Certificates add an ounce of credibility to your application.
They’re not the same as a formal qualification but they do indeed highlight your knowledge and skills, which is why they can help make your resume stand out to the hiring manager.
In this guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know about resume certificates including:
- The main types of certificates/licenses to put on your resume
- When and when not to include them
- How to list certifications on resume
- How to describe your certificates
- Where to earn relevant certifications
Certifications vs Licenses: Is There a Difference?
The key difference is that licenses are legally required to be able to perform certain activities. In contrast, certifications aren’t mandatory but can help demonstrate expertise in a particular field.
For example, a real estate license is often essential to legally work as a real estate agent or broker. However, a real estate certificate that you earned from an online course wouldn’t be sufficient.
How you would include a certification or license on a resume though are pretty much the same.
5 Main Types of Certifications to Put on Your Resume
Any accredited courses you completed can be mentioned. However, they must be relevant to the job you’re applying for.
A professional certification mainly showcases technical skills directly related to the job responsibilities. These are awarded by an established institution or organization. For example, if you’re making an application for a copywriter role, you might include certifications from the digital copywriting course you completed with IDM.
This is a certificate awarded for completing a specific course or training program as a student under the main formal qualification you’re working towards. Or, these could be achieved through extended academic activities.
Popular examples of language certificates include:
- Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)
- International English Language Testing System (IELTS)
- Japanese-Language Proficiency Test (JLPT)
Software certificates are awarded to show that you’re capable of using a particular software or technology such as:
- Google Analytics
- Microsoft Excel
Health and Safety Certificates
Examples of health and safety certificates include:
- Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
- AHA CPR Certification
- Nursing certifications
- First aid certification
When to Include Certifications on Resume
Here are 6 times to consider putting certifications on your resume.
It’s Related to the Job Responsibilities
Aside from your work experience and formal education, certificates give recruiters confidence that you have industry knowledge too. It can also be worth going in-depth by adding a bullet point or two describing what you did.
It’s Been Mentioned in the Job Description
The company might favor those with certain skills and experience with certain tools or platforms such as Google Analytics. In some cases, high proficiency with these software tools are job requirements and are therefore keywords in the applicant tracking systems.
In short, including keywords from the company’s job description by listing relevant certifications can help you land a job interview.
You’re Applying for an Internship or Entry-Level Role
Employers will still be on the lookout for other factors that prove you’re qualified for the role such as certificates and coursework. This is especially true for internship opportunities and entry-level positions.
You’re Changing Careers
Having limited or no work experience might feel disheartening. But a relevant achievement like a certificate or license that you earned shows that you’ve prepared yourself for the role. In this situation though, aim to highlight transferable skills too.
To Showcase Your Specialty
You might have a series of certificates for a particular area. Listing this on your resume would position you as a specialist and at first glance, the reader would easily see where your areas of expertise are.
Here’s a good example below from our Salesforce developer resume template.
You Have No Formal Education
Certificates can still be seen as awards and qualifications. Although they’re not always at the same level as a bachelor’s degree, they’re achievements that showcase your level of ability and knowledge.
When Not to Include Certifications on Resume
Find yourself in any of these situations below? You’re not alone – there are still ways to include your certificates such as:
- Using a general additional resume section where you can describe other relevant experiences
- Using a cover letter
If not, then you may have to resort to a two-page resume (which we wouldn’t recommend).
You Have Work Experience That’s More Relevant
Tempting as it may be to include a certificate, nothing beats work experience because it’s the most relevant thing you could write about to prove you’re capable of meeting the company’s expectations.
However, a prerequisite of some certificates might include work experience. In this case, determine whether this is more relevant than the other job position you could write about.
The things you learned from an outdated certificate may no longer be applicable. Though it can help highlight your career progression, it may not be the best thing to mention. If you still want to include this, then consider omitting the dates.
It Doesn’t Effectively Showcase Your Skills
Let’s say you’re writing an executive resume.
Listing certifications from uDemy wouldn’t be as effective compared to listing a timeline of your employment history. Unlike your formal work experience, the courses will be more limited in terms of writing about how you applied everything you know to solve a complex problem.
In other words, include certificates when it correlates with the level of job responsibilities.
How to List Certifications on Resume
We’ll go through step-by-step how to list certifications on your resume including tips to ensure that this section is well-formatted.
But with Rezi, you can skip the formatting process and get straight into the main details because everything is already laid out for you – see the steps below.
Step 1: Head over to the “certification” section for the resume you’re creating.
Step 2: Fill out the details.
Step 3: Repeat the process for other certificates that you want to list.
Step 4: Done!
Feel free to skip the entire process below by signing up here to get started for free!
1. Start With the Header of Your Resume Section
Put “certifications” as a header for your resume section and make this text bold and capitalized so that it stands out to the reader. You can also add a bold horizontal line underneath to separate the header from the other details below.
2. Enter the Subheaders Horizontally
The following details should be included as a subheader in bold text:
- Certification title
- Where you achieved the certificate
- The date you achieved the certificate
If the certification is ongoing, write that it’s “ongoing” or “in progress.” Another option is to only mention the year and omit the months. This should be listed horizontally with enough spacing so that it saves space and it’s clear enough for the reader.
3. Add Extra Certification Details (optional)
Write a sentence stating extra details such as modules and the skills that were covered. Here’s an example below from the marketing consultant resume template.
4. Use Bullet Points to Describe the Certificate (optional)
Describe how the certificate is relevant to the job position. Focus on writing about the skills you developed and what you gained experience in. See the example below from the senior quality engineer resume template.
5. Optimize the Format Based on Your Needs
You might not need to include extra details about your certifications…
And in some cases, you might even just list the certificates you earned in a single line so that they’re on your resume and don’t exceed the one-page limit. Here’s an example below from the senior HR manager resume template.
Optimize the format and content of the certifications section based on:
- How much space you have left
- How relevant it is to the job position
- Any skills or experience that you want to highlight
Where Else Could You Mention Certifications on a Resume?
There are 2 other sections where you could mention certificates on your resume.
Or perhaps you could include something similar – and that’s minors, i.e. what you minored in. This is useful when you have a degree that’s irrelevant but you completed a specific module that is directly related to the role.
Additional Resume Section
An additional resume section could include:
- Extracurricular activities
The reason you might put your certificate in one of these sections as opposed to a separate “certifications” section is to maintain a one-page resume. Since these other sections are more general, you can write about other relevant experiences too.
Tips to Make Your Resume Certifications Look Better
Now, we’ll give you 6 more resume tips to make the certifications on your application look amazing to a potential employer.
Choose Quality or Quantity
Decide how you want to highlight your certifications: through quality or through quantity.
This approach would focus on expanding on your certifications by adding extra details describing what you did.
This approach takes up less space on your resume. Whether you want to squeeze a single or a few certificates into your application, only include the essential information, i.e. the certificate title. But if possible, try to include the dates.
Highlight Relevant Skills
Make relevant skills clear by either mentioning them in the subheaders or by adding a bullet point. However, this won’t always be necessary since it might already be mentioned in the title of your certificate.
Reverse Chronological Order
List your certifications in reverse chronological order so that the reader will see the most recent accomplishments first. Hiring managers are more interested in your latest achievements because they tend to be the most relevant.
Mention a Quantified Achievement
A quantified achievement is one that makes the results clear by using data. Here’s a few examples:
- Achieved a 95% pass rate…
- Earned the XYZ certificate with a score in the top 10% of test takers
- Learned how to reduce costs by 50%
Sentences like this make your certificate look twice as good because they:
- Highlight your ability to go above and beyond
- Highlight that you know how to reach a certain outcome
Focus on One Particular Area
If possible, only list certificates that are specific to one area. This positions you more as a specialist with a defined skill set. For example, have a list of certificates related to digital marketing when applying for a marketing manager position.
Use an AI Resume Writer
Work smarter and not harder by using an AI resume writer designed to follow the best professional writing practices.
Here’s how it works with Rezi.
1. Go to the Involvement/Experience/Project section inside Rezi’s resume builder.
2. Enter the title/role
3. Press “generate bullet”
4. Either press “AI writer generate” to try again or press “apply suggestion” to save the bullet point to your resume.
This makes it easier to write your resume bullet points faster without ever having another blank.
Where to Collect Resume Certifications
If you’re looking to build up your resume, we’ve got you covered.
We’ll share a few different places where you can complete an accredited course. These certification programs will help you improve your skills as well as give your application a competitive edge.
3 Resume Examples With Impressive Certifications
We have a range of free resume templates including certifications for different job levels and industries. Check them out in our ATS resume library here!
Customer Insights Manager Resume
Senior Solutions Engineer Resume
Use Certificates to Stand Out or Fill Resume Gaps
Either list relevant certificates to make your resume stand out or to fill resume gaps. Follow the steps in this guide and you’ll have the perfect certifications on a resume waiting to be read by a prospective employer.