Learn when and how to list your certifications on your resume with these tips and examples

Each week, TopResume's career advice expert, Amanda Augustine, answers user questions on Quora like the one below. A certified professional career coach (CPCC) and resume writer (CPRW), Amanda has been helping professionals to improve their careers for over 10 years. Have a question for Amanda? Submit it here.

Q: What's the best way to include licenses - and other important certifications - on a resume?

I suggest including a list of your relevant credentials toward the end of your resume, in a section labeled “Education and Professional Development.” If you have a number of licenses and certifications, you may decide to create a separate section below “Education” to showcase this information. However, only include licenses or certifications on your resume if they support your current job goals.

Read Amanda Augustine's full answer to "What's the best way to include licenses on a resume?" on Quora.

How to list certifications on a resume 

Earning a certification shows you have drive, purpose, and a specific set of skills and expertise. Therefore, it's a smart move to have relevant certifications on your resume. That said, knowing how and where to incorporate them is essential to ensure you stand out while aligning with resume standards. 

Read on to learn about certifications, why they add value, and when and how to include them on your resume. We even share some examples!

What are certifications on a resume?

Certifications are credentials issued by accredited institutions, including various associations, boards, schools, and professional organizations. Achieving a certification indicates you have proficiency in a particular skill, or have reached a certain level of knowledge or technical know-how, in a specific area of expertise. 

To receive a certification, you generally have to do one or all of the following:

  • Prove years of experience

  • Pay a fee

  • Pass an assessment

Is it worth it to get certified?

Certifications take time, effort, and, sometimes, money. So you might be wondering if they're truly worth it. The short answer is yes, they definitely can be. However, at the end of the day, it depends on several factors. 

When certifications are worth it

  1. Certifications and licenses indicate that you took the time and effort to pursue personal and professional development - it shows you're committed to your career. From that perspective, certifications and licenses can impress prospective employers. 

  2. A relevant certification can set you apart from other job applicants if all else remains equal between you.

  3. It goes without saying that if a certification or license is required by an employer or to work in a particular field, then having the certificate or license is not only helpful but necessary. For example, you can only work as an independent Certified Public Accountant, or CPA, with that specific certification. In most states, certification and licensure are also required to work independently as a Counselor or Social Worker. 

  4. Securing a certification can be beneficial if you want to change careers or land a job with little experience. 

  5. Certifications are a great way to showcase your skills and industry knowledge. 

When certifications might not be worth it

  1. They aren't relevant to your career aspirations.

  2. The cost outweighs the value added to your resume and career in general.

  3. You already hold a required degree or certification that supersedes the certificate you're considering, making it less relevant or necessary to add to your resume.

Overall, when they're worth it, certifications on a resume can boost your job hunt by:

  • Enhancing your resume

  • Setting you apart from other candidates

  • Showing employers that you're a qualified candidate

When should you include certifications on a resume?

Even though they're not required, there are several reasons to highlight certifications as a way to take your resume from decent to excellent. Below, we outline the top five.

To meet an employer's requirements

A key reason to include your certifications on your resume is when the employer requires it. Suppose the employer requires a specific certification, and it's not on your resume. In that case, it will likely disqualify your resume from moving forward. Refer to the job description and the company's website to determine what certifications might be needed. 

To showcase your skills

Your certification could provide valuable skills beyond what's required by the employer. For example, let's say you're applying for an Administrative Assistant position in a project-driven department, and you list your Certified Associate in Project Management, or CAPM, on your resume. In that case, the certification shows that you're knowledgeable in project management in addition to having the required admin expertise, which can set you apart from other candidates. 

To make up for a lack of work experience

Sometimes, even with the necessary skills, you might lack the years of experience a company requires for a job opening. In that case, your certification could help to compensate for the lack of practical experience. Plus, many employers like to hire those who are personally vested in their professional development outside of employment. 

To emphasize your industry knowledge

Since some certifications require you to have a certain number of years in a particular field or position, highlighting your certification on your resume speaks to those years of experience and acquired knowledge. If this is the case for your certification, listing it further validates your work experience. 

To support changing careers

When changing careers, you need to highlight transferable skills from previous work experience on your resume. You might also seek training and volunteer opportunities to compensate for a lack of direct experience. Another great way to boost your resume is to acquire a certification or two that encompasses the required skills and knowledge needed for your new career path. 

How do you list certifications on a resume?

Now you know why to include certifications on your resume. Next, and more important, is knowing how to add them. 

Let's dive into the necessary steps on how to list certifications on a resume:

  • List the certification title first. Include the full title of the certification under the certifications section of your resume. Be sure to spell out any abbreviations or acronyms, to ensure the resume reader knows what the certification is and can more easily look it up if needed. 

  • Include the issuing organization. Provide the name of the issuing organization below the title of the certification. This increases the credential's credibility and provides the hiring manager with additional data to confirm the credential.

  • Provide the date it was secured. You should insert the date the certification was issued, so it's clear how long you've held the credential. Including the year also makes it easier for hiring managers to verify it with the organization that issued it. 

  • Add the renewal date. If your credential expires and requires renewal, add the date it was renewed or the expiration date, in addition to when it was issued.

  • Provide additional details. An optional choice is to incorporate details about the certification, like the skills the certification speaks to or confirms you have. Do this to help the hiring manager see the relevance to the job only if you have space for it. If your resume would spill onto another page, avoid including this type of info. 

Should you include certifications in progress?

Yes. If you have relevant certifications in progress, include all the details mentioned above. Use the expected issue date in place of the issued date.

Where do you add certifications on a resume?

While certifications aren't required on a resume, as previously mentioned, they can increase your competitiveness when you have them. If you choose to share them, you might wonder where they belong. 

Let's discuss the four areas in which you can add certifications on your resume. 

1. In a Certifications section

The first place you can incorporate certifications on your resume is under a section titled “Certifications.” This section should go below your education section. If you hold licenses and certifications, you can call the section "Certifications and Licenses" or "Professional Development." 

Here are some examples of how to add certifications to a resume in a standalone certifications section.

Examples of certifications on a resume:

Certified Nursing Assistant, City College of San Francisco, June 2020

Public Notary, WV Secretary of State, Issued: May 2022, Renewal date: May 2026

CPR, National CPR Foundation, July 2021, Expiration date: July 2023

Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), International Information System Security Certification Consortium, Jan. 2022. Skills: Risk Management, Asset Security, Security Operations, Software Development Security

Examples of certifications in progress on a resume:

Certified Nursing Assistant (in progress), City College of San Francisco. Expected date of completion: Apr. 2024

CPR, National CPR Foundation (in progress). Expected date of completion: May 2024

2. In your Education section

Generally, it's best to list certifications in a Certification section below your Education section. However, you can also opt to place your certifications in your Education section. This is especially true under the following circumstances:

  • You only have one certification

  • Your certification was achieved during your college years

If you received your certification during college, you can include it with your degree as follows: 

Bachelor of Science, Computer Science, 2018ITIL Foundation Certification, 2017Western Governer's University

If you decide, based on personal circumstances, to place your certifications in your Education section, you can choose to call the section  “Education and Professional Development,” as Amanda noted in her response above. Some other section headings you could use are:

  • Education and Certifications 

  • Education and Training

  • Education and Credentials

If you have only one certification, you'll list your degrees first and then your certification. For example:

EDUCATION AND CERTIFICATIONS

Bachelor of Science, Data Science, West Virginia University, 2018

Certified Data Scientist, Coursera, 2019

Though not preferred, as mentioned above, you can also have more than one certification listed with your education section. Do this by adding a certifications heading after your degrees and then adding the certifications in reverse chronological order as follows:

EDUCATION AND CERTIFICATIONS

Master of Science, Analytics, Georgia Institute of Technology, 2022

Bachelor of Science, Data Science, West Virginia University, 2018

CERTIFICATIONS

Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA), Cybrary, 2023

Certified Data Scientist, Udemy, 2020

3. In your resume summary

If you hold a certification or license that is considered a major selling point for the positions you're targeting during your job search, you may decide to incorporate this information into your professional summary at the top of your resume as well. For example:

Certified Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) with over 15 years of experience servicing the oil and gas industry. Dedicated to enhancing employee relations at all levels within an organization. Intuitive problem solver and leader, driving growth and best practices while delivering HR services, growth strategies, compensation analysis, and benefits design. 

4. With your contact information

You can take it one step further and incorporate the acronym for your most coveted credentials after your name at the top of your resume. For example, Amanda, mentioned above, lists her name as "Amanda Augustine, CPCC & CPRW" on her resume and other personal branding materials, because these certifications demonstrate her expertise in career coaching and resume writing. 

Following your name is the only time you should use the certification's acronym rather than spelling it out. However, if the acronym is ambiguous, or could stand for more than one thing, spell it out - assuming it doesn't take up too much space. An example would be CMA, which can stand for Certified Medical Assistant or Certified Management Accountant. 

Some additional examples of including a certification as part of your contact information are:

Mary Smith, CPA

Ronald Jones, PHR & SHRM-CP

Roger Smithson, Certified Medical Assistant

By mentioning your certifications and licenses at the top of the resume and listing additional details at the bottom under a specified certifications section, you're ensuring a recruiter or hiring manager doesn't accidentally overlook one of your key selling points during his very quick look at your resume.

Which certifications look good on a resume?

There are numerous certifications that look good on a resume.  Ten popular certifications include:

  • Certified Administrative Professional (CAP) 

  • Project Management Professional (PMP)

  • Professional in Human Resources  (PHR) and Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR)

  • Society of Human Resource Management Certified Professional (SHRM - CP) and Society of Human Resource Management Senior Certified Professional (SHRM - SCP)

  • Certified Financial Planner

  • Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)

  • Certified Data Scientist 

  • Certified Business Analysis Professional (CBAP)

  • CPR Certification

  • Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP)

The type of certification you pursue will depend on your areas of interest, industry, and the kind of job you're aiming for. 

Click on the following link to check out TopResume's library of resume samples, including some that incorporate a license or certification section. When you've added your certifications to your resume, why not send it for a free resume review by one of our experts?

This article was originally written by Amanda Augustine and has been updated by Ronda Suder. 

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