Walsh College

Why Certification?

When I was asked to write a blog about why people should become certified in their given profession, I had to take pause. I’m the coordinator for professional development at Walsh College. My job responsibilities with exam prep classes are of an administrative nature. I wondered myself, why do people who have a degree need to become certified?

This is Jennifer’s story.

Jennifer was married to her husband, Steve, for 19 years. They have one son. Jennifer’s husband died unexpectedly in 2014 at the age of 45 after complications from back surgery.

Just a couple years prior, they had both found themselves unexpectedly unemployed. They were let go from their jobs – something that had never happened, nor did they ever think would happen. They were such hard workers and dedicated employees. They lost their healthcare, emptied their 401k accounts, and on top of that, they lost the contents of their basement in a freak sewer flood – including all of their childhood memories. They had no sewer backup insurance to boot. By October 2014, Steve was re-employed, and in three months they would have health insurance again. But on a Sunday morning that December, Steve didn’t wake up.

Working on a three-month contract and underemployed, Jennifer only had enough in savings to pay the mortgage before her next paycheck. Unfortunately, Steve's life insurance policy lapsed with the long-time job he had lost earlier in the year. She now had a 15-year-old son to raise on her own, needed to find a full- time job, pay bills she couldn’t afford, and do this all while grieving.

Less than two years later, Jennifer had changed careers and was sitting in our HR certification exam prep class. She had worked hard and was scheduled to take her exam in December 2016 when her appointment was cancelled due to an impending snow storm - which ended up being nothing. The exam would have to wait another month now.

It took Jennifer every second of the four hours allowed to take the test. When she was finally done, a page popped up that said she passed. She immediately cried, went home, collapsed, and slept for 12 hours. The next day, she wrote a note thanking the people who helped her through her exam prep journey. It was only then, through correspondence, I learned what Jennifer had been through – and as you might imagine, this is the abridged version. We’ve all heard the saying, “you never know what someone is going through or what their story is” – and it’s so true. 

So with everything Jennifer was dealing with, does she feel her certification journey was worth it?  Here are her thoughts:

What made you want to pursue the SHRM-CP certification? Advice from my manager at Butzel Long.  She had been my manager for 13 years and guided me through my 2014 employment roller coaster. After accepting this position, she said, “Be sure to get your professional HR certification as soon as you can. That will set you apart and solidify your career.”

What did you like best about the program? How did that help in your studies? The instructors and the binder. The instructors brought their unique way of sharing their depth of knowledge and experience with us, assisting us with how to recall information and how to think like the test wanted us to think, and the binder helped to follow each night’s topic as well as summarize the details in our course books.

Has the knowledge gained had a continued effect on your day-to-day work responsibilities and/or in your career overall? Every day. There is something I do and touch every day that makes me think of what I learned in class or what we discussed.

Would you recommend the SHRM Learning System to other SHRM-CP or SHRM-SCP candidates? Why or why not? Absolutely. If this is your career choice, then set yourself apart. With our busy lives, it can be difficult to commit the time to take an evening course and then study. The exam truly tests your knowledge. Given these challenges, it is quite an achievement. To say the least, your career will benefit from this commitment.

Certification tests for any profession are tough. They challenge you to be the best you can be – under many circumstances. It demonstrates commitment to your profession and to your own personal development. And perhaps most importantly, certification holds you accountable, to yourself and to your peers. Jennifer’s final words in her note were, “now to stay certified.” That’s right. After all of that, it’s not over with a pass. Her journey is just beginning. It is a journey that she is happy to be on and will keep her growing, personally and professionally, for years to come.

In addition to the SHRM-CP and SHRM-SCP exam prep, Walsh College offers exam prep courses for CTP (Certified Treasury Professional) and CMA (Certified Management Accountant).  Learn more at: www.walshcollege.edu/professional_development


Jennifer Pillars, SHRM-CP is an HR Generalist with ESI North America. While dealing with her grief, Jennifer poured her feelings into words. She authored and self-published “My First Year of Grief: Widowed, Broke, Finding Hope.” 

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