A business certification can make your skills stand out and help you get the right salary.
A shrewd business professional looks for ways to move up (or over) to improve their salary, benefits and job opportunities. One way to reach that goal is by getting a business certification.
It's tricky to nail down what constitutes a "business certification." Think about the sheer number of lines of business (LOBs) in U.S. companies, and that most LOBs can have multiple associated certifications. To narrow our focus, we looked at general business and management credentials, as well as customer resource management, supply chain, sales and purchasing certifications. Although most of the certifications we selected are vendor-agnostic – not tied to a specific system or application – we researched several credentials from SAP, SAS and similar companies that specialize in business applications.
These are the certifications we examined:
- Certified Associate in Project Management
- Certified Business Analysis Professional
- Certified Supply Chain Professional
- Project Management Professional (PMP)
- SAP Certified Application Associate – Business Planning and Consolidation
- Salesforce Certified Administrator
- HubSpot Inbound Marketing
- Oracle Certified Professional (OCP)
Whether you're just starting out in a professional track or have been at it for a while, you should find one or more of the certifications described in this article of interest and value.
Top 8 certifications, by the numbers
The following table lists the top business-related certifications based on the number of open positions on a single day that call for the certification specifically. This isn't a scientific analysis in which every job description is examined (especially when the numbers reach into the hundreds or thousands); it's just an overall glance at search numbers as of Dec. 23, 2020.
Job site search results
|Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)||528||988||1,516|
|Certified Business Analysis Professional (CBAP)||246||399||645|
|Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP)||426||791||
|Project Management Professional (PMP)||11,910||20,485||32,395|
|SAP Certified Application Associate – Business Planning and Consolidation||340||728||1,068|
|Salesforce Certified Administrator||694||1,170||1,864|
|HubSpot Inbound Marketing||599||108||707|
|Oracle Certified Professional (OCP)||830||1,444||2,274|
The following sections provide details on the top business certifications according to job site searches, as well as other certifications from their various organizations.
Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)
The Project Management Institute (PMI) has been around since 1969, helping business workers develop careers in project management, mainly through professional development and certifications.
The Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) is ideal for up-and-coming project managers. You need to show proof of a high school diploma, associate degree or global equivalent. The single exam has 150 questions, costs $225 for PMI members or $300 for nonmembers, and is available through Pearson VUE. By the time you take the exam, you need to have attained 1,500 hours of project experience or 23 hours of project management education. The certification is valid for five years, and you must retake the exam to maintain the credential.
PMI has other certifications aimed at the business community, such as the Project Management Professional (PMP), PMI Professional in Business Analysis (PMI-PBA), Portfolio Management Professional (PfMP), Program Management Professional (PgMP) and PMI Scheduling Professional (PMI-SP).
Certified Business Analysis Professional (CBAP)
If you're interested in analyzing business needs and coming up with solutions, take a look at the Certified Business Analysis Professional (CBAP) by the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA). The CBAP is an advanced certification aimed at managers and leaders with more than five years of business analysis experience. More precisely, you need at least 7,500 hours of business analysis experience over the last decade, and 900 of those hours must directly relate to four of the six BABOK Guide knowledge areas. On top of that, you need at least 35 hours of professional development credits (earned over the last four years), plus two references.
The CBAP exam has 120 multiple-choice questions, based on scenarios and case studies, and is available through PSI. The exam costs $325 for IIBA members or $450 for nonmembers, and a $125 application fee is required. To maintain the CBAP, credential holders must earn at least 60 continuing development units within three years of achieving certification.
The IIBA offers related credentials, such as the Entry Certificate in Business Analysis (ECBA), Certificate of Capability in Business Analysis (CCBA), Agile Analysis Certification (IIBA-AAC) and Certification in Business Data Analytics (IIBA-CBDA).
Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP)
APICS is all about supply chain management. As part of its goal to develop qualified operators, supervisors and leaders, it offers the Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP) and a few other certifications. The CSCP covers supply chain concepts and technology, plus strategies for end-to-end operations, from supplier to company to consumer.
To earn the CSCP, you need a bachelor's degree or equivalent, at least one other approved certification, and at least three years of related business experience. You also need to pass an exam that costs $695 to $965, depending on your APICS membership status.
Project Management Professional (PMP)
The Project Management Professional (PMP) from PMI is among the most recognized and sought-after certifications for both business and IT. The requirements are stiff. Option one requires a high school diploma, associate degree or global equivalent; 7,500 hours of experience leading projects; and 35 hours of project management education. Option two is a four-year degree, 4,500 hours leading projects and 35 hours of project management education. [Read related article on our sister site Business News Daily: Best Project Management Certifications]
You must pass a 200-question exam to earn the PMP, which is available through Pearson VUE. The exam costs $405 for PMI members and $555 for nonmembers. You maintain the PMP certification by earning 60 professional development units (PDUs) every three years.
SAP Certified Application Associate – CRM
Are you SAP savvy? SAP, a European multinational software program, stands for "systems, applications and products." The software is used by companies around the world to manage business operations and customer relationships across several lines of business, including human resources, marketing, sales, manufacturing and supply chain.
The SAP Certified Application Associate – CRM recognizes a consultant's skills in understanding and using SAP CRM software, including how it integrates with other SAP solutions like NetWeaver. SAP recommends that candidates have a combination of experience and training before sitting for the certification exam; training courses are available if needed. The exam has 80 questions and costs $571. You can take the exam through the SAP Certification Hub.
Salesforce Certified Administrator
If you've ever worked with or considered using a customer relationship management (CRM) platform, you've likely heard of Salesforce. From help desk and lead management to sales and customer service, Salesforce is an all-in-one CRM platform that scales with a business's needs as it grows. The platform has become so popular since its launch in 1999 that it's considered an industry leader and won our best pick for enterprise CRM usage.
If you're looking to leverage the platform at an administrative level, Salesforce offers a certification program to increase your knowledge of the platform. The program requires you to take several classes and workshops before completing a proctored credential exam. The classes and exam typically cost a few thousand dollars.
Salesforce suggests that anyone seeking this certification should already have a decent handle on the platform, since the certification seeks to build upon their understanding of existing features and functions. Once you complete this program, the company also offers the Advanced Administrator certification to further your knowledge of the platform.
HubSpot Inbound Marketing
HubSpot is a CRM platform that helps businesses handle their marketing, sales and help desk needs. While the platform covers various specialties, the HubSpot Inbound Marketing certification teaches how to use content creation, social media and other inbound marketing methods to your advantage.
This is a free certification course comprising seven lessons, complete with 34 videos and eight quizzes, that takes slightly over four hours in all.
Oracle Certified Professional (OCP)
Oracle is a leading cloud database software company that helps apply the nebulous digital concept to numerous business functions. More than 2.2 million people have earned their Oracle Certified Professional credentials, and our initial research found over 2,000 job openings for the designation.
With numerous certification paths spanning the platform's cloud-based and on-premises software and hardware solutions, Oracle offers free learning courses in a wide range of specialties. Once you're ready for an exam, you must purchase a voucher at prices ranging from $95 to $245. These vouchers are good for six months, giving you enough time to hone your skills with the Oracle platform before committing to a test.
The American Purchasing Society is the membership organization behind the Certified Purchasing Professional (CPP), Certified Professional Purchasing Manager (CPPM), Certified Green Purchasing Professional (CGPP), Certified Professional in Distribution and Warehousing (CPDW), and Certified Professional Purchasing Consultant (CPPC) programs.
If your career involves the creation, use, retrieval and disposal of business records, check out the Institute of Certified Records Managers (ICRM), Certified Records Analyst (CRA) and Certified Records Manager (CRM) programs.
On the global front, the Institute of Management Consultants offers the Certified Management Consultant (CMC) certification, and NASBITE's Certified Global Business Professional (CGBP) focuses on global business management and marketing, supply chain management, and trade finance.
Andrew Martins contributed to the writing and research in this article.