Are Certified Professionals More Likely to Get Hired?

  • By AFP Staff
  • Published: 1/24/2024

Business handshakeFor decades now, we have been taught that the credentials that make for a standout job candidate or the best candidate for promotion are held almost exclusively in the hands of traditional education, i.e., a bachelor’s degree typically followed by a master’s degree.

What if we told you that all evidence points to the fact that this is no longer the case? And what if we also told you that when it comes to getting ahead, professional certification is the key?

According to a study1 performed in 2021 by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), the world’s largest HR professional society and foremost expert on today’s workplace, “Executives, supervisors and HR professionals are completely aligned in considering industry or professional certifications the most compelling during the hiring process.”

Additionally, 87% of executives, 81% of supervisors and 90% of HR professionals believe that individuals who are certified:

  • Bring value to the workplace.
  • Gain more credibility.
  • Are considered better performers.

In fact, professional certification is so valuable to employers that a job candidate with only a professional certification (no bachelor’s degree) is believed to be just as qualified and prepared for the job — if not better qualified and prepared for the job — than the candidate with a bachelor’s degree and no certification.2

Evidence from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that individuals with a certification or license participated in the labor force at a higher rate and experienced a lower unemployment rate than those without one of these credentials. These results held across age, sex, race, ethnicity and educational attainment.3

Certification confirms proficiency and allows employers to easily assess the skills of job applicants, according to research from Gallup, the American analytics and advisory company. This is particularly true when the certification is granted by an industry association, as it is tailored to meet industry needs.4

“… certifications are high-quality credentials,” said Courtney Brown, Vice President of Strategic Impact of the Lumina Foundation, the organization that commissioned the Gallup study.

Further, AFP commissioned a study in 2022 through Martec to determine the needs of FP&A professionals. The majority (94%) of senior-level finance professionals stated that, with other facts being equal, they were more likely to hire someone who holds a relevant certification than someone who does not.

Debunking the Deterrents

From entry-level to senior-level finance professionals, the two biggest deterrents to pursuing professional certification are content that doesn’t apply to their job and time commitment. Let’s address the concern over the relevancy of the content first.

According to the 500 participants in the AFP needs assessment, FP&A tasks consume the majority of your day, from entry-level all the way through to senior-level positions:

  • 93% of tasks performed by entry-level professionals.
  • 90% of tasks performed by early career (4-7 years) professionals.
  • 86% of tasks performed by mid-career professionals.
  • 71% of tasks performed by senior-level professionals.

Financial analysis becomes very important at the mid-career level, with 71% of respondents stating it is their number one responsibility. The results go on to tell us that financial accounting/reporting, financial analysis, and financial modeling are the top skills used and needed for success in the finance profession.

Using AFP’s Certified Corporate Financial Planning & Analysis Professional (FPAC) credential as the barometer, we see that what is included in the self-study, and what you are tested on in the FPAC exam, are the very skills required — and used — by today’s finance professionals.

Regarding the amount of time required to complete the certification, again, referring to the FPAC, yes, you will have to commit 80-100 hours of study to achieve your certification. However, the FPAC program is self-paced. It fits into your life, not the other way around. And considering that other professional certifications in the finance field can take anywhere from 300-900+ hours of study, the FPAC is the most efficient use of your time.

Everything you (and the recruiters) want

You want a promotion, professional status and recognition, increased knowledge and skills, and to make more money — professional certification can help you get all of that and more. Certification, from a credible organization, tells an employer that you’re a good fit from the start. It proves your ability to do the job, as well as showing potential employers and recruiters that you are personally invested in your career. Plus, professional certification is associated with higher job satisfaction, including career advancement (Ryder, 2020).

A professional certification on your online résumé or LinkedIn profile can also make the hiring process move quicker. And, even if you aren’t actively pursuing a new job, you can catch the eye of a recruiter with this advanced qualification.

“Being certified in a profession leads to greater employment and more confidence in career prospects,” said Brown. “As the Gallup study shows, 41% of Americans have a professional certification, and 81% of them are employed compared to 68% of those without a certification.”

1 SHRM & SHRM Foundation. (2021). The Rise of Alternative Credentials in Hiring.

2 Ibid.

3 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2019, June). Professional certifications and occupational licenses: evidence from the Current Population Survey. Monthly Labor Review.

4 Ryder, J. (2020, May 18). Gallup: Industry certifications lead to “good jobs”. WorkingNation.

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