As associate director for continuing education at Towson University Center for Professional Studies, I get a lot of questions about professional certifications.

Professional certifications vary, of course, by industry, but in general, they are a short yet deep dive into a specific subject. Most often, they combine a classroom experience with applied learning, followed by an exam to earn an industry recognized credential. The best ones enable you to put letters after your name and most have eligibility requirements to which you must adhere. So this may impress your friends and relatives but what about employers?

More Than A Resume Builder

A good credentialing program should be more than just a resume builder, especially for those who have some experience but need a way to make it tangible. For many employers, professional certifications demonstrate that you have certifiable skills in the specific discipline for which you have been trained. In other words, it’s a process that allows you to prove you have the knowledge, experience, and skills to perform a specific job or move up from your current position.

So I decided to fully research the subject and synthesize the results to determine the top seven best professional certifications. Hope you can bear a little alphabet soup because professional certification world is filled with acronyms.

Top Seven Professional Certifications

  • OMCP: Online marketing certified professional is the industry’s premier certification for online marketing professionals who have had training, verified experience, and have demonstrated knowledge of online marketing concepts and best practices across multiple digital marketing disciplines.
  • Security +: This IT certification credential comes from the highly respected CompTIA organization and is globally trusted to validate foundational, vendor-neutral IT security knowledge and skills. This certification covers the essential principles for network security and risk management – making it an important stepping stone for an IT security career.
  • PHR®: Professional Human Resource is a credential that has been around since 1976. It is the premier credential for human resource professionals. This certification demonstrates mastery of the technical and operational aspects of HR practices and U.S. laws and regulations. The professionally relevant credential is for the HR professional who focuses on program implementation, has a tactical/logistical orientation, and has responsibilities that focus on the HR department.
  • ICGB: This certifies that a candidate is a Lean Six Sigma Greenbelt, a professional who is well versed in the Lean Six Sigma Methodology and who both leads and/or supports improvement projects. A Lean Six Sigma Green Belt possesses a thorough understanding of all aspects within the phases of D-M-A-I-C, how to perform and interpret Six Sigma tools and how to use standard principles of Lean.
  • SCPro™: This certification is for professionals in supply chain management. It is a rigorous, three-level certification process which validates one’s ability to strategically assess business challenges and effectively implement supply chain improvements. Only SCPro™ requires an analysis of real world case studies and develop a comprehensive project plan to achieve results.
  • CCENT: Cisco Certified Entry Level Technician (CCENT) certification as an interim step to the Cisco Certified Technician (CCT) certification. Cisco has been a dominant force in internet networking devices since the mid 1990’s and is widely accepted as the global industry leader. With a CCENT certification, one demonstrates the skills for entry-level network positions with the skills to diagnose, restore, repair, and replace critical Cisco networking and system devices.
  • PMP: This seem to be the number 1 credential on most everybody’s list. Project Management Professionals are recognized across multiple industries which makes this a very popular and sought after certification. PMP’s can be found leading projects in nearly every country making the PMP truly global.

The two most transferrable across multiple industry sectors are the ICGB for lean six sigma and the PMP for project management. Both of those skills sets are specific to a body of knowledge and are needed by many types of industries from business and government to healthcare and manufacturing.

And the credential that represents the fastest growing industry? Well, that would be supply chain management which, according to Forbes Magazine, is expected to need 1.4 million new skilled workers by 2018.

Towson University Center for Professional Studies currently offers training and exam preparation for four out of these seven. As for the others, plans are underway to expand our course offerings.