Professional Qualifications

  | James Innes

Why Professional Qualifications are Needed

An increasing number of industry sectors are seeking applications from people with professional qualifications, both as an alternative to formal academic qualifications, or in addition to them. Professional qualifications are recognised as not only providing an individual with industry-specific skills, but also as a demonstration of their commitment to continuous learning and development. Skills acquired through many professional qualifications can also be transferred to other functional areas and are a valuable tool to facilitate career development. Some organisations have even been known to offer bonuses or incentives to employees willing to undertake relevant professional qualifications.

Time & Money

Certain industries have now made professional qualifications an essential requirement and many employers will provide full support, enabling these to be completed alongside normal work responsibilities. Studying for professional qualifications can be undertaken on a full or part-time basis and can even be completed via distance learning. Employers often allow time off for professional studies and may also assist with the payment of necessary fees. It is worth remembering, however, that if an employer is supporting you during your studies, this will probably mean that you will be tied into your employment with them for the duration of your studies.

Enhancing Employability

As well as improving your chances of securing internal promotions, professional qualifications can add considerable value to your CV when you are actively seeking employment. They tend to indicate that a candidate has specific skills and experiences, rather than just academic and theoretical knowledge. Qualifications such as NVQs, for example, are applicable to a wide variety of industries and involve workplace assessments aimed at verifying your actual on-the-job competence. Other increasingly popular professional qualifications include the European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL) and the RSA Computer Literacy and Information Technology (CLAIT) qualification. Many roles involving computer-based administration may well require a candidate to have completed one of these qualifications, or similar, because although many people claim to be proficient in the use of computers, these qualifications are considered by employers to actually prove it.

Professional Memberships

Many industry sectors now offer people the opportunity to become a member of a professional organisation. There are a number of levels achievable for membership status and the highest status can only be achieved once a candidate has demonstrated that they have completed appropriate training and spent a significant period of their working life within the industry sector. Training and employment history both need to be correctly logged and verified before accreditation can be awarded and, although this process obviously takes some considerable time, fast track options are becoming available in some industries. Becoming a member of a professional organisation provides external recognition and may also offer reassurance to customers that they are dealing with someone whose behaviour and conduct are regulated. There are usually specific guidelines which must be adhered to and, in some cases of extreme non-compliance, professional status can be withdrawn. Once professional status has been awarded, you are also expected to maintain and develop your skills and knowledge by undertaking any further training that is available.

The Future

If you look through various job vacancies, you will often notice that essential requirements include specific professional qualifications. You may also see job advertisements stating one of their requirements as "degree or equivalent", a sure sign that professional qualifications are starting to be recognised in a variety of industry sectors as being just as valuable as formal academic studies. There is even evidence that the face of secondary level education may be changing through the introduction of more vocational qualifications. These provide opportunities for students to gain the skills required to directly enter a specific industry sector.

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