Professional Designations: Do you need more letters after your name?
Once you complete your M.A. in Training & Development (or our new M.A. in Organization Development) it’s time to decide whether to pursue additional training or education. Most agree that it is important to continue learning after graduation to stay current with developments in research and technology. Many graduates seek professional certification to enhance their resumes. Profession certifications are universally recognized designations that communicate the mastery of a specific skill set. Most consist of lengthy knowledge tests and either portfolios or work projects that demonstrate expertise. Professional certifications may include continuing education credit, but typically do not include college credit that can be applied to a degree.
The most widely recognized certification in the field of training is the CPLP or Certified Professional in Learning and Performance (see a previous post on this topic) from the American Society of Training & Development. To receive the certificate (and a lapel pin) you need to sit for a lengthy knowledge test and submit a work sample. MATD graduates pursue this certification after locating a job in the field and completing a study session. How beneficial is this CPLP? In a quick search of the ASTD job bank, I located more than 100 jobs with the word “training” in the search, and of those, 25 mentioned the CPLP designation.
Although training is much different from the hiring, firing, benefits and salary administration of HR, many training professionals work within the human resource division. If you plan to branch out beyond training to HR, you might consider a certification from SHRM (Society of Human Resource Management) like the PHR (Professional in Human Resources) or SPHR (Senior Professional in Human Resources).
Depending on your career focus, there are specialized certifications that can be beneficial to you. Project Management is a desirable skill in today’s team based and technical workplace. If you plan to specialize in project leadership or in project management training, you might consider a PMI certification. There are various levels of certification and most require additional training (beyond our Project Management for Trainers course). If you plan to specialize in training technology, you might consider IT certification in the area that you will train. For example, if you are training Apple products, you might consider the Apple Certified Trainer Program or if you train Adobe products you can become an Adobe Certified Expert. If you have a background in information technology, the MCS, Microsoft Certified Trainer designation is in high demand. Finally, if you plan to focus your career in a particular industry you may consider a designation in hospital administration, real estate, or banking.
When talking about certification, it’s important to include a buyer beware caveat. Not all certifications are equally beneficial and some providers are charlatans. Before choosing a certification program, ensure that it is administered by a widely recognized association or organization (like ASTD, SHRM, or PMI) as opposed to an obscure provider that simply sounds official. For example, here is a coaching certificate that I am not familiar with. It’s from the Center for Coaching Certification and costs a whopping $1495.00. The website looks official, and there is an ICF (International Coach Foundation) logo, but note that this certification is not provided by the more widely recognized ICF.
Once you have the designations, the next issue is how you communicate them to potential employers. Avoid the “alphabet soup” mentality of adding as many letters to your signature as you possible can (*like my signature at the top of this article). You don’t want to sign every e mail and letter as:
Sincerely, Jane Doe, M.A, CPLP, PHR, CAPM, MCS, etc. etc. Instead, limit yourself to no more than two (three if you must) designations and include the remainder in your resume. Most signatures include only your highest degree (either M.A. or Ph.D.) but not your baccalaureate degree if you have not completed graduate school.
What are your plans for continuing education after you graduate? Is anyone planning to pursue the CPLP, additional degree programs, or even a doctoral program?