The Value of Professional Certification

I recently spoke with someone interested in pursuing an APICS certification. Initially I expected she wanted direction on which APICS certification to pursue (CPIM, CLTD or CSCP). However, as we spoke the discussion evolved into why pursue a certification at all. I explained some professions require certifications/on-going training. For example, I have a friend who is a physician’s assistant and goes through professional training every six years. In his case, value of training is simple, maintain your training or get fired. But in the general supply chain world, it is a bit more nebulous. What is the value of going through training and pursuing a certification? Click here to read more about popular supply chain certifications. Here I briefly recap some of the key points I presented in our discussion about pursuing an APICS certification.

  1. If you are early in your career, certification will certainly improve your general knowledge of the supply chain profession and help you in your day to day job. For example, on my first job I was tasked with implementing a Kanban driven material replenishment system. About one month into the project, I was moving inventory from the warehouse to a supermarket on the manufacturing floor. Before long the materials planners were looking for their inventory which resulted in looking for me. They took the time to sit with me and explain the concept of material requirements planning (MRP) and the impact of accurate on hand inventory records. Later when I pursued CPIM, I chuckled when I read about MRP and the inventory management discipline required to support a good system. Click here to read more about the benefits of CPIM certification.
  2. If you are established in your career, certification can open your mind to different processes in the supply chain. Another personal example. I recently studied for CLTD and developed a new appreciation for many transportation related workflows and practices including container management. Container management and tracking is a huge business and a potential choke point for the growing international trade market.
  3. If you are considering changing jobs or are in the process of looking for a job, pursuing any certification should put you near the top of the list of potential candidates. Many materials management related job postings will list CPIM as a preference.
  4. If you are in sales or consulting, APICS certification can add to your credibility or at minimum give you a connection point with your customer if they also happen to hold an APICS certification. Think trusted advisor.
  5. The pursuit of any professional development activity generally says something about the person. To me it is an indicator you are interested enough in your career to invest both the time and money to improve. A few years into my career I decided to pursue an MBA in the evenings at a local university. While the diploma was not from a nationally recognized program I expect my 2-year commitment and dedication to achieving the degree says more than the degree itself.
  6. Once you receive your certification you may be more valuable outside your current company. I’ve seen this before. It’s part economic and part psychology. If your current company is not growing or does not place value on certifications you may need to change companies to leverage your investment in the certification. Alternatively, if your boss sees you as an inventory clerk regardless of your recent CPIM certification, changing companies may be your best bet in improving your career.

The value of certification will depend in where you are in your career and your individual objectives. I expect your return on investment will be measured in both more money and a more satisfying work life.