The Right Way To List Certifications on a Resume (With Examples)

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.

3 years ago   •   11 min read

By Rohan Mahtani
Table of contents

Let's cut straight to the chase: the key to effectively listing certifications is clarity and relevance. In 2024, where the job market is increasingly competitive and digital certifications are on the rise, it's more important than ever to highlight your qualifications in a way that stands out to employers. This means not only listing your certifications but doing so in a manner that aligns with current industry standards and expectations.

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.

In this article, we'll guide you through the essentials of showcasing your certifications. We'll discuss why certifications are more relevant than ever in today's job market, the best ways to format and position them on your resume, and how to determine which certifications will make your application shine. Whether you're a seasoned professional or stepping into the job market for the first time, this guide will help ensure your resume's certification section is both impressive and effective.

When to include certifications on your resume (and when not to)

You should list certifications on your resume if:

  • It’s a job requirement: Some jobs will ask for specific licenses 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.
  • You're changing careers: 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.

You should leave certifications off your resume if:

  • It's not relevant to the job: 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!
  • It's a very short course: 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. The same goes for most short-form professional development courses, unless it's deeply relevant to the job you're applying for.
  • The certification has expired: In the case of certifications that are only valid for a certain period (for example, CPR or First Aid certificates), don't list these on your resume if they're past the point of expiry — but do renew the certification if it's necessary for the job.

Got a certification that definitely belongs on your resume? Scroll down for a detailed guide to listing certifications on a resume.

Why certifications are relevant in 2024

In an era where remote work opportunities continue to rise, and digital skills are highly valued, enhancing your resume and staying up-to-date with relevant skills has become crucial. The right set of qualifications and competitive hard skills can significantly boost your resume by demonstrating adaptability, technical proficiency, and a commitment to staying current in a digitally-driven world.

Online certifications are far more common now than ever before, offering flexibility and accessibility in acquiring new skills. But, not all certificates are created equal. As there are now so many online courses available, choosing the right certificates from a recognized institution is crucial. Employers are far more open to accepting online certifications as proof of your skills. Still, you need to ensure you choose certifications that are recognized and respected in your desired industry.

How to list certifications on your resume

First things first: Here's how to list any certification on your resume.

  1. List the name of the certificate or qualification.
  2. Include the name of the certifying agency or where you obtained it. This is important for credibility, as it allows employers to verify the authenticity of your qualifications and assess their relevance.
  3. List the date you achieved the certification.
  4. Include a location (if applicable).
  5. Specify if the certification is still in progress. It's fine to list an in-progress qualification, as long as you add "in progress" or "expected [date]."
  6. If the certification has an expiration date, make sure you include the dates of validity.
  7. Use an ATS resume scanner to suggest industry-specific skills and keywords.
  8. Regularly update your resume to remove or update expired certifications.
A checklist and example of how to list certifications on your resume
An example of how to list certifications on your resume

How to format certifications on your resume

Use bold or italics for the certification name to draw attention to it, especially if it's a crucial qualification for the job you're applying for. The key is to enhance readability and highlight your qualifications without overwhelming the rest of your resume. For example:

Project Management Professional (PMP) Certification - Atlas Institute, May 2022.

This technique helps your most essential certificates catch a recruiter's eye while keeping your resume professional-looking and easy to scan.

Where to list certifications on your resume

Here's a guide to the best places to list certifications on your resume:

In the 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. For example:

Here's how to list certifications on your resume alongside your education in reverse chronological order.
List certifications alongside your education in reverse chronological order.

Under a section titled ‘Other’ or ‘Additional Information’

List a certifications in an additional section if you have more relevant work experience to emphasize first or you're running out of space 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.

Here's an example of combining your certifications with other skill sets.

Including a subheading like this on your resume makes it easy for a hiring manager to find your relevant certifications.

Including a subheading makes it easy for a hiring manager to find your relevant certifications.

Here's another simple example of listing a certification, which mentioning who awarded it. Use this only if your certification is not widely known and the context of your certification could help.

Listing the source of your certifications can help add legitimacy.

In a ‘Certifications’ 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. But 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. For example:

Creating a separate section on your resume to avoid clutter is a good idea if you’re listing more than one or two certifications.

Creating a separate section to avoid clutter is a good idea if you’re listing more than one or two certifications.

In your resume summary or header

If you want to emphasize an essential and/or particularly well-known qualification (including professional licences), include this information in your summary or header. 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. For example:

If you’re applying for project management positions, you can mention PMP certification in your resume summary.
If you’re applying for project management positions, you can mention PMP certification in your resume summary.

If your certification is part of the job title you are applying to, you can consider including it directly in your header. Here's an example of a Certified Nursing Assistant's resume:

For roles like nursing where specific certifications are essential, it can be helpful to list your qualifications in your resume header.

For roles like nursing where specific certifications are essential, it can be helpful to list your qualifications in your resume header.

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 changing careers and don’t have a lot of relevant work experience, as projects can help bridge the gap and include hands-on experience. Remember to list projects the same way you would any other experience, starting with an action verb and using numbers and metrics where possible. For example:

Including certifications in your projects section can help your resume get past ATS and highlight your skills in action.
Listing certifications on your resume in the projects section can help your resume get past ATS and highlight your skills in action.

If you’re not sure if you’ve listed your certifications the right way, upload your resume to the tool below — it’ll scan your resume and give you detailed feedback and suggestions on how to improve your resume sections. It is also a good way to check if your resume is readable by Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS).

Use an acronym after your name

Maximize the impact of your prestigious certifications by using acronyms after your name. This immediately signals your qualifications to potential employers.

For instance, if you're a Project Management Professional, include 'John Doe, PMP' at the top of your resume. This tactic is particularly effective for certifications that are well-recognized in your industry.

Why you should consider adding certifications to your resume

Adding certifications can significantly enhance your resume by showcasing your commitment to professional development and proficiency in new skills. The right new skills can open doors to new career opportunities, potentially leading to higher salaries and advancement in your field.

In rapidly changing industries, certifications also ensure that your skills and knowledge remain up-to-date and you remain a competitive candidate for potential promotion. In the long run, certifications not only help with immediate job placement and salary benefits, but also help with long-term career satisfaction and growth.

How to determine what certifications are relevant for your resume

As with most skills on your resume, the best way to determine what skills are relevant for a position, is to look at the job description itself. See what skills are mentioned in the job description, and 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 find the skills to add to your resume, including common certifications.

The next best thing is to 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.

Another way to find skills and keywords for your resume is by using the tool below to search for the job you’re applying for. It’ll give you a list of relevant skills and keywords.

Depending on your industry, there may be a set of common (or sometimes essential) certifications it would be helpful to pursue.

  • Project Managers: 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.
  • Information Technology and Engineering: 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: Agile and Scrum certifications.
  • Accountant: Certified Public Accountant (CPA) or Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) certification.
  • Programmers: 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.
  • Nurses and other Healthcare professionals: Certified Patient Care Technician (CPCT) or Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) certification.
  • Business Professionals: Certified Business Analysis Professional (CBAP) or APICS Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP) qualification.

How to ensure and show your certification is legitimate

Choose certificates that are from accredited and recognized institutions and well-known organizations. This is particularly crucial with the rise of online courses, where the quality and recognition of qualifications can vary. Mentioning the certifying body on your resume can help establish the legitimacy of your qualifications in the eyes of an employer, and be prepared to provide proof of your certifications if requested, which could include the certificate itself, a transcript, or a link to a verification page.

Frequently Asked Questions

If I have multiple certificates, how do I decide which to include?

Only include certificates and qualifications that are relevant to the job you're applying for. Avoid listing certifications unrelated to the position, as they may distract from your relevant qualifications. If you have multiple certifications that demonstrate the same skills, include only your most recent, the most highly recognized, or those that showcase the highest level skills.

Do I need to list the certifying body or institution that granted my certificate?

Yes. Always mention the name of the institution or organization that granted your certificate. Certifications from renowned and accredited bodies are often viewed more favorably. Omitting this information might raise questions about the legitimacy or significance of your certification.

Should I include the grade of my certificate?

Generally, most certifications are pass/fail, and the grade you achieved is not necessary. The focus should be on the certification itself and its relevance to the job. However, it could be worth mentioning if you achieved an exceptionally high grade or honor (such as graduating top of your class).

How often should I update the certifications on my resume?

You should regularly update your resume to reflect any new certifications. Keeping your resume current ensures potential employers see the most accurate representation of your skills. It's especially important to update certifications that have expiration dates or require renewal.

What is the difference between licenses and certifications on a resume?

A license typically refers to a legal permission to practice a certain profession or activity, and is often mandatory for certain jobs. A certificate usually indicates completion of a course to acquire certain skills or knowledge and is not generally required for a position.

Should I create a separate resume certification section?

Yes, especially if you have multiple relevant certifications. This makes your resume more organized and helps in drawing attention to your key qualifications.

Should I include online course certifications?

Yes, but be selective. Include online certifications that are relevant to the job and from reputable providers. They can demonstrate continual learning and skill development.

What are the risks of including expired or irrelevant certifications?

Listing expired certifications can reflect poorly on your professional image, suggesting outdated skills. Irrelevant certifications may distract from your pertinent skills and experience. Only include certifications that are current and relevant to the job.

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