How to List Certifications On a Resume? Your Ultimate Guide


List Certifications On a Resume

List your professional certifications effectively 

So, you’ve put together a resume, listing your work experience, the great things you’ve accomplished, and a formal college education. You’ve chosen the right resume format, worked on fonts and formatting, and proofread it a few times. Is your resume ready for submission now? Not exactly. Adding the relevant certifications can give your resume a competitive advantage and prove the professionalism in your field.

There’s plenty of certifications out there, from those authorizing that you’ve successfully passed an online course to those it takes years to train and obtain. One way or another, all the certifications you’ve gotten deserve being mentioned on a resume. Below, our professional resume writer NYC will answer all your questions pertaining to describing certifications on a resume:

✓ Why listing certifications on a resume is worth it

✓ How to list your certifications professionally, and

✓ The examples of how certifications should look on your resume.

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What is a professional certification?

Before explaining how to list certifications best, let’s clarify what exactly a certification means. Typically, certification is a document issued by the accredited organization to prove your professionalism or certain level of skill. There are language and computer certifications (Microsoft Certified Professional, TOEFL and IELTS for non-native English speakers, and more), as well as certifications which are required to do the job (CPAs for accountants and CAA for pilots). In either case, certifications increase your employability, let alone the fact that most recruiters will appreciate a long list of certifications on your resume.

Why include professional certifications on a resume?

  1. To prove your professionalism and skills – your resume may claim that you are fluent in Spanish, but if your statement is supported by a DELE certificate, it actually proves your knowledge. Let’s assume that two persons with similar experience apply for the same administrative assistant position. If one of them has no certifications and the other holds Certified Associate in Project Management and MCP certification, obviously, the second person has much higher chances of getting an interview.
  2. To show your eligibility for the job – certain professions require certifications just to be considered for a position. This is particularly important for doctors who need licenses such as USMLE, pilots who are required to hold a CAA license, and in some cases teachers and accountants. If the job listing specifically requests an applicant to hold a particular license or certification, note that without it your application won’t be considered.
  3. To show your passion for the field – if the certification isn’t mandatory in your field to do the job, the fact that you have it will show your dedication to professional development and ongoing learning, which is always valued by employers. Moreover, it will show your commitment to building a career in your industry, which makes you a valuable hire for many employers.

Apart from having relevant certifications, it’s also important that you revise workplace etiquette tips. It will help you pass an interview and build better relationships with colleagues.

Listing certifications on a resume: 7 essential tips

1. Put licenses and required certifications above the fold

To decide where to locate a list of certifications in your resume, ask yourself: are those certifications mandatory for you to do the job? Are they highly valued in your industry and can persuade the recruiter to call you for an interview? If the answer is “yes”, consider placing the Certifications or Licenses section right after the career summary, and locate the most important certifications there. In this case, the hiring person won’t overlook them.

2. Create a separate section if you have more than 2 certifications

If you only have 1-2 certifications, it’s okay to incorporate them into the Education or Training section. However, if you have multiple certifications to show off, then you’ll absolutely need a separate section called Certifications.

Also, don’t confuse certifications with training and courses. Whereas in many cases you’ll need to take training before you pass a certification exam, not every training results in getting a certification. Hence, if you took an online or corporate training that didn’t result in getting a certification, you should list them under Training or Professional Development section.

3. List relevant certifications only

If you are an experienced professional who started career in sales, then worked for a few years in corporate finance and after that switched to technology industry, chances are that you have multiple certifications under your belt. However, more doesn’t mean better.

Resume space is limited, so you should only list the certifications which are relevant to your target industry and position. In addition to saving resume space, it will make your resume more focused and easier to read. You can publish the entire list of certifications on your LinkedIn page if the hiring manager wants to know more.

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4. Place the Certifications section after your work experience and education

Unless the certifications are crucial for getting you hired as we’ve mentioned above, put this section closer to the bottom of your resume. The first page of your resume should be reserved for career highlights, most recent experience or university education. If you have a list of certifications that prove your computer, language, software or other skills, this information will complement your experience and show your versatility and eagerness to grow professionally. Moreover, it shows that you’re proactive about your career, which is always valued by employers.

5. Include the top certifications in a career summary

Do you want to emphasize one particular certification or credential (such as PhD) and don’t want to keep it to the bottom of the resume? Consider mentioning it in your career summary. If you hold an important certification such as PMP, CPA or CISM, you can start a career summary like this:

‘An accomplished, PMP certified project manager with 5+ years of experience…’

By doing so, you instantly draw the reader’s attention to the valuable certification and ensure they won’t miss it in the resume text. Some career experts also recommend adding a certification after your name, but it’s tricky since most resumes are scanned by the ATS first and the system may not read your name correctly.

6. Don’t list the expired certifications

Some professional certifications have an expiration date. If yours falls under this category, make sure to remove the outdated certifications from your resume. The expired certification won’t increase your chance of getting hired, as well as can make the hiring manager think that you’re not attentive to detail since you haven’t bothered to remove the outdated details.

Are you in the process of certification renewal? In this case, it’s okay to list certification that you currently work towards. Below, we’ll explain how to do it.

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7. Spell out the acronyms in full

Most certification names come as acronyms. If that’s the case with yours, it’s strongly recommended that you write out the certification’s name in full at least once. For instance, PMP – Project Management Professional, CFA – Certified Financial Analyst, etc. This will help your resume to pass through ATS which might be tailored to look for full certification’s name, not an abbreviation.

Moreover, you never know who’ll be reviewing your resume in the first place. A recruitment intern or a receptionist may not be familiar with some certifications you hold. Being detailed increases the chance that your certification will be read correctly.

These are the general guidelines for putting your licenses and certifications on a resume strategically and getting them noticed. Now, let’s consider the best format for describing your certifications.

Mentioning your certifications: tips & examples

Whether you list certifications in a separate section or under the Education subheading, follow these principles:

✓ Use a reverse chronological order, with the most recent certification topping the list;

✓ Include the name of the accredited organization or board;

✓ Format the list using bullet points;

✓ Consider listing relevant skills you’ve gained if the resume space allows for it.

Examples of certifications on a resume

Certified Management Accountant (CMA)

Institute of Management Accountants

March 2019

International Society of Technology in Education (ISTE) Certification

NY Association for Computers and Technologies in Education

October 2018

To list the certification in progress, use the following example:

Program Management Professional (PgMP)

Project Management Institute

Anticipated completion May 2020 

That’s it! Now that you’ve listed all important certifications that will add you value on the job market, it’s time to give your resume a few finishing touches before sending it out.

5 things to do before sending your resume

  1. Format your certifications in line with other sections
    In other words, make sure that you use the same font type, size and formatting for your Certifications section as you did in the rest of the resume. Don’t allow for inconsistency in formatting. It makes your resume look sloppy and doesn’t help to make a good impression on the reader.
  2. Make sure the resume fits into 1-2 pages
    1 page is an optimal length for college students and professionals with under 5 years of experience. If you have more, use 2 pages, but don’t exceed this length. If your resume takes more, consider removing old experience, irrelevant career details, certifications, and other information which isn’t particularly important for the role you’re aiming for.
  3. Put the key information closer to the top
    Make sure that your key selling points – everything that can persuade the hiring person to choose you over other candidates – are placed near the top of the resume. These can be impressive accomplishments, valuable industry certifications, or reputable companies you’ve worked for. Place the key information where it has every chance to be noticed.
  4. Use strong resume language
    ‘Orchestrated’ and ‘Directed’ instead of ‘Managed’. ‘Facilitated’ and ‘Initiated’ instead of ‘Responsible for’. The use of powerful words makes a whole different impact on the reader, helping you look more accomplished, responsible, and result-driven. Make sure your career summary and experience sections take full advantage of strong resume language.
  5. Fix grammar and spelling issues
    Career consultants recommend that you read the document aloud to make sure each sentence makes sense and use an online spell checker to fix minor errors. However, it’s also important that you double-check the certification names to make sure the ATS and a human recruiter understand your background correctly.

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