Many students at Nevada State High School are beginning to explore career pathways and different academic majors, hoping to find a way into a fruitful and interesting future job. Many careers today require some sort of post-secondary training after high school. For many, this includes college courses and degrees. In some industries, apprenticeship and on-the-job training are required in order to obtain and master the skills and techniques of certain trades. Certification is an emerging option in some industries as some employers look to industry associations to provide assessments to prove that an applicant has competency in a certain skill set. Certifications can also be used to add on skillsets and competencies in what the workforce development world has termed stackable credentials. It is important to know what certifications are and how they differ from other credentials, how to determine their value, and where to access certification training programs and assessments.
The Difference Between Certifications and Certificates
It is important to note the difference between certifications and certificates. Certifications are usually awarded by professional associations and recognize that a working professional has completed an assessment that evaluates their competency to do a job. Certificates are usually awarded by educational institutions recognizing a student who finishes a focused, industry-specific training within an academic setting. There are also academic programs that lead to both, where academic institutions design their courses to lead to competencies assessed by certification exams. This is especially prevalent in industries like information technology and health care. For example, CSN has skills certificate programs in computing and information technology that train students in the necessary curriculum to sit for certification exams in Cisco Networking, the CompTIA A+/Network+/Project+/Security+, Microsoft programs, and more.
How to Plan Ahead
Before pursuing a certification, it is important to determine how valuable it will be in the pathway to your career of interest. Several factors will need to be considered.
• Recognition and reputation – is the certificate valuable to the industry it belongs to? Are the organizations and associations developing the assessment and certification programs well known to employers and reputable? Is there some sort of accreditation process for the certification program? Name recognition of some certifications may demonstrate elevated knowledge in a field and come with increased perceived value, such as Google certifications in the world of marketing, search engine modification, etc.
• Difficulty and eligibility requirements – some certifications simply require passing an exam, where others might require a training program, a certain amount of training or on-the-job hours, or it may require retesting after a certain number of years. The difficulty in obtaining a certification may determine its value on the job market and make earners more attractive candidates for high-paying jobs
• Desired qualification from employers – for some careers, certification is a requirement or strongly desired by employers. Therefore, if a candidate has any hope in finding a job in certain industries, they need to pursue certification. Some employers don’t recognize many of the certifications in their industry and prefer to train employees in-house. It is important to research your desired career pathway and whether it requires certification. Perhaps contact some employers in the industry or look at qualifications listed on job opening to find required certification.
Some local organizations provide certification programs and opportunities through Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) grant funding. Federal and state governments distribute grant funds through an application process to provide capital to organizations that want to develop and implement workforce development and training programs that can lead to certification. One such example in Nevada is the Nevada Help Desk. Nevada Help Desk has after school tech programs and training that are designed to lead to certifications, internships, apprenticeships, and gig economy jobs. They have in-demand tech courses available in programs like Adobe, Amazon Cloud, Google Analytics & Adwords, CyberSecurity, Microsoft, and more. Vegas PBS also offers a catalog of workforce education training programs in business, information technology, health and fitness, hospitality, computer science, and computer applications. And previously mentioned, the Nevada System of Higher Education institutions like CSN and TMCC offer academic program that can prepare you for certification exams.
Post-secondary education and training is becoming necessary for many different industries and employers. Many will require some sort of credential, whether it is a degree, a certificate, a certification, a license, or a combination. Certification programs are becoming more and more common, especially in industries like information technology and health care. Certifications can also be valuable for those currently employed looking to advance their careers and receive salary increases. It is important to do the necessary research when it comes to finding a career pathway. It might require a certain credential and it is important to find out which ones are valuable, reputable, and recognized by industry employers.