annual earnings of $63,550 per year. But what if that accountant passes the licensure exam and becomes a Certified Public Accountant? Here is an interesting breakdown from the folks at Becker Professional Education:

"Over the course of a 40-year career, a CPA can earn as much as $1 million more than a non-certified accountant. Here's an example:

  • Two non-Certified Public Accountants with Bachelor's degrees begin working at the same time at the same large public accounting firm in Audit/Assurance Services at the same annual salary of $68,000.
  • One earns the CPA credential, creating a 10% salary differential of about $7,000 more than the other (CPA's can earn between 5% and 15% more than their non-credentialed counterparts).
  • Over time, more frequent and higher-level promotions can widen the salary gap to as much as $50,000.
  • Over a full career that can mean an additional $1 million or more in lifetime earnings."

The licensure exam is very rigorous, but what a difference in income obtaining that license makes.

4. Process Management

The question I get most often in HR about this position is, "What is it that those people DO?" Well, they look at a process, or flow, that isn't working, reorganize it, and implement it so that things work better. As a rule, they are really good at seeing the "big picture" and being diplomatic about change. Process managers have a governing body and must pass an exam. Earnings are estimated at $79,000 annually. Fortunately, this is another position where you can obtain online certification (here are sometraining resources) while keeping your day job.

5. Medical Coder

With the implementation of ICD-10 medical coding, knowledgeable coders are in high demand. Already have your B.A.? Good, because those with Bachelor's degrees "...out-earned those with only a high school diploma by a dramatic $10,000 per year ($51,825 vs. $41,802)." The American Health Information Management Association is the governing body for health information management. It also provides information about education and certification courses. I personally know coders who are able to work from home, which is a nice option if you have a family.

6. Exercise Physiologist

The median salary for a fitness instructor is $40,996. But, obtain certification as an exercise physiologist, and that jumps to $44,470. Perhaps more importantly, though, is that if you are interested in this field, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts 19% growth, higher than the average for all occupations.

7. Actuary

Have a degree in mathematics? Or, maybe you work in the field of finance, or statistics? The BLS cites median pay in 2012 for actuaries to have been $93,680, with job growth outlook of 26% (much higher than average). Actuaries analyze the financial costs of risk and uncertainty. They often work for insurance companies or in finance. A series of examsmust be passed to obtain certification. It's not all about number-crunching, though — a good actuary needs the skills to be able to communicate, too.

Remember: Do your research before you leap. Some of these certifications are extremely rigorous and, although likely worth it in the long run, will put a strain on your time. Take a look at job listings to see what employers are looking for.

This article first appeared at Wise Bread.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to Seven certifications that add big value to your resume
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today