Qualifications are given a great deal of importance by both employers and jobseekers in the modern world, and with good reason. Not only do they show that the person applying for a job is equipped with the academic and vocational skills to make their role an effective one, but qualifications show that a person is keen to learn, to better themselves, and to invest time and effort in their professional lives. However, it’s not just as simple a process as ‘get a qualification, get a job’. Anyone looking to get some more qualifications under their belt needs to ask a few ‘where’ and ‘why’ questions to ensure that, not only is the qualification right for them and their career path, but that it is actually worth something in the first place.

 The first consideration that needs to be made is to the legitimacy of the qualification. For instance, anyone can go online, search for how to complete an online degree or diploma, and start learning. However, there are many institutions out there that will offer job based or vocational qualifications with questionable accreditations, very often with out-dated or less relevant accrediting bodies, or worse still, with no formal accreditation at all. This, in effect, makes the qualification useless on paper. If there is no accreditation, there is no way to evaluate and verify the usefulness and, more importantly, the quality of the learning program that led to the awarding of that new, shiny piece of paper (or, in some cases, an impressive looking PDF file.) So whilst it may seem like a basic point, check for an accreditation for any institution, and while you’re there, check that the accrediting body is respected, professionally regarded and current.

 Anyone looking to expand their skill set also needs to ask themselves how relevant the qualification they are looking at is going to be. It’s all very well heading to college and studying for a diploma in Health and Safety, but will that be even remotely useful to someone who, for instance, plans to pursue a career in accounting? Many government subsidies mean diploma and certificated courses are often reduced in price or free altogether, but it is then easy to forget how much time is wasted chasing a qualification that will be of little to no use in the future. The key consideration, therefore, is to look at the syllabus for any course, measure up and assess how much of the subject material is relevant, and make an informed choice.

 There is no doubting that getting a professional qualification boosts one’s career prospects if done properly. If someone heads to a job interview with a CIMA qualification for example, the prospective employer is not only going to be more convinced that they have an active, dedicated learner in front of them, but in a more professionally mercenary sense, the employer can be reassured that they may not have to invest so much in the employee thanks to the fact they have already completed and achieved the necessary qualifications for the job. But it’s also important to remember that getting a professional qualification just for the sake of it can also negatively affect job prospects and personal effectiveness; turn up to an interview with a long list of irrelevant, unverified ‘qualifications’ and the employer may assume the applicant is simply a letter collector, and even worse, those unaccredited diplomas will look unprofessional and potentially useless. For the person thinking of embarking on any professional qualification, there is the risk of spreading oneself too thinly; it’s easy to get five diplomas in various unrelated subjects, but this is time wasted, especially when that time could be better used to get a comprehensive, relevant and truly rewarding professional qualification.

 The question of whether the reader should get a professional qualification is best judged and answered by the reader themselves. Will the cost of the course be outweighed by higher wages once the qualifications are achieved? Is the subject matter relevant to current or future professional interests? Is the qualification from a trusted and high performing institution? Can the potential student afford the time, money and effort involved to get the best out of the course? In some career fields, a professional qualification may be mandatory, and in these instances, getting that piece of paper is a no brainer. Regardless of how many ways it’s thought about and mulled over, it’s necessary to bring home money and sustain or advance one’s career. But where it’s an aspirational qualification, it needs to be carefully considered and both sides measured up before jumping in or running away.

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