Job Search: Find a Job With a New Degree, Certification, Or License

February 25, 2009

Finding a job in your industry is easier when you have a personal brand that can serve as an online resume and a place to document your expertise.  But what happens when the industry you’re in goes into decline, suffers massive layoffs, and there simply aren’t many jobs to go around?  Could it be time to find a job in an entirely new industry?

Starting a New Career

An obvious example of this is the struggling auto industry. As Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler layoff thousands of people some of those workers will be forced to learn new skills and start new careers.  It’s not an easy thing to start your career over again but there are certainly several different approaches you can take.

I’m actually in the middle of such a transition myself.  I used to work for insurance companies but for the past six months, I have been trying to figure out the best way to make a career transition into financial planning without having to sign up with some of the companies that offer commission-only gigs that are more of a salesperson than a financial planner.

There are salaried positions out there in the financial planning industry, but they are hard to find. There are also entry-level positions out there as para planners, analysts, and financial planning assistants, but they are very competitive as well. I have come to the conclusion that the only way I am going to land one of these positions in the future is to bolster my resume with more professional education.

You may run into this same situation when looking for a new job or making a career transition. Sometimes, going back to school, studying to test for a professional designation, or receiving a professional license might be what you need to land a job with a lot of competition.

Getting A New Degree

Thinking about going back to school is a horrible thought for many of us. It’s more money and more time that you don’t have right now but getting an online master’s degree, or a bachelor’s degree might be what you need to land the new job.

Monster Degree Program and Monster Career Resource Center are a great resource to search for online degree programs, financial aid, and career paths for a particular degree or designation. Getting a whole new degree is the most extreme option when looking for a new job, and it’s a decision you should make with a lot of thought and research. Make sure that the time and money spent goes toward a degree that has a high rate of getting degree recipients hired quickly for SPECIFIC entry-level jobs.

Industry Certifications

In the case of the financial planning industry, there are many different certificates a job seeker can study for and receive. There are the Certified Financial Planner, Chartered Life Underwriter, Chartered Financial Consultant, Chartered Financial Analyst and many other certifications to earn that could give you an edge against other applicants.

In the Information Technology industry, there are dozens upon dozens of certifications for areas such as programming, network administration, and computer security. It’s not just IT managers that like to see these certifications on a resume when looking at candidates, the same applies for most every industry.

Significant certifications in a given industry usually require quite a bit of course work and test taking, but they can have a smaller price tag than a new degree. Some certifications require work experience before you can put their initials after your name, but many employers still appreciate the fact that you satisfied the education requirement for the certification. Another good thing about certifications is that you can work on earning them on your own time on the weekends or in the evenings, rather than having to go back to school.

Professional Licenses

Getting a license for a new job is often required for many positions. If you want to make a career transition to real estate, passing the licensing requirements is required first. The same rule applies to many other careers such as a mortgage broker, stock broker, insurance agents, and claims adjusters.

While some companies will hire you first and sponsor you to study and take the exam for a certain license, many other applicants already have these licenses. Understand that a company would rather hire someone who doesn’t need to go through licensing, than someone they would be footing the bill to get licensed.

Paying For Additional Education

I am not sure about Ben’s position on this subject, but I do not think anyone should go into debt for additional education once they have been out in the working world for a few years. You know how to make money, and the last thing I would want for you is to take on more debt payments to make a career transition.

Devise a two to three year plan to make your career transition. Take classes as you are able to pay for them, and you will thank yourself at the end. Don’t be in such a rush to make a career transition or get the job you really want. It may require you to take a job that pays bills and save money until you have completed the necessary education.

Ben’s Note. While I agree with Erik that you should plan out any career transition, sometimes, especially in bad economies, people don’t have that option.  I have friends that have been laid off and gone back to school full time to get a new degree and are very happy they made that choice. I also know people who were let go that have gotten a job just to pay the bills and taken weekend and evening courses to get a different degree.

Either approach will work I think it just depends on your personal situation.  The main point is that you have a variety of degree, certification, and licensing options to help you learn new skills and get a new job.


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Erik Folgate is a husband and father living in Orlando who's been writing about money online for 6 years. Digging himself out of $20k of debt after college and his former experience in the insurance industry give him some useful insights into personal finance issues.

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5 Responses to Job Search: Find a Job With a New Degree, Certification, Or License

  • the weakonomist

    The CFP is by far the industry standard. As someone who wanted to make the same transition without going to a commissioned job, I can say that satisfying the educational requirements will go a long way to landing the job.

    Your potential employer will know this isn’t just a passing fad with you, and by hiring you they’ll know they get to keep you for a few years while you get your feet wet in the industry.

    Goodluck, I’m currently focusing on another part of my career, but I plan to do this exact same thing if I don’t manage to stumble into one of those covetted positions on my own.


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