Yet the surprising thing is that many companies are having trouble filling positions, because they can't find candidates that have the right skills and experience. That's why certifications can be helpful in differentiating you from others and proving your commitment to a specific industry and occupation. Certifications can also save employers time and resources, because they won't have to provide as much on-the-job training.
They might also lead to a higher income. A recent Georgetown University study found that, on average, people who have certificates earn more than those with just high-school diplomas -- $34,946 a year, compared with $29,202 a year. And while having a certification isn't an employment silver bullet -- you also need to have a well-rounded background and be the right fit -- it does give you an edge when seeking a highly specialized position.
If you're interested in pursuing a certification but aren't set on one just yet, here's information on six certifications in fields with bright job outlooks:
1. Ambulatory-care nurse certification
What they do: Ambulatory-care nurses treat patients with acute or chronic illnesses or injury on an outpatient basis. Treatments include screening, triage, patient education, pain management and case management. According to the American Academy of Ambulatory Care Nursing, these nurses practice in health-care facilities, community-based settings, schools, workplaces and homes.
Certification details: Certification is available through the American Nurses Credentialing Center, a division of the American Nurses Association. To qualify, you must be a registered nurse and have practiced the equivalent of two years full time. You must also have a minimum of 2,000 hours of clinical practice and 30 hours of continuing education in ambulatory care or "telehealth" nursing. The certification exam must be renewed every five years with professional development.
2. Certified cognitive-behavioral therapist
What they do: Cognitive-behavioral therapists work with individuals or groups to help their patients make emotional and behavioral changes. This type of therapy is designed to draw on research that shows how one's thinking can influence one's feelings and behavior.
Certification details: The National Association of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapists offers four certifications:
- The diplomate in cognitive behavior: To receive the highest credential awarded, the candidate must have a master's or doctoral degree in psychology, counseling, social, psychiatry or a related field, 10 years of post-graduate experience, letters of recommendation and complete a certification program.
- Certified cognitive-behavioral therapist: To earn this certification, therapists must have a master's or doctoral degree in psychology, counseling, social, psychiatry or a related field, six years of post-graduate experience, letters of recommendation and complete an introductory certification program.
- Cognitive-behavioral group therapy: This certification is earned by having a graduate degree in a mental-health discipline and passing the certification exam.
- Certified cognitive-behavioral group facilitator: Requirements include having a high-school degree or equivalent, taking a home-study course and passing the certification exam.
3. Certified financial planner
What they do: Certified financial planners look at your financial picture and help you find ways to improve it. According to the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, this is accomplished by gathering relevant financial information, setting life goals, examining your current financial status and developing a plan for meeting your financial goals.
Certification details: The certification is awarded by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards. To gain this certification, you must have a bachelor's degree, learn and understand integrated financial planning topics and take an exam testing your knowledge of those topics. Beyond having the right background, applicants must also meet ethical and financial requirements.
4. Certified management accountant
What they do: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, these workers record and analyze financial information for organizations. The information is intended for internal use by business managers. CMAs are also known as cost, managerial, industrial, corporate or private accountants.
Certification details: A CMA is earned by joining the Institute of Management Accountants, having a bachelor's degree and completing two continuous years of professional experience in management accounting or financial management. The CMA exam is taken in two parts and covers planning, budgeting and forecasting, internal controls and professional ethics, corporate finance, decision analysis, risk management and professional ethics, among other topics.
5. LEED accredited professional
What they do: When most people hear Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, they think of sustainable or environmentally friendly buildings. Yet it can also signify someone with the knowledge and understanding of what makes a building LEED-certified. LEED accredited professionals act as advisors to building owners, designers and operators to help them earn their green ratings.
Certification details: There are three levels of certification available from the U.S. Green Building Council:
- LEED green associate: This one covers the basics of LEED ratings. Candidates need to pass an exam to show their understanding of green design, construction and operations.
- LEED AP with specialty: This requires three years of real-world experience and the completion of a LEED-certified project. The candidate must also pass one of five specialty tests. The five specialty areas are building design and construction, interior design and construction, existing building operation and maintenance, homes and neighborhood development.
- LEED AP fellow: This is the highest level of certification and is given to industry leaders with extensive experience.
6. Music therapist
What they do: These therapists help people through music. According to occupation information website O*Net, these therapists plan, organize or direct medically prescribed music therapy activities designed to positively influence patients' psychological or behavioral status.
Certification details: Many music therapists earn a certification through the Certification Board for Music Therapists. According to the CBMT, the MT-BC certification can be earned by passing an exam; to qualify for the exam, candidates must submit an application and transcripts to the Music Therapy Board showing their education and experience.