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How valuable are professional marketing certifications? I don’t mean full academic credentials like an MBA; I refer to certifications like Hubspot’s Inbound Marketing Certification or Google’s Analytics Qualified Individual certification.

To some people, these certifications are stamps of approval, validation by a third party of our knowledge and skills. To other people, these certifications are crutches, ways to mask a lack of experience or results.

What is the true value of these certifications? They have two important roles. First, they are signifiers of a minimum level of knowledge. To pass these examinations requires a base of knowledge that, even if you have no professional experience, still requires study and rigor to pass. Ask anyone who passed the AdWords Qualified Individual exams if they thought they were easy – they’re most definitely not easy.

Second, certifications act as heuristics, ways for us to make snap judgements about a person. Heuristics are important, partly because we tend to make judgements very quickly, but also because our implicit or explicit biases can obscure our understanding of a person’s abilities. Certifications act as counters to those biases.

For example, take a moment to mentally think about what Ph.D. in astrophysics might be like as a person. Take a moment to also mentally think about what a Ph.D. in Human Resources and Education might be like as a person.

Do you have those two people in mind, a mental image of each?

Did you think of Brian May, the lead guitarist from Queen, who has a Ph.D. in astrophysics?

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By Thomas Steffan by using Olympus Camedia C700 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

Did you think of Shaquille O’Neal, the NBA champion basketball player, who has a Ph.D. in Human Resources and Education?

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We have biases and judgements about these two people as musicians and athletes that their academic credentials, their certifications, help change how we understand them. We might even have internal, subconscious biases about gender, sexual orientation, or racial identity that interfere with our ability to make objective judgements; credentials help to override these subtle but very real biases.

For anyone who doesn’t fit the standard mold of what a marketer “looks like”, certifications are an invaluable way to overcome implicit biases, especially in the age of social media sites like LinkedIn which display our photos.

I strongly recommend that marketers seeking to further their careers and open doors seek out certifications. Start with Google’s courses and certifications; other than investing your time, they’re free of financial cost and the gold standard for marketers looking to prove their worth in a crowded marketplace.


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