Certifications are credentials earned by an individual or organization to verify their authority and ability to perform a job. They are earned to show that you or your organization have specific skills or knowledge, and they are often tied to an industry, technology or occupation.

An individual or organization’s certification is usually offered by an authoritative company that specializes in the relevant field or technology. It is often displayed in a document that states that you have been trained, educated and can competently meet a certain criteria for your occupation. Certifications are only awarded after an individual or organization has passed the required assessments given by a recognized third-party certification body.

Professional certifications can help people progress faster in their careers, particularly in specialized industries such as accounting, insurance, information technology or human resources. This is because they offer assurance of an individual’s professional competencies and abilities, alongside work experience and a professional degree.

In this guide, we define certifications further, explain what is meant by certification and the benefits of certifications for professionals and organizations.

The definition of certification

In general terms, a certification can be defined as a formal confirmation that a person, organization or object possesses certain characteristics – this should be evaluated by some form of external assessment, review or audit.

There are many different types of certifications, including certifications for businesses, products and professionals. By definition, they must be given by a third party. This means that an individual, organization or business cannot certify (give certification) to itself. Someone or a body other than the first party must do the evaluation.

What is meant by certification?

All certifications should include an audit, review or assessment of the relevant individual, organization, business or product. For an individual, this review or assessment verifies that they have the knowledge or skills for competent performance in their occupation.

None of the below are sufficient for certification:

  • Graduation from an educational program or degree
  • Completing a training course
  • Years of experience in your field

Whilst the above are accomplishments in themselves, they do not qualify as criteria for being certified. They do indeed signal that an individual is likely to have the competence in their field, but there is also the possibility that the individual could have completed their training and not have learned what they were supposed to at a sufficient level.

It is also possible that an individual could have plenty of years of experience in their field, but still not have the professional competence required.

To summarize, qualifications like education, training and experience do tell employers or prospective clients something about a professional, but they are not a guarantee that the individual has the knowledge or skill level for competent performance. This is why neutral, third-party certification is crucial in certain industries as a means of providing valid evidence of competence.

Certifications for organizations, businesses and products

Organizations, businesses and products can be certified by a certifying body (another organization) for meeting particular standards for safety and other crucial areas.

A popular and common international certification for organizations and businesses is ISO 9001. This certification verifies to the public and potential customers that the business has been reviewed by a third party and has been found to be in conformity with the International Organization for Standardization’s standard of quality management principles, including a strong customer focus, top management and continual improvement.

Product certification is the process of certifying that a product has passed multiple performance and quality assurance tests to confirm that it meets regulations and specifications in its market.

The benefits of certification for employers

Professional certification can show your dedication to your profession and verify to employers that you are competent to perform your job role effectively. The dedication required to obtain certifications can show future employers that you are serious about your field and you could gain recognition for your commitment to continuous self-improvement.

Some industries and employers might require a certification to apply for a job. As such, many job seekers earn certifications to help them progress in their careers.

Other benefits of professional certification include:

Professional credibility

Professional certification is valuable to employers, so much so that many require relevant certifications to be hired as an employee or consultant.

They demonstrate your professionalism and adherence to the highest standards in your industry. Above all, they show your willingness to keep learning. These certifications can increase your credibility in your professional network, with clients and in your industry as a whole.

Earning potential

Being professionally certified in your field could increase your earning potential. Professional qualifications can allow you to be hired at a higher position in a company (with a higher starting pay).

If you remain up to date with your certifications’ renewals and advancements in your industry, you could also receive better raises and promotions in the future.

Competitive advantage against other candidates

Professional certifications can give you an advantage over the competition in other candidates when applying for roles. They can make your resume stand out among other applicants, and could even be a deciding factor for getting hired or promoted over another person.

The job market gets more and more competitive each year, so it’s important to keep up with the latest advancements in your profession to remain competitive.

Hit the ground running

At the start of your career, having professional certifications can mean that you’re able to hit the ground running more easily than other recruits. The advanced knowledge and extra training that you receive when preparing for certification can ensure that you are more prepared for a job role than others.

As such, employers appreciate professional certifications. It saves them money and valuable resources, such as time training new starters.

Knowledge and skill set

Keeping up to date on trends and advancements in your industry can help you incorporate new processes in your job role, and potentially train others in your team.

Continually growing your knowledge and skill set will enable you to stay ahead of others in your field, and also make you indispensable to your employer.


This guide has explained what certifications are and highlighted their benefits. Not only do certifications verify an individual’s ability and authority to perform a job, but they also have a number of benefits for job seekers in the eyes of employers.

It’s a continuous challenge for employers to make the best choices when recruiting. As recruiters can never know how candidates will perform in their role, professional certifications provide a degree of reassurance regarding an individual’s competence.

Questionmark’s online assessment tools can help you to carry out assessments for certifications, as well as other forms of tests such as pre-hire employment testing. The platform provides secure, reliable, and accurate assessments, giving you the tools you need to create and deliver tests then analyse and report on the results.

Book a demo today.