What Is Certification?

Certification tests are exams that test an individual’s ability to perform a specific job, whether that be Auditor, Human Resources Professional, Financial Planner, or some other title. The exams are updated frequently to reflect current demands in the workplace. Generally speaking, business certifications require periodic renewal, either by retaking the test, or in some cases by simply attending classes for continuing education, in order to affirm that the certification remains up to date.

A number of institutions provide certificates, and the prerequisites for taking the test vary for each institution and test. For example, The Institute of Internal Auditors offers the Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) certification to both members and nonmembers of their organization. On the other hand, the Certified Financial Board offers a Certified Financial Planner Professional Certificate only to candidates who have either taken their course, have taken the test before, or can prove a certain level of educational preparation, such as a PhD in Business. If you are considering a specific certificate, check the sponsoring organization for requirements particular to the test in which you are interested.

The courses which prepare candidates for taking the test are relatively short programs, from six months to one year in duration; this presents an interesting opportunity for people choosing a career in business. These programs essentially prepare individuals for careers in a short-term and relatively inexpensive way, when compared to programs resulting in associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s degrees, and doctorates.

Business certifications allow individuals to perform a number of jobs and attain some impressive salaries in their career. Below are listed some examples of average pay for positions that open up with a business certificate:

  • Financial Controller – $70,000
  • Staff Accountant – $42,500
  • Accountant – $42,500
  • Accounting Manager – $55,000
  • Senior Accountant – $57,000

Associate’s or Business Careers Certification?

One of the most natural comparisons to make when looking at these figures is that of the various certifications and associate’s degrees. Because these two levels of training provide comparable salaries, it is easy to see why professional certification could be seen in a more favorable light.

It is important to note, however, that business certifications do not typically offer the same type of broad-based business education as most associate’s programs, which offer specialized knowledge in the final year of the program and at the same time provide a year of general training. A simplistic way of looking at it is this: an associate’s gives one year of general business training and a certification degree.

So that year of generalized expertise is the primary difference in what the student walks away with, and that year can mean a certain amount of flexibility that may be useful in gaining promotions, or accommodating to changes in the job market, etc.

How to Get Certified


Regardless of organization and type of certification, there is always a test that grants certification. Organizations tend to provide training courses in preparation for the tests they provide, but these courses do not necessarily need to be taken prior to taking the test.

If you do not have any experience or business education, but do have a high school diploma, then you will need to prepare for the test by enrolling in a certification program. More than that cannot be said about the process, due to the discrepancies between certification exams, organizations, etc.

Below are listed a few types of business career certifications; however, there are a number of others which may be searched for online:

  • Certified Internal Auditor
  • Professional in Human Resources
  • Certified Safety Auditor
  • Certified Financial Planner

Types of Certifications

There are dozens of business career certifications available, and some of the most prevalent are listed below, by the organization hosting the certification. Keep in mind that there are any number of other organizations that provide certifications in any number of capacities, and deciding which one might be right for you is an involved process.

The list below is provided as a resource for the beginning of your certification search. It is advisable to browse through a number of different organizations to gain a “feel” for the variety of programs available.

Certifications, more so than for associate’s and bachelor’s degrees, are valued differently, depending on which company you are talking to. Some companies, for example, have chosen to hire their auditors from college job fairs, and only look at those with a bachelor’s degree, whereas others will only hire those with a specific certification. Sometimes a number of certifications are required for one position.

Therefore, choosing a certificate as an educational route can involve a little more risk, or at the very least a little more research. In order to prevent the worst-case scenario from happening, which would be to spend the money, take the course, pass the exam, and then be unable to do anything with it, you would be well-advised to ask particular companies whether they hire business professionals with a certificate only, in order to be apprised of the job market you will be walking into after certification.

Additionally, it is possible to apprise a target company of the value of a certification, in a cover letter, for instance. This means that even if a company would normally hire individuals with a bachelor’s degree in business, they might be convinced to evaluate your application based on your certification.

List of Certification Organizations and Types of Certifications Provided

  1. The Institute of Internal Auditors: Certified Internal Auditor
  2. HR Certification Institute: Professional in Human Resources, Senior Professional in Human Resources, Global Professional in Human Resources – hrci.org
  3. The Institute of Certified E-Commerce Consultants Board Certifications & Designations: Certified E-Business Consultant, Certified Software Analyst, Project manager E-Business, Certified E-Marketing Analyst – icecc.com
  4. National Association of Safety Professionals: Certified Safety Auditor
  5. RABQSA International: Quality System Auditor, Environment System Auditor, HACCAP Inspector, Six Sigma Implementor, Quality Management Consultant and more – rabqsa.com
  6. Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc.: Certified Financial Planner – cfp.net/
  7. The International Association of Protocol Consultants and Officers: Certified Protocol Consultants, Certified Protocol Officer
  8. The National Contract Management Association Certifications: Certified Professional Contracts Manager Certified Federal Contracts Manager and Certified Commercial Contracts Manager – NCMAHQ.org
  9. The Global Management Company: Certified Global Management Consultant and Certified Global Management Practitioner
  10. The Project Management Institute administers: Program Management Professional, Project Management Professional, Certified Associate in Project Management and PMI Scheduling Professional Credentials
  11. American Academy of Financial Management : Master Financial Professional, Master Financial Controller
  12. Knowledge Management Professional Society: Certified Knowledge Manager, Certified Knowledge Management Professional, Master Certified Knowledge Management Professional
  13. The American Society for Quality: Quality Engineer, Quality Manager, Quality Auditor, Software Quality Engineer, Reliability, Technician
  14. The Institute for Supply Management: Certified Professional in Supply Management
  15. The Institute of Certified Professional Managers: Certified Manager and the Certified Manager of Animal Resources certification

Keep in mind that these are only a few of the sponsoring organizations for some business career certifications, though it is currently the most comprehensive list on the Web.

Prepare for Certification Tests

Certification exams can require a significant amount of planning, preparation, knowledge, and expertise in order to pass them the first time around. The following guide provides a number of general tips, specialized for the certification exam process.

This guide is offered with the following proviso, which is that each certification exam is different. There is no general board that oversees the certification process, and so there is no set of standard practices, test formats, etc. that all exams will have in common. It is therefore an absolute necessity to read about the particular certification exam you are planning to take well ahead of the time you are planning to take it. Subsequently, you are advised to register well in advance of the test date, and to mark it on your calendar.

A number of certifications offer practice tests which accustom the candidate to the rigors of the particular test. If this is an option for your certification exam, it is advisable to take full advantage of it.

Make it the equivalent of a dress rehearsal before opening night. In other words, prepare fully, as though you were going to take the real thing. Schedule the necessary block of time to completely finish the test without distractions of any kind. In fact, many people recommend taking practice tests at the same time of day as you will the actual test. This can be extremely useful if the test will be taken at a time of day during which the test-taker is not normally productive. Dress appropriately, and in general create a scenario as close to test-day as possible.

This will reduce test anxiety, which can prove to be a large problem on test-day, particularly for individuals who have been out of school for a year or more, or for people who are naturally anxious. Other ways to combat this include: removing caffeine from diet, exercising regularly, or by taking test anxiety medication. In addition, there are a number of practices to perform once an individual is taking the test, such as counting down from ten, stretching beforehand or during breaks, taking deep and calming breaths, or imagining soothing landscapes, comforting scenarios, etc.

Preparation for business career certification tests does not need to be a stressful process. The more prepared one is, the less stressful the test will be. Start now.