Guide to Including Certifications on a Resume

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There are numerous factors that can make a resume stand out, but one of the most effective additions is a section for certifications. Especially important in specialized competitive positions, your certifications can make all the difference for an employer comparing the resumes of their top candidates. Learn how you can list your certifications in a manner that’s compelling and effective with this guide to including certifications on a resume.

What are job certifications?

Put simply, a job certification is a specialized credential that demonstrates your extensive skills or knowledge in a particular field. These fields can range from specific jobs or proficiencies with particular pieces of technology.

Job certifications are typically earned from professional organizations or companies that are well-respected and successful within their field. For example, Microsoft is essentially the top player in the computing industry, and they offer a variety of certifications that are useful for just about any company.

To obtain a certification, you typically have to pass an exam. If you’re a career expert in your field, who never got formally certified, taking a simple exam could give you an edge. If you feel the exam may be challenging, you may want to complete training first. You can find training courses through the organization that offers the certification or find training from third-party sources.

Best certifications to have on a resume

Not all certifications will be relevant to every job prospect you come across. Like everything else on your resume, the included content must be specifically related to the position you’re applying for. For example, a teaching certification wouldn’t help you all that much if you’re looking to get hired as an office administrator. 

There are a handful of common certifications that are widely applicable and sometimes necessary for a variety of jobs. 

The following are some of the best certifications to include for their relevant positions:

  • ServSafe: This certification demonstrates that you are knowledgeable when it comes to hospitality and food service and handling. It’s essential when applying for hotel or restaurant jobs in most cases, but can be useful for other positions as well.
  • RN: RN, or registered nurse certification, proves that you’ve had all the necessary training to fulfill nursing responsibilities. This is a requirement for nursing positions.
  • CDL: A commercial driver’s license is required to operate a wide variety of commercial vehicles, and it’s generally required for most driving jobs.
  • CPA: Accountants are always needed in any business, and being a certified public accountant will show that you have the skills and dedication necessary to get the job done right.
  • OSHA: A certification from OSHA is used to indicate that you are knowledgeable about the health and safety regulations in multiple industries.
  • ESL: An ESL certification shows that you are fluent in another language, which can be helpful in many positions such as customer service and is absolutely essential for a translator.

How to add certifications to a resume

To make your resume as compelling as possible, you’ll need to know how to add certifications to your resume. 

Follow these steps to add your certifications efficiently and effectively to your resume:

1. First, find relevant certifications

The first thing you should concern yourself with is limiting the certifications to ones relevant to the position you’re applying for. For example, you don’t need to worry about mentioning your ServSafe certification when applying for an accountant position. Instead, you’d want to mention a CPA certification, if you have one.

2. Then, distinguish between certifications and honors

Even among relevant selections, it’s important to distinguish between certifications and honors. When employers are looking at the certifications section, they expect to find certifications and licenses. While you may have been awarded a certificate for a particular accomplishment, technically scholarships, honor societies and academic awards are not considered job certifications.

3. After that, consider whether certifications warrant a separate section

Some resumes include certifications in their own section, while others are included in the relevant work or education experience. This is typically determined by whether or not the certification is a requirement for the position, and if so, create a separate section for it. 

4. Finally, determine whether certifications warrant multiple mentions

Much like determining whether or not a certification needs its own section, mentioning a certification multiple times is only necessary when it’s a requirement of the position being applied for. For example, you could mention that you’re a CPA in your objective, contact information and certifications section if you’re applying for an accountant position.

Related: Words to Avoid and Include on a Resume

Can you put expired certifications on a resume?

Many certifications will expire over time, as the industry is expected to change, so having knowledge of what was necessary to be an accountant 30 years ago isn’t going to help much in a modern position. If your certification is expired, it’s essential that you do not include it on your resume. There’s a reason they expire, so you must get your certification renewed before you can put it on your resume.

If you’re applying for a position while currently working on a certification, it can be worth mentioning, as long as you aren’t claiming it on your resume as being completed. Instead, you can describe the certification as being in progress and you should add an anticipated completion date.