Would you pay more for industry certification?


In a market that’s still in the process of bouncing back from the ‘Not-So-Great’ Recession, some working adults are turning to industry certification programs to boost their marketability with employers. Many turn to e-learning programs, delivered through colleges and universities to earn certificates that prove they have the in-demand skills employers want. Still others are engaged in free and low cost certificate programs from industry associations and popular platforms like Udemy, Coursera, Lynda.com and more – many of which are taught by actual professors at accredited schools.

What Learning is Worth

In an age where learning has become a priority for many adults, thanks to the emergence of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and remote learning methods, the number of candidates who are presenting industry certificates along with standard college degrees on resumes is increasing in scope.

For recruiters looking for the best of the best in candidates, and managers who may encounter an employee who is a life-long learner, the question is then:

Would you compensate at a higher rate for an employee or candidate
who has earned an industry certificate?

There are a couple of ways to look at this question. First, from the perspective of the candidate (or an existing employee) who has received more training; second from the recruitment or management side of things. Each has a set of expectations, which we will explore below.

Candidate/Employee: “I’ve spent a great deal of time and money developing my skills so that I can offer more to an employer – therefore I’d like to see some kind of return on this investment in terms of my career.”

Recruiter/Manager: “I’m looking for the best employee for my business, so a candidate or employee who has demonstrated a dedication to maintaining above-average skills could be valuable to my team.”

Each side has some valid reasons for negotiating for a slightly higher compensation, due to the presence of an industry certification. Outside of standard practices in recruitment and compensation planning, individuals should be evaluated for what they bring to the table in their entirety. Are they able to transfer this certification knowledge into improved work skills and methods? Do they set the bar higher for your other employees? Can the organization leverage the certification to improve the company image with clients?

Deciding if Certification Validates Better Compensation

Here are some ways to determine if a certificate warrants a higher salary offering, during recruitment negotiations or performance reviews.

  1. The certificate clearly demonstrates a commitment to excellence in the industry.
    If the certification is worth its weight in gold, it will produce an employee who is 100 percent committed to being the best they can be in their chosen occupation. In other words, do the skills learned translate to better performance at work, and does it also demonstrate to your clients you hold all your employees to higher standards?
  2. The certificate comes from a reputable source that has strict guidelines on the development and evaluation of certificate coursework.
    No two-certificate programs are the same, because they are developed by various professionals and organizations with their own set of standards. Before offering a higher compensation rate, find out more about the source of the certificate, including the credentials of the instructor. Review the course closely and find out if any continuing education credits are required to maintain the certification.
  3. The certification program creates enhanced skills and boosts engagement on the job.  During your review of the certification, which you should not accept at face value alone, dig deeper into the actual skills learned. Read through the course description, do some online searching for reviews of the certificate program, and find out if it has positive feedback. Ask the employee or candidate if the program improved their skills as they relate to the job, and how. Find out if the certificate program helped them to feel more confident and positive about their job or career too.
  4. The certification is not the sole reason you are offering a higher salary. Remember, each employee or candidate brings with them a vast array of unique skills and personality. Be sure to not make a compensation decision based only on the fact that they went to school recently to earn a certificate. Instead, look at this as a positive and proactive behavior that means they are a stronger candidate than someone who has outdated skills. Look at the bigger picture and compensate for skills, experience, and attitude. 
  5. Get a current market report from PayScale to find out what the market value of the certificate is. 
    PayScale tracks many popular skills and certifications and will most likely have market data on the particular certification you are evaluating. The market report will show you the salary range for the position in question given the certification. Some certifications result in a bigger boost in salary than others, so make sure you’re keeping up with the market.

Get a free market report from PayScale to match one of your positions to the market pay for that job. PayScale Free Report.


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