Many engineers wonder if they should pursue professional certifications and what to pursue. There are hundreds of certifications globally, so the answer isn’t as straightforward as it should be. Simply put, the decision to get a certification is never a poor decision. However, there are important things to consider before committing. Certifications help you gain credibility, increase your marketability, and broaden your professional knowledge. But, with so many certifications in existence, it can be easy to spend time and money chasing the wrong one.
What are Engineering Certification Programs?
Certifications are credentials that engineers earn outside of their formal education. Typically, engineers complete their bachelor’s or master’s degrees, work in industry, and then pursue certifications. Engineering certifications are based on rigorous standards and ongoing research to meet the real-world needs of organizations and professional engineering. There are numerous professional certifications relevant to the engineering industry. These certifications are governed and managed by issuing organizations, which set the standards, judge applicants, and award the certifications.
The general path to earning an industry certification is straightforward. Certifying agencies will require you to train, apply, and test to earn your certificate.
To be more specific, certifying agencies first want you to conduct some formalized training. The certifying agency offers this training, or an outside organization can also provide it. Next, certifying agencies will require a formal application. This application verifies your experience in the subject matter. Certification demonstrates expertise, and one of the critical aspects of expertise is experience.
Finally, almost all certifications will have a knowledge test. The test confirms your knowledge of the specific certification standards. Often, certifying exams can be the most significant barrier to engineers earning a certification.
Engineering Certification Process
Should you get a professional certification? An engineering certification is an excellent idea if you have earned your degree and have a few years of experience under your belt. There are multiple reasons to pursue a new credential, but these credentials also have a cost. The training, application process, studying, and exams are all investments of time and money, so it is important to ensure that the benefits are greater than the cost.
Once you earn a credential, you can officially apply it to your professional brand and start displaying it in important areas like your resume file, LinkedIn page, or email signature line. The right credential can reap significant benefits for your career. In general, certifications will provide your professional brand with the following positive impacts.
Earning a certification can provide a stamp of approval from an objective organization. This stamp of approval assures future employers that you are experienced and hirable. Certifications are proof that you know what you are doing. They can provide external validation that you have the right skills to succeed. Certifications can also help people with college degrees in unrelated fields gain access to a new field.
Certifications distinguish job candidates. If you are in the job market or considering a career change, certifications give you an advantage over other applicants that helps you stand out. Rarely will a certification alone secure the job, but it will certainly get your foot in the door.
Advancement and Salary
Voluntarily earning a certification is evidence of an individual’s drive and motivation. Employers and managers notice the certifications you earn, which increases your chances of promotion or advancement to leadership positions.
Leadership and management responsibilities have a strong correlation to compensation. According to the ATD’s 2019 Talent Development Salary and Benefits Report, the median US salary for Engineering individual contributors was $75,000, while the median salary for managers and leaders was $88,0000. If your goal is to advance in your organization and earn more money, find out what certifications your employer expects people in leadership positions to have.
Certifications provide a legitimate means to build knowledge in a specific area and stay up to date on trends within an engineering discipline. Annually, certifying agencies update their curriculum, requirements, standards, and best practices to fit the trends of their industry. This means that engineers can learn new skills, refresh old skills, and maintain the relevancy of their knowledge through certifications.
Examples of Popular Engineering Certifications
Engineers will want to consider pursuing the certifications below for their professional development. This table comprises the industry-leading certifications that employers and customers value significantly. There is no precedence in this list, each certification has its own merits, and engineers should consider all the options.
|Lean Six Sigma Greenbelt||LSSGB||IASSC, ASQ, others|
|Lean Six Sigma Blackbelt||LSSBB||IASSC, ASQ, others|
|Project Management Professional||PMP||PMI|
|Professional Licensed Engineer||PE||NCEES|
|Engineer In Training||EIT||NCEES|
|Certified Information Systems Security Professional – Architecture||CUSSP||(ISC)2|
|Certified Quality Engineer||CQE||ASQ|
|Certified Manufacturing Engineer||CMfgE||SME|
Engineering Certificate Online
Engineers could earn each of the listed certifications entirely online. Earning a certification has never been more accessible than it is now. If any of these certifications pique your interest, it is recommended that you start your search for online training programs at the issuing organization.
Many issuing organizations will list their preferred sources for candidates to receive training. This can help you avoid poorly organized and scam training programs. The global professional and management development training industry is massive, with a value of $366.2 billion in 2018. There are hundreds of programs and companies touting their professional development courses, so selecting the best, not the cheapest, certifying organizations is vitally important.
Unlike university courses, taking online training programs for certifications rarely requires prerequisite courses or degrees. There is an experience and education requirement for earning some of these certifications. For example, the Project Management Professional certification requires the equivalence of five years of project management experience or a bachelor’s degree and three years of experience. However, there is no prerequisite to receiving PMP-qualified project management training.
The standard across many certification training programs is to provide instruction asynchronously. Asynchronous programs provide all instruction and study on a self-paced basis. Busy engineers with complex schedules benefit from these types of programs.
Conversely, some engineers prefer real-time, online instruction. These types of courses are also offered online for most certifications. Real-time programs provide an added level of accountability and focus to engineers who would otherwise find it challenging to complete the training on a self-paced basis.
Certification Cost and Commitment
If it were easy and free to earn professional certifications, everyone would have them, and they would no longer be distinguishable. Part of the value that employers see in credentials is the professional dedication, maturity, and focus that they require.
Each of the certifications in the table above costs money to earn. The fee structure for most certifications is the same. Applicants will pay for training and study materials, be charged an application fee for applying to the certification, and be charged a fee to sit for the formal certification examination. The entire process can cost between $500 and $3,000 when complete. Many certifications also require periodic renewal through further professional development courses and materials, which incur an additional cost.
For many professional engineers, the financial cost is justifiable for the future benefits that the certification provides. Certifications also require a significant time commitment. The time commitment can be an unforeseen challenge for many engineers who lead busy and mentally stressful careers. Certifications like the Engineer in Training or Professional Engineer certification require over a year of intense study. Before starting one of these programs, it is essential to plan out exactly how you intend to dedicate time to complete the program properly.
Featured Certification: Lean Six Sigma Green Belt and Black Belt (LSSGB and LSSBB)
The Lean Six Sigma process improvement methodology focuses on managing and improving the efficiency and effectiveness of processes. This methodology plays a vital part in the everyday work of many engineers, and so it is a well-regarded certification for the industry. The Black Belt is the higher tier certification. It takes more training, experience, and knowledge when compared to the Green Belt Certification.
LSSGB & LSSBB Online
Engineers can earn Lean Six Sigma certifications online through multiple development and training programs offered at the certifying organizations and many universities and colleges. Many Six Sigma courses are also provided in online asynchronous settings, allowing students to complete the course at their own pace.
LSSGB & LSSBB Cost and Commitment
Most Green and Black Belts are earned through tailored online training and certification programs. These tailored training programs guide engineers through training, study, and testing, providing a full-suite solution to achieving the credential. Because of their robust nature, these programs can cost between $800 and $3,000 for both the Green Belt and Black Belt. Green Belt programs typically take four to six months to complete, while Black Belt Programs take eight months to a full year. A cheaper alternative to these programs is conducting self-study and seeking credentialing directly through the ASQ or IASSC organizations. The cost for this approach ranges from $200 to $500.