What is a certification?
A certification is an official document issued by an accredited organization that proves you’ve gained a specific skill. You may have to renew some certifications every few years or participate in continuing education to keep your certification active.
So, what are some examples of professional certifications?
If you’re a project manager, you could have your project management professional, or PMP, certification. If you work in the culinary industry, you might have your ServSafe certification. If you’re in the medical field, you’re most likely CPR certified.
Relevant licenses, like certifications, also have a place on your resume. For example, if you’re a cosmetologist, you might include a section called Licenses & Certifications where you list your cosmetology license and your certification as a board-certified colorist.
Why should you list certifications on your resume?
Sometimes the job you’re applying for requires that you hold a specific certification, or the job description may list a specific certification as being “preferred.”
Holding certifications can also show that you’re particularly qualified for the role or dedicated to your career. It can show that you’re a self-starter who’s interested in expanding your skillset.
Where do you list certifications on your resume?
Where you should list your certifications depends on how many you hold and how relevant they are to the position you’re applying for.
You can either list your certifications under the education section or you can create a section specifically for certifications.
You can also mention relevant certifications at the top of your resume, in your summary or objective statement, but that’s not the place for a long list.
Krysta James, cofounder and managing partner at The Verity Group, an HR recruiting and consulting firm, says that you should create a dedicated section on your resume for certifications if you have more than one, but single out any key certifications in a prominent place: “List the certification next to your name at the top of your resume if it is a requirement of the role,” she says.
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Should I list any and all certifications I hold?
Maybe. It depends on the certification and the job you’re applying for.
“Listing certifications not required by the role can be a pro or a con, it really depends on the position,” James says. “If it is loosely related, then I absolutely recommend adding it in the designated section, but not in your name heading. However, adding certifications that are not at all related can portray that you are not committed to one industry, not specialized, or unsure of your career path. Be sure to make your resume and the way certifications are laid out match the story you tell recruiters so it is consistent.” And always tailor your resume to each job you apply for.
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How do you list certifications on your resume?
When it comes to your resume, the name of the certification, the issuing authority, and the date of issue are important.
“Be sure to note if a required certification is not active. If not listed, it leads recruiters to feel you are not being truthful,” James says. Likewise, if you’re in the process of earning a specific certification, add a note that says “in process” or “anticipated [month year].”
How to list certifications in the education section of your resume
When listing your certifications in the education section, you’ll want to list the name of the certification, the organization that issued it, and the date you received it (usually the year is sufficient). You can list the location where you obtained your certification too, if you want.
University of Maryland, 2011
B.A. in business administration
Project Management Professional (PMP)
Certified through Project Management Institute, in process
How to list certifications in your resume summary or objective statement
If you choose to list your very relevant certifications in your resume summary or objective statement, work it in to the sentence(s) just as you would other accomplishments or skills that qualify you for the job.
SHRM-certified human resources consultant with more than six years experience consulting for Fortune 500 companies on DEI recruitment and retention practices.
How to list certifications in their own section
“Place each certification keeping reverse chronological order with the most recent at number one,” says certified professional resume writer Michael Tomaszewski. “If you feel like you got your most prestigious certifications and licenses early on in your career, leave the less impressive ones for other sections, like next to relevant education or work experience.”
Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, 2016
Project Management Professional (PMP)
Certified through Project Management Institute, 2012
About our sources
Krysta James is the cofounder and managing partner of The Verity Group, L.L.C. She has over 10 years of extensive experience with change management and project management. A confident, highly energized and effective Human Resources Professional, Krysta is detail-oriented with proven success in planning, implementing and supporting human resources strategies consistent with company values and policies.
Michael Tomaszewski is a certified professional resume writer (CPRW), a member of the Professional Association of Résumé Writers & Career Coaches, and a career advice writer at Zety.