How to Include Certifications on a Resume
Let hiring managers know you've got coveted industry-specific knowledge and skills.
Virtually every career field has at least one association, trade organization, school, or business offering a certification program. Whether you earned a tough certification after completing an intensive qualification process or receiving additional formal training in your field, you may be wondering where and how to include certifications on a resume. Follow these tips to optimize their placement.
Highlight Desirable Certifications on a Resume
Certifications are typically earned after demonstrating industry-specific knowledge and proficiencies by passing an exam or evaluation process. Examples include:
- Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
- Certified Pediatric Nurse (CPN)
- Certified Cloud Security Professional (CCSP)
- SHRM Certified Professional (SHRM-CP)
- Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA)
- Certified Six Sigma Black Belt (CSSBB)
Not all certifications are created equal, though, so give some thought to how important the certification would be to a prospective employer.
An effective way to assess the value of your certification is to review job ads for positions that interest you. “Pay attention to what certifications are commonly required in your target industry and make acquiring them part of your ongoing professional development,” says Julia Mattern, nationally certified resume writer and owner of Julia Mattern Career Services.
List Certifications Prominently on a Resume
Too often, certifications are exiled to “no-man’s land” at the bottom of the resume. If you hold a certification that is required or expected in your profession, make sure it’s easily found.
You can list important certifications on a resume more than once. “For certain careers, I list certifications as acronyms by a person’s name on page one and then detail the certification information further in a dedicated section,” says Bonnie Negron, certified professional resume writer and CEO of Bonnie Career Services, a career coaching and resume writing firm.
In case hiring managers don’t read page two, including certifications after your name makes it clear within seconds that you have the desired certification, says Negron. Keep in mind that including too many certifications after your name can be overkill and may not be appropriate for all industries, so consider what is customary in your profession. Another option is to incorporate important certifications in the resume’s headline or summary section.
Create a Dedicated Certification Section
“For the purposes of applicant tracking systems (ATS), certifications are best included in a separate section—usually following education,” says Mattern. She recommends including certification details in this section, such as the issuing organization and date you earned the certification if it’s within the past five years.
“Job seekers should use both the acronym and the spelled-out words in the certification section,” says Negron. “This layout helps with ATS keyword optimization and can also be useful for an HR professional unfamiliar with the acronym.”
If the certification isn’t well known, you may also include a brief description of the significance of the credential. Here’s a format you can adapt for your profession:
Certified Financial Marketing Professional (CFMP), American Bankers Association, June 2020
- Demonstrates mastery of critical skills for bank marketing professionals, including data and analytics, leadership, strategy, and revenue generation
Handle In-Progress, Expired, or Outdated Certifications
Is your certification in-progress? “These can be included along with an anticipated completion date, especially if the credential is important or highly desired within the target industry and completion is expected within a relatively short timeframe,” advises Mattern.
Changing careers? In most cases, certifications that are unrelated to the job target should be omitted. You may be understandably proud of that Certified Fund Specialist (CFS) certification, but if you’re transitioning from finance to nursing, it’s time to let it go.
If your certification has lapsed but you still want to list the credential, include a date range, such as: CCNA, 2014 to 2020. While it’s not ideal to include an expired certification, hiring managers will see that it’s easily renewable.
If you hold a certification earned long ago, omit it if it’s no longer relevant. For example, Microsoft’s once hot MCSE Windows Server 2003 certification now represents older technology. Show that you’re staying abreast of developments in your field by featuring current credentials.
Go Beyond Certifications on a Resume
Your resume should boast of all the ways you are an awesome catch that a company should go out of their way to hire. But there are other ways to attract employers. Curious? Monster can help. Upload your resume for free so that recruiters can find you for open roles in your field. Let's get you connected today.