How and When to List Licenses and Certifications on a Resume

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An image of a man in a bakery with an apron putting food into an oven, representative of the fact that only relevant information should go in a resume certifications section.

You’re a savvy job seeker who’s sought out some professional development and continuing educationbut should you list it on your resume? Here’s a guide on how to list trainings, licenses, and certifications on a resume (and whether you’ll need a resume certifications section.)

By: Daniel Lorenzo | Marketing Manager at Let’s Eat, Grandma


Your resume is the only place where you get to prove that you have the skills to, quite literally, pay the bills.

Your resume should include whatever you need to prove that you’re qualified (while keeping it short). This includes tangible accomplishments, your relevant skills and education, and potentially some supplemental content.

You’re here because you’re curious about that supplement content – does professional development belong on your resume? Should you include those trainings, licenses, certifications, or continuing education courses on a resume? If so, where and how?

Let’s walk through the what, where, and how of listing professional development on your resume.

(Quick note: if you’re curious about listing your online classes like Udemy or Coursera, hop over to this blog specific to MOOCs. We won’t cover those here.) 

Should I Put These Trainings, Licenses, or Certifications on My Resume?

First things first: do you need to list these professional development items at all? Your resume needs to be short and value-packed, with only the most vital information. 

So, when deciding whether or not to list trainings, licenses, and certifications on your resume, first ask how relevant each one is for the specific job you’re applying to. 

(Yes, this means your resume will need to look different for each job. Don’t panic, and read more about what that means here.) 

How do you know what’s relevant to the job? Check the job posting.

Job descriptions will often include required or preferred certifications, licenses, etc. If you find one that you have, put it on your resume ASAP. These are actually important keywords that determine whether your resume will be read.

An image of a man in a bakery with an apron putting food into an oven, representative of the fact that only relevant information should go in a resume certifications section.
Don’t bother with certifications that aren’t really relevant to the job at hand… just like this picture isn’t really relevant to this article!

When You Would and Would Not Want to List a Professional Development Experience

If you feel you need to include professional development on your resume to cover a perceived skill gap, go for it.

Say you’re applying to a job for which you don’t have a relevant college degree. You’ll want to list the certifications or licenses you’ve obtained to show that you have indeed been educated in the field.

This is also true for career changers applying to a new field who want to offset a lack of relevant job history.

(Psst – if you’re changing careers, read this blog.)

You’ll also want to list job-relevant professional development experiences if they show that you’ve modernized your skillset recently. Even if you have experience, it can be attractive to show that you’ve stayed on top of new software or methodologies (especially if you’re an older job seeker in a young field like the tech industry).

When would you NOT want to list a professional development experience? I would say “if it’s not relevant to the job you’re applying to”, but you’d probably try to punch me through the screen for beating a dead horse. 

I’m going to anyway because it’s too true! If a certification won’t come up in an interview for this position, consider cutting it for relevance.

Here are a few other reasons you shouldn’t list a professional development experience:

  • If it was only relevant in your past career. Listing that you were an R.N. is certainly interesting, but no one needs to see your training for it if you’re applying to be a salesperson.
  • If it’s for an outdated skill/technology. Will showing that you were certified in Windows 97 get you a programming job? No! I still rock at KidPix, but you don’t see me trying to brag about it…
  • If your resume’s certification section is already bloated. Do NOT list every certification you have. Nobody needs to know that you gained 8 different certifications in your time at Apple. 2-3 important ones will do.

If you’re on the fence about a particular license or certification, remember that you can always include it on LinkedIn. As it has more room, we actually recommend filling your LinkedIn profile with supplemental content. It will encourage connections and give a complete picture of you.

A screenshot of a certification on LinkedIn, demonstrating how licenses and certifications to not list on a resume certifications section.

Where to List Professional Development on Your Resume (Do You Need a Resume Certifications Section?)

Deciding what to list is only part of the equation. Now you have the fun task of deciding where to put your continuing education, licenses, or certifications on your resume. Here are some ground rules.

You’re probably wondering whether to list your professional development under Education or a separate Certifications section. 

First, how many are you going to include? If you’re only listing one item (or two similar ones easy to list together), you could fit it under Education. Any more than that, and you’ll probably want to start a new section titled “Professional Development,” “Continuing Education,” “or Relevant Licenses and Certifications.”

An example of a resume Certifications section, demonstrating how and where to put licenses and certifications on a resume.
An example of a resume certifications section.

Also, determine which type of professional development each experience is. If we’re talking about continuing education (like a company-sponsored training or a class at a university), lean toward your Education section. 

However, if we’re talking about a certification or license, these wouldn’t make as much sense under Education. These should instead go in your resume’s certifications section. Even if you had to take a few classes or a test, a designation is not the same as a course. Examples here include the Series 67 License for financial professionals, SHRM for HR people, or the PMP for project managers. 

(Not sure about the difference? If you received an acronym or certificate for it, it’s probably a certification or license.)

One more thing – remember the whole “how relevant is it?” discussion? Of course you do. This is important for determining your placement too. 

If you’re listing professional development courses because you have little or no relevant college experience, throw it under Education. On the other hand, if these are just supplementing your already-solid experience, they’re more likely to belong in their own section.

Top or Bottom?

Relevance also determines whether these experiences will live at the top or bottom of your resume. Supplemental information like professional development should usually go at the bottom. (Same goes for education if you’re more than three years out of school.) 

However, if you need to flex your professional development to cover a skills gap (if you’re changing careers or don’t have a college degree), consider moving it to the top, no matter which section it’s in. 

In this case, you might also want to directly mention your certifications or licenses in your Summary section (particularly if they’re called for in the job description.)

How to Write Out Your Professional Development Experiences

Finally, here are some parting tips on how to write your professional development on your resume.

Whether you’re including them under Education or a separate resume Certifications section, here’s what to include when writing out your professional development experiences:

  • Full Name of the Certification. I.e., CompTIA’s “Fundmentals+” certification as distinct from “A+” 
  • Issuing Institution. Some certifications may be issued by different institutions, so you’ll want to clarify.
  • Date(s) Earned. Include not only the date you first earned the certification but also when it was last renewed (or when you’re planning to renew it if it’s close to expiration).
  • Location Earned (if necessary). For certain industry-specific licenses (particularly in human services such as counseling), you’ll want to list the state in which you earned it. Different states often have different requirements.

Congratulations! Not only have you aced some professional development opportunities, but now you know how to list them on your resume.

Wondering if you’ve correctly listed your continuing education, licenses, or certifications on your resume? We’re happy to take a look. Submit your resume for a free Career Score and/or phone consultation on our homepage, or contact us directly with a specific question here.

Happy job hunting!

Love, 

Grandma


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