Many of us left higher education with these words ringing in our heads – ‘that’s the last studying I’ll ever do’. After three or four years of ‘hard graft’, and probably a large student loan too, you may well have decided that you were ‘qualified’ and ready to take on the world. So why would you voluntarily take on a significant new challenge and sign up for a professional qualification that may take up chunks of your valuable free time and cost you hard-earned cash on top?
What are professional qualifications?
Unlike most university or other higher educational qualifications, a professional qualification is vocational; in other words, it trains you for a specific career path or industry. It is fair to say that academic degrees can usually be applied to a range of careers, unlike professional qualifications that develop skills which are much more industry specific.
Professional qualifications are normally regulated by an industry body to ensure that all employees in that particular role have reached a minimum standard of professional proficiency. Many professional qualifications are equivalent to gaining a master’s degree – or even higher, as they involve significant training and also rigorous examinations. In some professions, such qualifications are a requirement, and it is not possible to operate in that profession without an up-to-date qualification.
So, given the cost and the effort you will need to put in, why would you register to take a professional course that leads to a qualification? Here are some of the strongest reasons for setting yourself up to benefit from the domino effect of progress you could see.
Each of us has a need to improve ourselves – to grow, develop and achieve a sense of empowerment and self-fulfilment. Aside from all of the many benefits presented here, that sense of accomplishment gained from completing a qualification is the number one reason for taking on the challenge. It will certainly improve your job satisfaction and motivation, and this will undoubtedly spill over into your life beyond your work. You may well spend more than 40 hours a week on your job, so gaining a sense of satisfaction from your progress in work is certain to have a real impact on you as a person, and is also likely to lead to further benefits as you link into the knock-on effects of being better qualified.
Boosted by the knowledge and skills you will acquire in the course of your professional training, you will undoubtedly gain in confidence. This will lead you to communicate better, reach into new business areas and quite likely make you a happier person too. Role-specific qualifications and training lead much more directly into improved workplace skills and understanding than pure academic qualifications, as they directly expand your skillset. Your new-found skills and understanding will certainly be great if your industry requires such training, but if you are in a field where that requirement does not exist, you are additionally going to gain a distinct and strong competitive advantage over others around you. Added to these clear benefits, you will also be in a great position to meet your employer’s continuing professional development expectations as you update your capabilities and skills. And the virtuous circle continues…..
It won’t be too long before your newfound experience and developing expertise will begin to have an affect on your trustworthiness with your client base and your potential reach within your industry. That improved competence, your growing reputation and your high standards greatly add to your job prospects. Extensive experience is important, but it is clear that more than ever employers are looking for qualifications to back up your experience. Qualifications give prospective employers the certainty that you have the right skills and knowledge to work to a high standard.
Of course, career progression is not only about moving on to a new company. A good many employers will be willing to support your studies with time and money. Completing further studies will demonstrate what you are capable of and may put you in a much stronger position for taking on new internal responsibilities or an in-house promotion. In the race for better positions both internally and externally, without qualifications you could be left on the starting blocks by more qualified candidates. A qualification can also open up wider career choices too, perhaps meaning a shift in direction with improved conditions, or even a change in lifestyle.
Commitment and access
By achieving a professional qualification you also gain two further advantages. Your commitment to improvement demonstrates to all around you your interest and dedication to your field. This is something of immeasurable value in the fast-pace professional world we live in. Added to this, a specific qualification (especially an introductory or preliminary one) can often be a prerequisite for entry to higher level courses and qualifications. At each rung of this ‘ladder’ you can become more and more valuable, and, of course, you will leave the competition standing.
Perhaps you were expecting this domino first! An increase in salary is certainly one of the key reasons for taking on a qualification, however, surprisingly it is not always the strongest motivational factor or the most immediate result of your commitment. It is certainly true that in terms of professional qualifications, the more qualified you are, the higher your earning potential. When it comes to salary negotiation, your level of training can be a big selling point in securing a raise or in agreeing a rate for a new post. It is a valuable long-term benefit and when considering a future qualification, it should certainly inform your decision-making process, but hold it in mind as perhaps one of the rewards down the line, alongside those already highlighted.
See those dominoes fall
There are many ways to move forward in your career, in your field of expertise and in your own personal development. Of course, on-the-job training, personal study and work-based schemes all have their value, but it is a certainty that if you are interested in really seeing your potential and career develop significantly, enrolling in a professional qualification is one of the strongest ways forward. The knock-on effects of that qualification are potentially limitless. Why not go ahead today and take that first step to set the dominoes falling in your favour?