Are Marketing Certifications Worth It?

A very common question I receive from my readers is about my Professional Certified Marketer designation. More specifically, what kind of impact did it have on my professional career?

I think it’s time, many years since I received the certification, to answer this question publicly in more detail.

For those of you who don’t want to read the entire article, here is the short answer: personally, I haven’t had any professional benefit from becoming a PCM.

If anything, adding the designation to my signature generated more questions than recognition, which makes me question its popularity within the business community.

For those of you interested in getting a Marketing certification, I will try to answer the broader question: are marketing certifications worth it?

Marketing Certifications: Options Abound

There are plenty of options to obtain a Marketing certification, depending on your specific interest. It seems like every marketing organization, private company, blog and even apps are now issuing their own certification.

Here is a very short list:

Almost every certification requires an investment from you: your time, money, or both. Before you decide on what certification to pursue, ask yourself if going through the process is worth your effort.

Why Do Marketers Want to Get Certified?

In fields such as Accounting and Engineering certification is the entry ticket into management positions. Marketing does not employ such high standards: no certification is required to qualify for a specific Marketing job.

So why become certified?

Based on the feedback from my readers, the number one reason for wanting to pursue a marketing certification is building credibility with employers. In a field with no well-defined career path, a certification is hoped to be perceived as an independent endorsement of one’s Marketing knowledge and skills-but is this the case?

The answer is not easy and depends on personal circumstances. Regardless, some basic research is needed.

What Makes a Good Certification?

This is the first question a potential candidate should answer. Here are some questions that should guide your decision:

How selective is the process of getting certified? What kind of per-requirements does the certification have? Is registration open to everybody, regardless of the level of experience and education?  What is the level of commitment required in order to pass the final exam?

Generally speaking, reputable certifications tend to be very selective and have strict admission criteria and a considerable workload.

Is the business community aware of its existence? Awareness is the first step in building credibility. In order for any certification to be a difference maker it must be acknowledged by people in charge with recruiting in a particular field.

Every employer who want to hire for a senior accounting position requires a candidate with a Certified Professional Accountant (CPA) designation.

Based on my personal experience, employers and even marketing professionals are not even aware the PCM designation even exists. I believe there is more work to be done by the American Marketing Association in this regard.

What is its level of reputation? This is really what matters. Assuming decision makers are aware of its existing, does the certification add value to a resume? Reputation is built in time, through many generations of graduates who made a difference in their field.

If you decided to pursue a particular certification. there are a few things you can do to assess its merits.

Start with the institution issuing the certification. Usually it plays a huge role in establishing its credibility. A certification offered by Harvard University comes with a level of credibility already built in, versus a certification from an institution nobody’s heard of.

If the reason for getting certified is breaking into the marketing field, or getting a better job, study the  job postings for the position(s) you are targeting: is the certification listed as a must have, nice to have, or not listed at all ?

Also, take a look at the LinkedIn profiles of people already working in the same position your are targeting: how many of them are certified?

Finally, don’t be afraid to talk to recruiters about the value of the certification you are want to pursue. They can provide valuable and honest feedback on what employers are looking for.

What Really Matters to Employers

I would like to conclude with what I think really matters to employers looking to hire a marketing person.

The number one criteria that will get you closer to your dream job is work experience in the field- ideally, experience in the same industry your potential employers operates in. I know this causes a lot of frustration among candidates-but it’s a fact.

Secondly, I received many emails from my readers asking if they should pursue an MBA or the Professional Certified Marketer designation.

There is no doubt that post-secondary education still maters. A university degree will bring much more credibility to your resume than any Marketing certification.

And finally, the sad and ugly truth: who you know is more important than what you know. Your ability to network will help you get your dream job faster than getting certified and sending hundreds of applications. Many Ivy league school graduates admit that the value of attending a top university is not the quality of its courses, but the connections you make.

I don’t want to discourage you from pursuing a marketing certification. I am sure there are many marketing professionals who benefited greatly from being certified. Just do your due-diligence and make sure the certification you decide on is worth your effort.

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