Why and How to List Certifications on a Resume – Guide with Examples

Resume Help

Looking to incorporate your certifications into your resume but unsure of the right approach?

We understand your dilemma; it’s not as straightforward as it may seem.

If your certifications hold significant relevance for the job, it’s crucial to place them prominently on your resume. You can do this by featuring them in the summary or contact information section. Failing to do so might result in the recruiter overlooking your resume entirely.

Alternatively, if your certifications aren’t central to the job you’re applying for, it’s advisable to create a dedicated section where you can showcase all your essential certifications. This way, you won’t clutter your other resume sections.

In this article, we’ll guide you through the process of effectively incorporating certifications into your resume.

If you’d rather skip the hassle of crafting a resume from scratch, don’t worry; we’ve got your back. You can select any of our free resume templates to effortlessly create a professional and contemporary resume without breaking a sweat.

What Are Certifications?

Certifications are official documents granted by accredited institutions, which can include boards, associations, or professional organizations.

Earning a certification signifies that you possess a particular skill or have achieved a specific level of technical proficiency. To obtain a certification, you typically must meet specific requirements and criteria, pay a fee, and sometimes even pass an assessment test. The more challenging a certification is to attain, the more it can set you apart from other job candidates.

In various professions, there is a wide range of certifications available. Here are some well-known examples:

  1. CompTIA A+: This certification is popular among information technology professionals.
  2. PHR (Professional in Human Resources): The HR Certification Institute grants this certification to HR professionals who have demonstrated expertise in both the technical and interpersonal aspects of human resource management.
  3. NCLEX-RN: Registered nurses, nurse practitioners, and nurse assistants can obtain this certification from their state’s Board of Nursing.

Why Get Certified??

As previously mentioned, obtaining a certification demonstrates your dedication to your profession and provides concrete evidence of your skills and professional experience.

In essence, including a professional certification on your resume serves as undeniable proof of your competence in a specific skill or field of work. In certain positions, certification may even be a mandatory prerequisite just to be considered for a job.

For other roles, having a certification can be a valuable asset that sets you apart from equally qualified candidates. Even if the certification isn’t a strict requirement for the job, it can provide the following advantages to your job search:

  1. Enhances Your Resume: It adds substance and credibility to your qualifications.
  2. Attracts Attention to Your Application: Recruiters and employers are more likely to notice your application when they see relevant certifications.
  3. Demonstrates Your Value: It illustrates that you are a valuable candidate with specialized skills and knowledge.

Including certifications on your resume can be a strategic move to bolster your professional profile and increase your chances of landing the job you desire.

When to Include Certifications on Your Resume

Including certifications on your resume can indeed elevate it from good to great in certain circumstances. Here are some scenarios where adding certifications is highly beneficial:

1. The employer requires it: If the job posting explicitly states that a particular certification is required, it’s essential to include it on your resume. Omitting it could lead to immediate disqualification. Always thoroughly review the job description and the company’s website to ensure you meet all the stated requirements.

2. To demonstrate your skills: While a certification might not be obligatory for the job, it can still strengthen your application by showcasing your relevant skills. For example, if you’re applying for a non-IT role but hold an IT-related certification, it highlights your proficiency with computers. This can give you an advantage over similarly qualified candidates.

3. To highlight industry knowledge: Certifications that require a certain number of years of industry experience can serve as a testament to your expertise in a particular field. Including these certifications on your resume reinforces your years of experience and expertise in that industry.

4. To compensate for limited practical experience: Certifications can also be valuable when you have limited professional experience in a specific area. For instance, if you’re a recent graphic design graduate with minimal work experience but possess strong design skills acquired during your education and personal projects, listing a relevant graphic design certification can help balance your lack of work experience.

In these situations, certifications can act as strong evidence of your qualifications, skills, and commitment to your field, making your resume more attractive to potential employers.

How to List Certifications on a Resume

Now that you understand the importance of certifications and how they can enhance your resume, let’s explore how to incorporate them correctly into your resume:

How to Format Your Certifications

Creating a dedicated resume section for certifications is an effective way to showcase your qualifications. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to format this section:


  1. Certification Title: Begin by listing the full title of the certification. Ensure that there are no typos in the title, and if the certification has common abbreviations, spell them out.
    • Example: Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
  2. Awarding Organization: Include the name of the institution or organization that awarded you the certification. Check for any spelling errors to maintain professionalism.
    • Example: American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA)
  3. Date Earned: Specify the date when you earned the certification. If the certification requires periodic renewal, also include the date of the last renewal.
    • Example: Date Earned: May 2020
      • Last Renewed: June 2023
  4. Expiration Date (if applicable): If the certification has an expiration date and you haven’t renewed it, add the expiration date. Note that you should not include expired certifications on your resume.
    • Example: Expiration Date: May 2025
  5. Additional Details (optional): If space permits, you can provide a brief sentence or bullet point describing the skills or expertise related to the certification. This helps the hiring manager understand the relevance of the certification to the job.
    • Example: “Demonstrates expertise in financial accounting and auditing principles.”

Remember that your resume should ideally be one page long, so be concise in providing the necessary information about your certifications. Tailor this section to each job application by emphasizing certifications that are most relevant to the specific position you’re applying for.

Where to Add Certifications to Your Resume

Adding certifications to your resume in various sections offers flexibility and allows you to tailor your resume to different job applications. Let’s delve into each of these possibilities in more detail:

1. List Certifications Under the “Certifications” Section:

  • Placement: Create a dedicated section titled “Certifications” or “Certificates.” Position this section after all your essential sections, such as contact information, work experience, resume summary, and skills.
  • Formatting: Follow the formatting rules outlined earlier, including the certification title, awarding organization, date earned, and any additional details.
  • Order: List certifications in reverse-chronological order, starting with the most recent certification.

2. List Certifications in Your Resume Summary:

  • Placement: Include certifications in your resume summary section if they are required or highly relevant for the job you’re applying for. You can either start or end the first sentence of your summary with the certification title.
  • Example:
    • Correct Example: “Certified CPR sports teacher with 15+ years of experience and solid organizational skills, seeking to preserve and improve the quality of sports education at Amigos Children’s Academy.”
    • Incorrect Example: “Data analyst with 7+ years of experience analyzing business processes. Enthusiastic to handle big data interpreting and visualizing skills at 7EDGE. CCA certified in 2013.”
  • Note: Including certifications in your summary highlights their importance and relevance to the employer.

3. List Certifications in Your Education Section:

  • Placement: Consider including certifications in your education section under specific conditions:
    • You have only one certification, and it’s not a critical requirement for the job.
    • You completed certification courses concurrently with your university education.
    • You want to mention less important certifications outside of the dedicated certifications section.
  • Example: Within your education section, you can list the certification along with your degree and other relevant education details.

4. Include Certifications in Your Contact Information Section (Optional):

  • Placement: If you want to emphasize a crucial certification, you can include it in your contact information section or as part of your job title.
  • Example: “John Smith, PMP Certified Project Manager” or “Jane Doe, CPA Certified Accountant.”
  • Note: This draws immediate attention to your certification, but use this sparingly for certifications that are paramount to the job.

Choose the placement that best suits the importance and relevance of your certifications to the specific job you’re applying for. Tailor your resume for each application by emphasizing the certifications that align with the job requirements, helping you stand out as a well-qualified candidate.

10 Top Certifications That Can Boost Your Career

These are indeed some of the top certifications in various fields that can significantly boost your career:

  1. PMP Certification (Project Management Professional): Offered by the Project Management Institute (PMI), this certification is valuable for project managers and demonstrates your expertise in project management.
  2. BC/BE Certification (Board Certified/Board Eligible): Physicians who have completed their residency but haven’t yet passed their board exam receive this certification. It signifies their eligibility for board certification.
  3. PALS Certification (Pediatric Advanced Life Support): Ideal for healthcare professionals specializing in pediatric care, this certification focuses on life support for infants, children, and adolescents.
  4. Forklift Certification: Offered by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), this certification is essential for those operating forklifts in warehouse and industrial settings.
  5. Scrum Master Certification: This certification is for professionals working on complex projects and demonstrates their understanding of the Scrum methodology, a framework for project management.
  6. Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA): A state-specific certification, CNA is essential for individuals seeking roles in patient care, typically in healthcare settings.
  7. First Aid Certification: This certification equips individuals with the knowledge and skills to provide immediate assistance in emergency situations, including administering first aid for injuries and medical crises.
  8. ASE Certification (Automotive Service Excellence): For automotive professionals, ASE certification validates their skills and abilities in automotive service and repair.
  9. CPR Certification: A widely requested certification, it is essential for various job opportunities, including teaching, public-facing roles, and any position where quick response to medical emergencies is crucial.
  10. CISSP (Certified Information Systems Security Professional): A renowned certification in network security, CISSP is suitable for experienced information security professionals seeking global recognition of their expertise.

These certifications can enhance your career prospects by showcasing your expertise and dedication to your field. Depending on your industry and career goals, pursuing one or more of these certifications can open up new opportunities and increase your earning potential.

Resume Certifications FAQs

Do you still have questions? You can find answers in this section!

Should I include online course certifications on my resume?

Yes, you should include certifications on your resume as long as they are relevant. Online certifications can be particularly beneficial if you are a recent graduate with limited work experience.

Is there a situation where I should not list certifications on my resume?

Certainly! You should only add certifications that provide value to your resume. For example, if you are a business analyst, the Certification of Competency in Business Analysis (CCBA) will help you get hired, but a bartending or CPR certification may not. You should also avoid adding outdated or insignificant certifications. For instance, if you have over 10 years of experience as a business analyst, you should not include a business management certificate you obtained from an online course during college.

What other sections can I include on my resume?

You can add various optional sections to make your resume more competitive, such as Awards, Honors, Accomplishments; Volunteering and Associations; Extracurricular Activities; Independent Projects; Hobbies, Interests, Languages; Publications, Training, Conferences. However, be mindful not to clutter your resume or let it spill over to a second page. Look at it from the recruiter’s perspective – which of these sections would add value to you as a candidate and demonstrate your ability to perform the job effectively? Then, choose accordingly.

Key Takeaways

Here’s a summary of what we’ve learned about certifications in your resume:

  1. Sign of Competence: Adding a professional certification to your resume serves as evidence that you have the competence to perform a specific task or job.
  2. Strategic Placement: Place job-critical certifications in one of four key areas on your resume: the personal information section, the resume summary, the education section, or a dedicated certification section.
  3. Highlight Key Certifications: Always prioritize and make your most noteworthy or relevant certifications prominent and attention-grabbing for recruiters and employers.
  4. Avoid Irrelevant Certifications: It’s essential to refrain from including certifications that are outdated, irrelevant, or insignificant on your resume to maintain its clarity and effectiveness.