Good certifications are worth more than the paper they’re written on. Some are actually required before you can even apply for a job, while others are simply concrete proof of your skills. Either way, the right qualification can make or break a resume. We’ll take you through exactly how to list certifications on your resume, including industry-specific qualifications to look into and where they belong on your resume.
Why you should include certifications
There are a lot of good reasons to include certifications on your resume, including:
It’s a job requirement
Some jobs will ask for specific licences and certifications — sometimes, these are even legal requirements. If a job posting mentions a certification as a minimum requirement, you’re unlikely to even be considered unless you include it on your resume. If it’s in the “nice to have” section, it may not be as necessary, but listing it will still give you an advantage.
It gets you past ATS
If a certification is mentioned in the job description, chances are either a recruiter or an applicant tracking system (ATS) will be screening out resumes that don’t mention it. Clearly listing certifications on your resume will prevent you from getting rejected automatically.
It establishes credibility
Even in jobs where a certification isn’t strictly required, it can be a good way to demonstrate your skills. The more well-known or established the accreditation is, the more true this is. If you’re working or moving into a field with an industry standard certification, it might be well worth pursuing.
When to list certifications
Like anything on your resume, certifications should only be included if they’re actually relevant. You may have studied for ages for that nursing certification, but if you’re applying for a job in human resources, leave it off! The same goes for short courses — unless they’re essential or deeply relevant, Coursera or similar courses that only take a few hours or days to complete aren’t usually significant enough to belong on your resume.
On the other hand, one or two relevant certifications can be the perfect way to break into a new field as a career changer. If you lack industry-specific experience, completing a short course or certification shows that you’re committed to changing directions (not just resume spamming) and shows that you have the technical skills needed for the job.
How to find relevant certifications
Where to look for certifications to include on your resume
As with most skills on your resume, the best place to start looking is the job description itself. If you have any of the qualifications mentioned, list them clearly and prominently.
Our comprehensive database of skills and keywords allows you to search for a specific job and instantly pull up the skills you should be listing on your resume, including common certifications.
Network! The most reliable source of information is usually other people working in the industry. If you’re new to the field or changing careers, this step is extra important — our tips on how to ask for an informational interview will help you get started.
Depending on your industry, there may be a set of common certifications it would be helpful to pursue.
Common Project Manager certifications include Project Management Professional (PMP), Prince2, and Lean Six Sigma.
Human Resources jobs may require Professional in Human Resources (PHR) or Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) certification.
There’s no shortage of in-demand Information Technology and Engineering qualifications. Some of the best are AWS Certified Solutions Architect, Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL), CompTIA A+, Cisco, Google Cloud, and Microsoft certifications.
Product owners and Developers may want to pursue Agile and Scrum certifications.
If you’re an Accountant, you may need a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) or Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) certification.
Programmers can show off their skills with an Oracle Java, Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer (MCSD), and EC-Council Certified Secure Programmer (ECSP) certifications — but when it comes to most programming languages, a good GitHub profile is far more valuable than specific certifications.
How to list certifications
In your education section of your resume
The education section of your resume is probably the most intuitive spot to include certifications, especially if they’re particularly significant. List your entries in reverse chronological order, with the most recent qualifications first if you’re changing careers and don’t have any other relevant experience, you may even want to include your education section at the top of your resume.
In your ‘other’ section
An additional information section is the perfect choice to avoid clutter on your resume. If you choose to include more than one or two certifications, list them on their own line alongside things like technical skills, awards, and language fluency.
As a separate resume section
As a rule, you shouldn’t dedicate too much space on your resume to listing certifications — one of two lines should generally be enough. If you have several certifications and they’re all relevant to the specific job you’re applying for, you can create a dedicated certifications section to avoid cluttering up your resume.
In your summary or header
If you want to draw attention to a particularly prestigious qualification or one that’s essential to your role, you can mention it in your resume summary. This isn’t the case for most certifications, so first make sure that it’s actually a crucial job requirement and that it’s a well-known and easily recognizable acronym, like PMP or HIPAA.
In a projects section
If your certification included significant project experience, consider listing it in a dedicated projects section. This can be especially helpful if you’re moving into a new field and don’t have a lot of relevant work experience. Projects can help bridge the gap and include hands-on experience — for example, if you’re new to software engineering, listing a project on your resume is a good way to demonstrate how you’ve used your skills in a professional setting. Remember to list projects the same way you would any other experience, starting with an action verb and using numbers and metrics where possible.