As an extra section on a resume, certifications can be helpful in making your candidacy stand out in the application process. Whether you have a long academic career with several degrees or masters, or vocational or technical courses which have resulted in professional certificates, there are many ways to include certifications on a resume to attract the hiring manager’s attention.
Certifications and extra qualifications demonstrate a passion for the industry or position of a candidate as well as give evidence of specific expertise and skills.
Professional licenses are vital to include on a resume to provide evidence of your suitability for the position, especially if these are requirements mentioned in the job description.
Find out the different acceptable forms of certifications to list on a resume in our guide on how to include certifications in a resume that will add value to your job application.
Remember, the hiring manager for any vacancy will spend no more than 6-8 seconds on a preliminary scan of your resume, so you need to ensure you include your best resume certifications where they can be seen.
Creating a winning resume can be a challenge for some jobseekers and finding the best way to include certifications on a resume is critical for some occupations, whether the applicant is seeking an entry-level position or is applying for a similar post to the one already held.
To get a headstart with your resume, you can either check out our guide on how to write an effective resume or try using an online resume builder which will show you how to include the right professional certifications and licenses where it matters most.
Listing certifications on the resume
Showing certifications on a resume is key to standing out in the running for a job vacancy which is why it’s so important to understand how to indicate resume certifications, memberships and licenses.
- Firstly, each applicant should assess their different certificates and decide whether or not each certificate is relevant and significant enough to be included.
Some jobseekers will have a long list of certifications to be mentioned on a resume while others may have very few or none at all. That is why it’s essential to decide which are your best resume additional certifications so as not to include unnecessary details.
- It is crucial for candidates to distinguish between what should be included in a certificates section on a resume and what should be classed as honors and awards. Keep in mind that certain accomplishments may have given you a certificate but they do not always fit the category of certifications and licenses for a resume. If in doubt, remember to refer to the job vacancy and stick to only using relevant certifications, either necessary or recommended for the job description.
- Depending on the candidate’s professional profile and the amount of pertinent certifications they have, some jobseekers may wish to create a certifications and licenses resume section dedicated specifically to this information, following the format explained below.
Whereas, there will be applicants who can simply add the suitable certifications in other resume sections such as education or training.
- Where to include certifications on a resume can also depend on the importance of each qualification. Even if you decide to create a separate section, there remains the question as to where to put a certifications section. Each candidate can choose whether to include this section before their academic information but it is vital not to list certifications on a resume as an afterthought if they are relevant to the position you’re applying to.
- Finally, if the certifications that you choose to include list on a resume are also considered credentials or are requirements for the vacancy on offer, it is highly recommended to indicate the licenses or certifications in various sections.
This could be as part of the initial name and contact information as initials in the case of licensed accountants, lawyers, doctors, nurses etc. Or you could allude to the diploma or license in a resume objective or skills section.
These are a few tips for including certifications on a resume but for more structured resume help, you could try using a resume template to ensure an HR-approved resume layout including resume boosting certifications.
Resume certifications format
The generally accepted format for a resume certifications section follows certain rules:
- Write each certification in reverse chronological order, beginning with the most recently achieved or any that are in progress.
- Do not include less important or irrelevant certifications or licenses that you have that do not relate to the job opening. If you feel they may not be directly related but could help your job application, it is advisable to include them in another area such as training, skills or accomplishments.
- Any acronyms should be written out in full at least once in order to be understood by hiring managers who are not specialist in your area and also to register on Applicant Tracking Software (ATS) that many larger companies use in the hiring process.
- The acceptable certification format should use the following structure:
Name of Certification/License/Membership
Name of Certifying body
Dates obtained and expiration (if applicable)
Location (if State appropriate)
- The acceptable certification format should use the following structure:
To construct a winning resume that is easy to read and appeals directly to the prospective employer, check out our guide on how to format a resume or use an online resume builder to get expert advice on ways to write each resume section.
Using expired certifications on a resume
It is not acceptable to list old or expired certifications on a resume. If you have a certain certificate from a course or license from a degree etc. that has a possible expiry date, it is vital that you renew your certification before this date in order to include it on your resume.
In the case you’re taking a course or have not yet completed the necessary requirements to be licensed in a specific area, you can include these certifications, simply by adding ‘in progress’ to the description and stipulating the anticipated completion date.
Finally, it is very important to not include any certifications that you do not possess, that is to say it is strongly advised not to lie on a resume!
Types of certifications to include on the resume
There are different types of certifications that should be included on a resume depending on the type of jobseeker and the industry and position that the resume is for.
An appropriate resume certification could be vocational, technical or academic such as Master degrees or extra courses. Certifications to list on a resume also include any professional licenses, courses and certificates authorized by prestigious organizations, universities, societies etc. which provide evidence to show that the candidate has the relevant training and expertise to take on the responsibilities required of the successful applicant.
Certifications that shouldn’t be included as key elements of a resume but could be added in a cover letter or in a different section to provide evidence of other knowledge and to demonstrate enthusiasm and initiative for learning are certificates that you have been awarded for participating in free online courses such as Udemy or Lynda etc. as they are accessible by everyone and do not always provide a professional source.
Certifications in nursing, teaching, IT, driving, accounting, language, project management, hospitality, etc. are considered official and vital for a job seeker whose resume looks to capture the attention of hiring managers in that particular industry.
Some examples of appropriate certifications to list on a resume are the following:
ServSafe (Food handling certification for hospitality industry)
OSHA Certification (Used in health and safety for multiple industries)
PMP – Project Management Professional Certification
ESL Certification (or other language certifications)
CPA – Certified Public Accountant
RN – Registered Nurse + Speciality
PEM – Professional Engineering Manager Certification
CBAP – Certified Business Analysis Professional
CDL – Commercial Driver’s License
Certifications on a resume Examples
As it can be challenging to know how to list certifications on a resume, we’ve created some samples for you to use as a guide:
- Professional Secretarial Certificate, Detroit City College, Detroit, MI
- Notary Public, NYS Division of Licensing Services, New York
- Safe ChildCare Certification, Boecker Public Health Academy & Chartered Institute of Environmental Health
- Food Handler Certificate, ServSafe Online (exp. January 2019)
- First Aid, American Red Cross (exp. May 2020)
- QuickBooks Desktop Certificate, Intuit Quickbooks & Certiport
These resume certification examples can help candidates find the best way to include their relevant certificates but to facilitate the task, it’s also possible to use a resume builder that will have a ready-made certifications section to complete step-by-step.