Certifications without a college degree

We talk a lot about education here at the Management and Strategy Institute.  It’s always fun to talk with our customers about their goals and which certifications may be best for them.  We have such a diverse group of customers, all with different backgrounds and goals.  Some of our members have college degrees and some don’t.  Many times this will bring up an interesting question – Does having certifications on your resumé help make up for the lack of a college degree?
Lets break down some of the different aspects of having a certification without a college degree and analyze them:


Can a certification be a replacement for a college degree?

Probably not.  In the world of business, having a college degree is considered the minimum requirement.  You don’t necessarily need a degree in “business”, but some type of degree in your chosen field is important.

That doesn’t mean that people without a degree shouldn’t hold a certification.  In fact, having certifications will be critical since there isn’t any other relevant education to show.  The important factor is not to get over-certified in an attempt to compensate for the lack of a degree.  For example, it would seem unusual for someone without a degree to hold a Six Sigma Black Belt or Supply Chain Management certification.  That is unless they hold a substantial amount of practical experience in those roles.

A more fitting option would be to hold a Six Sigma Green Belt and an entry-level Project Management certification.  These certifications show that you are adding to your skillset, yet not over-selling your abilities.

Can a certification help my resumé?

Almost certainly!  Certifications show that you are actively learning new skills and having your knowledge tested by a 3rd party.  If you’re applying for a job position that has a very specific task, employers may overlook the lack of a college degree if your certification meets their specifications.
The economy is also very strong right now (June 2017) and employers are having trouble filling all the open positions.  They may not be able to find someone with a college degree to fill every position, so certifications may help fill that void.

Education is just one part of your larger employment picture:

Remember, when applying for a new job it isn’t just about your level of education or the certifications that you hold.  Your online social-profile, the wording and formatting of your resumé, your work experience, and your personal appearance are equally important.  Make sure your resumé reflects the best “snapshot” of you as possible.  Consider hiring a resumé writing service if you aren’t sure how to format your CV best.

What level of certification should I pick?

Don’t try to over-sell yourself with certifications.  Having 10 separate certifications on your resumé doesn’t balance out the lack of a college degree.  Try to select mid-level certifications that will reflect well on you and your career, but not give the impression of trying to oversell yourself.
Certifications like our Six Sigma Lean Green Belt or Project Management Qualified are excellent mid-level certifications.  Depending on the industries you’re interested in working in, some other excellent choices are Corporate Trainer Certified, Event Planner, Social Media Manager or Ethics.