Energy Management and Lighting, Fire Safety, Human Resources, Maintenance and Operations, Safety, Training

The Value of Skilled Trade Certifications: A Pathway to Career Advancement and Safety

Certifications have become a cornerstone in the professional development of skilled trade workers, particularly in the fire, electrical, and life safety realms. Certification programs are designed to be comprehensive, promoting competency and safety in various specialized domains. In today’s competitive job market, the value of certifications extends far beyond a mere acknowledgment of skills; it plays a pivotal role in career advancement, increased earning potential, and improved job performance.

The Real-World Return on Certifications

Unlike traditional educational programs, which often focus on theoretical concepts, certifications focus on practical abilities and real-world applications. To earn a certification, individuals need to prove their deep knowledge and competence in their respective roles, providing employers with tangible evidence of their capabilities.

Unlike a one-and-done college degree, certifications are dynamic credentials that require individuals to maintain them over time through renewal, continuous training, and professional development. For example, Certified Fire Protection Specialists (CFPS) must renew their certifications every year and recertify every three years. This enables CFPS-certified professionals to showcase their commitment to staying current with today’s industry trends and technological and safety advancements. Additionally, it ensures certified individuals not only possess the skills at the time of certification, but also continue to deepen their knowledge as the industry evolves.

It’s worth noting that most certifications require prior experience and background knowledge. For example, in order to be eligible for the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) Water-Based Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance (WBITM) certification related to fire protection systems, individuals need at least five years of verifiable full-time work experience in the same field. This emphasis on practical experience ensures professionals are well equipped to handle the challenges of their specific industries.

Beyond self-improvement, perpetual learning, and the verification of core competencies, certifications offer professionals several tangible benefits in their career trajectories and job searches:

  • Increased earning potential. Earning relevant certifications can boost annual salaries by as much as 20%. In practice, this can happen in two ways. Having certifications gives professionals more power in salary negotiations, whether it be within their existing role and company or a new one. Alternatively, certifications empower employees to expand their skill sets and earn promotions and management positions more quickly, thus leading to better compensation over time.
  • Competitive edge in the hiring process. Certifications act as powerful tools for skilled trade professionals to stand out to hiring managers. Organizations look for certifications; a highly certified workforce is a strong selling point for organizations, as they enable them to tout deep expertise to prospects and clients. Plus, hiring managers often use certifications as both a predictor of future success and a quick reference point to identify candidates with the necessary skills and knowledge, thereby streamlining the recruitment process. A good example of the utility of certifications in the hiring process can be found in the renewable energy sector, which has recently seen a surge in available certification opportunities. Renewable energy is a relatively new and rapidly growing industry with lots of newcomers who might not yet have several years of experience in the field. By earning a solar panel installation or wind turbine technician certification, professionals can bolster their existing experience and fast-track their careers in clean energy.

How to Make the Most of Certifications

Certifications require time and effort before, during, and after the actual exam. With so many providers and options on the market today, it’s critical that skilled trade professionals do their due diligence to ensure they truly see the return on this investment in themselves and their careers. Consider the following tips:

  1. Do your research. Often, certifications are required for specific roles. Other times, they’re an additional step you elect to take. If becoming certified is your choice, make sure it’s going to be a worthwhile investment. Talk to peers, mentors, and do individual research to determine which certifications best fit your specific area of expertise and career goals.
  2. Know what to look for in a certification program. Carefully consider certain aspects when choosing certifications. First and foremost, ensure your certification comes from a reliable certification body that carries weight in your industry. Portability is another key factor, as it ensures certifications are recognized globally and not limited to specific regions. A well-rounded certification program should reflect expertise in performing a role across diverse contexts, providing you with versatility. Additionally, digital certifications have become increasingly useful to many. The ability to take certification exams remotely through online platforms reduces costs and enhances accessibility for professionals in remote locations. Seek certification program criteria that align with your career goals and offer flexibility if needed.
  3. Market your certifications. Certifications aren’t magic wands that work on their own once you earn them—you have to actively leverage them. Once you complete a certification, add it to your resume, business card, email signature, and LinkedIn profile. Tout your expertise to clients, and don’t be afraid to let people in your network know what you’ve achieved.

Certifications are indispensable assets for skilled trade professionals in fire, electrical, and life safety, offering a pathway to career growth, increased salaries, and enhanced job performance. As industries continue to evolve, certifications play a vital role in ensuring the competence and safety of professionals, their organizations, and their clients. Skilled trade professionals should embrace certifications as dynamic tools for personal and career development, utilizing them to stand out to hiring managers and demonstrating their commitment to excellence in their respective fields.

The journey does not end with certification; it marks the beginning of a path through a never-evolving professional landscape where the proactive pursuit of knowledge and recognition becomes the key to sustained success in fire and life safety.

Dan Pickel is director of certification and accreditation at the NFPA.

ALSO READ: 12 Facilities Management Certifications to Consider for 2024

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