It’s more obvious that resumes need to include work experience and education. But listing certifications on your resume correctly can be a bit fuzzy.
Getting certified in something normally involves completing an accredited institution’s course and passing its requirements. The types of certificates vary across industries, from technical jobs to healthcare jobs.
In this article, we’ll show you step by step how to correctly put certifications on your resume to make your candidacy stand out. Specifically, we’ll take a look at a few resume examples to learn:
Different than honors and awards, certifications may have to be to included on your resume, depending on the industry you’re applying to.
Hiring managers often use Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) to filter out resumes and narrow the pool of applicants. Therefore, certifications may be the key to beat ATS systems and make your resume more attractive than the competition.
What types of certifications should be included on a resume?
The first and most important step is to thoroughly read the job description. If you haven't looked at any job listings yet, search for jobs in your industry to find some. Let’s go over the various types of certifications you may find in the job description before figuring out where to put them on your resume.
1. Required Certifications on a Resume
Many professions require its employees to hold certain licenses or certifications. According to the BLS, over 65% of people employed in legal occupations hold licenses and certificates. 76% of Healthcare practitioners hold licenses and certifications.
Some professions may require more than one certificate. For examples, lawyers that have passed the bar need to indicate membership of a state’s bar. The job description will usually make required certifications clear. These certifications need to be listed on your resume.
Do you work in Nursing, Accounting, or Finance? These industries typically require licenses and certifications.
2. Recommended Certifications on a Resume
Employers often use certifications as a resume filter to narrow the pool of applicants. Some certifications can give employers more confidence that a candidate has the right qualifications for the job. For example, the IT Profession has many certificates that prove proficiency in network engineering.
Employers sometimes even compile statistics and report on the number of employees with particular qualifications. Listing highly desired certificates is a very effective way to make your resume stand out. Especially if you’re an entry level candidate or student!
Recommended certificates can sometimes be found in the job description.
3. Optional Certifications on a Resume
This category of certificates are usually not part of the employer’s resume filter criteria. However, including credible certificates can greatly improve your chances of winning an interview. Especially in those few seconds that employers look at your resume before deciding to either continue reading or toss the resume out.
Optional certificates might be very effective for college students as well as those changing careers. These certifications may also be a way to stand out if you're applying in industries such as Architecture and Engineering, where only 24% of those employed hold certifications.
If presented correctly, including optional certifications, such as those acquired from online courses or universities, can be a strategic way to get noticed and land an interview. As long as it’s relevant to the job, some optional certifications may appear as highly desirable.
Should online courses be included on a resume?
Have you acquired certifications through completing an online course? Even if they’re optional, these certifications can be a great addition to your resume. Even if they’re not listed in the job description.
Remember, the point of certificates on your resume is to prove to employers that you’re a qualified candidate. Therefore, certificates from online courses should only be included on your resume if they meet the following criteria:
1. The certificate is relevant to the position you’re applying to.
Example of Relevant certifications for a software engineering candidate
Incorrect — "Certification in Accounting"
Correct — "Certification in Full Stack Web Development, Full Stack Academy"
2. The certification is credible.
Ideally, the certificate is obtained by a credible institution that the employer would recognize. The more credible the certificate issuer, the more valuable the earned certificate.
Example of Credible certifications for a software engineering candidate
Incorrect — "Certification in Algorithms & Data Structures by Random YouTube Channel"
Correct — "Certification in Algorithms & Data Structures by Harvard University"
3. Save resume space for the most important information.
Listing online courses doesn’t take up valuable space on your resume that could instead be filled with actual relevant experience. Let’s get to that in a bit.
Online courses, such as those taken on Coursera or Udemy, should be carefully assessed using the above checklist. In addition, it’s more important to surface the backing institution (Penn State, Georgia Tech, etc.) than the actual platform the course was taken on (Udemy, Coursera, etc.).
Taking an online course that doesn’t necessarily yield official certifications may still be useful for advancing your career. Although not required, taking courses can show interest in a particular field. This can be especially useful to candidates targeting a job that requires skills not highlighted by the rest of your resume.
Some online courses only help demonstrate part of the required proficiency. These can be left out of your resume along with any others that aren’t taught by a well known institution. Lessons taught by the less official online courses can still be useful. For example, they would be great talking points with prospective employers. Save the valuable space on your resume!
Specify certified qualifications only
Correct — "Coding Boot Camp, Columbia Engineering 2019"
In summary, you should include online courses on your resume that:
Not only teaches you about the subject, but also guides you in producing real results that can be shown to employers
Relevant to the position you’re applying to
Certified by a credible institution or well known thought leader
How should certifications be listed on a resume?
Here’s information about a license or certificate that employers expect to see on a resume:
Full Name of Certification (not just abbreviation)
Name of Certifying Organization
Date of Certification Obtainment and Expiration (If Applicable)
Don't include just the abbreviation - Nurse Example
Specify official certifications only - Lawyer Example
Incorrect — "Passed the Bar in Ohio, 2019"
Correct — "Ohio State Bar, 2019"
Use the actual certification name
Incorrect — "Certified in Accounting"
Correct — "Certified Public Accountant (CPA)"
Where should certifications be listed on a resume?
By now, you should have identified required, recommended, and optional certifications to include on your resume. Placement of certifications on your resume is a vital step to make your resume stand out from the crowd of applicants. Especially as employers narrow the candidate pool by filtering resumes with Application Tracking Software!
Depending on the type of job and significance of the certification, there are 4 sections on your resume where you should include certifications.
Certifications in Contact Info on your Resume
The contact info section on your resume is the best place to put required certifications. This section is also the best place to include official credentials. It’s common practice for lawyers, doctors, dentists, accountants and others to include their credentials next to their name. See how that’s done in this nurse resume example:
The resume summary, or resume objective, section is a great place to include required as well as recommended certifications. It’s best practice to only include only one certification in this section. The majority of this space should be used to describe your resume objective.
Certifications in a Dedicated section on your Resume
For listing more than two certifications, we recommend creating a dedicated section on your resume. A resume format with a dedicated section works great for listing all relevant certificates - required, recommended, and optional.
We recommend taking advantage of this especially if you’re a licensed lawyer, doctor, accountant, or a student seeking an entry-level position!
Be sure to list certificates in its own section in reverse-chronological order. To improve chances of appearing after an ATS scan, place the dedicated sections right underneath the experiences section.
This works wonders for candidates applying to industries such as Information Technology. Take a look at how this IT Specialist resume example lists certifications in an easily noticeable dedicated section.
Do you need more space on your resume, like people with a lot of work experience? Another resume format that works great is a a small dedicated certificates section. This smart resume space-saving tactic is especially effective when the section is placed in the smaller column of a 2-column resume template.
Putting certifications in a side section is highly recommended for certificates that you’ve classified as optional. Or if you can fill major space on your resume with relevant experiences.
This data analyst resume example shows how strategic placement of a small dedicated Certifications section creates more room for the experience section.
Mistakes to avoid when listing Certifications on your Resume
Listing Old or expired certifications. Use these more of a talking point instead of taking precious resume space. For example, it’s better to mention that 4 year old Machine Learning certification to an employer in conversation. Always prioritize bullet points that you want to communicate in your resume.
Only using Certification Acronyms - Make sure you actually fully list out the certification name at least once before abbreviating. This greatly improves your chances of passing an ATS scan.
Including irrelevant certificates.
Including certifications on your resume can be a very effective way to make your resume stand out from the crowd. To recap, the steps to follow to include certifications on your resume:
Thoroughly read job descriptions
Identify required and recommended certificates.
Place selected certificates on your resume accordingly
Easy Resume’s customizable resume templates are designed and optimized for listing both required and recommend certifications on your resume. Save hours of time reinventing your own resume format to include certifications. Get your resume ready in minutes with our free resume builder.
Rohit is a software engineer, entrepreneur, and investor with a passion for helping others advance in their career. He interviews experts across different industries, researches job market trends, and provides career advice at every step of the job search process.