In my March 21, 2014 blog post, I wrote about the state of confusion that many procurement professionals find themselves in when they ask others for advice about which procurement certification they should pursue.  I essentially said that each procurement professional should not wholly rely on the advice of others, but to also utilize their own personal observations.

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I think even more specific advice needs to be given to job seekers who see a certification as an accelerator to obtaining a new procurement job.  So, I’ll dedicate this space to providing just that advice.

In my extensive experience in dealing with procurement professionals seeking certification, I find that job seekers tend to want to get certified faster than already-employed individuals.  Therefore, if you’re in that situation and comparing procurement certifications, you need to consider:

  • How quickly you can earn the certification you are considering.  Any certification organization should be able to consult a certification candidate on this matter.  And that’s going beyond just sharing the average time it takes to become certified.  As with any normal distribution of statistical data, the average is between outlying data.  People without current employment tend to have both the extra time and the extra ambition to get certified sooner than the average person.  So, how much time can you expect to dedicate to your efforts until that magical time you get to add credentials at the end of your name?  The availability of self-paced learning options, flexible testing schedules and locations, and quantity of study material all influence how soon you will be certified.
  • Whether or not you have the prerequisite qualifications, if any.  Some certifications require years of experience and/or degrees, while others do not.  Therefore, you have to be careful not to overly swayed by a certification recommendation of a peer because you may not even have the prerequisite qualifications that they may assume you have.
  • What is the likelihood that you’ll pass?  Again, any certification organization should be able to provide to you statistics on their pass rate.  That’s valuable to know, but see if they can provide additional information beyond just the “pass rate on the first attempt at the exam” like overall pass rate (which includes people who failed the exam on the first attempt, but passed on a later attempt).  You should not be discouraged if the “pass rate on the first attempt at the exam” is not near 100%.  It shouldn’t be.  If a certification was easy to get, it sure wouldn’t be valuable because certifications serve to distinguish the top talent in the field from everyone else.  But that being said, if – after all exam attempts, even multiple attempts at the same exam – a low percentage of candidates pass, it may indicate that the certification organization has made things unnecessarily difficult.  It could also mean that all of your work dedicated to trying to earn the certification would go to waste if you’re not among the best with academic performance.
  • What is the likelihood that you’ll stick with the certification program until completion?  Again, if a certification isn’t rigorous, it won’t have much value – anyone would be able to get it.  So, evaluate the materials issued by the certification organization.  Do they interest you?  Could you see yourself spending weeks or months poring over those materials?  Or do they seem to conflict with your style of learning in a way that will make the studying process feel unpleasant?  Let’s face it, if you don’t find the material interesting, there is a chance you’ll give up before you reach the proverbial finish line.

So, if you’re seeking a procurement job and think that earning a procurement certification will get you to your goal sooner, be sure to investigate the training and testing schedule, prerequisites, the likelihood of passing, and the appeal of the materials for the certification you are considering.  Don’t expect everyone else to make your decision for you.  You may end up being disappointed later if you find that certification wasn’t for you.

To Your Career Success,
Charles Dominick, SPSM, SPSM2
President & Chief Procurement Officer – Next Level Purchasing Association
Author – The Procurement Game Plan
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Charles Dominick, SPSM, SPSM2, SPSM3

Charles Dominick, SPSM, SPSM2, SPSM3 is an internationally-recognized business expert, legendary procurement thought leader, award-winning entrepreneur, and provocative blogger. Charles founded the Next Level Purchasing Association in 2000, oversaw its incredible growth, and successfully led the organization to its acquisition by the Certitrek Group in 2016. He continues to blog and provide advisory services for the NLPA on a part-time basis as he incubates his upcoming business innovations. Charles is also the co-author of the wildly popular, groundbreaking book, "The Procurement Game Plan: Winning Strategies & Techniques For Supply Management Professionals."

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