Saturday, May 7, 2016

Skill versus Certification: Which is more important?

 It is possible to fly without motors, but not without knowledge and skill. ~ Wilbur Wright
There has been debate about which is more important when seeking a job.  Some say its “skill” while others say its “certification”.  What exactly is “skill” and how does it differ from “certification”? Are they mutually exclusive or equally important? Should you acquire “certification” before “skill” or “skill” before “certification”? To address this issue burning in the mind of seekers, let’s dive into the discussion by determining the difference between “skill” and “certification”.

I love the way the Business Dictionary defines both terms.  Skill is defined as “an ability and capacity acquired through deliberate, systematic, and sustained effort to smoothly and adaptively carryout complex activities or job functions involving ideas (cognitive skills), things (technical skills), and/or people (interpersonal skills).”  The same dictionary defines Certification as “formal procedure by which an accredited or authorized person or agency assesses and verifies (and attests in writing by issuing a certificate) the attributes, characteristics, quality, qualification, or status of individuals or organizations, goods or services, procedures or processes, or events or situations, in accordance with established requirements or standards.”

In summary, a “skill” could be said to be a trade that you have learned, while “certification” is a public attestation by an independent body that indeed you have mastered that skill.

Skill is considered relevant in every job role, formal or informal.  Skill sometimes could be referred to as competencies that candidates are expected to possess to be successful at a role. Skill is what determines if a candidate is a fit for the role being filled. Interviewers would want to assess each candidate against the skill set for the job role in order to determine if the candidate can actually carry out the tasks required in the role being filled. Some examples of general skills that candidates are required to posses are:

Communication – Are you good at writing, listening and speaking?

Problem solving – Are you good at troubleshooting? Do you think ‘outside the box’ when analysing problems?

Team work – How well do you work with others? Do you listen and accept other people’s ideas? Remember that the people you work with are your team mates; you’re all working towards the same goal and team work will help you to get the best possible results.

Planning and organising – Are you good at managing your time? How do you cope when you’re busy? Are you capable of juggling through several tasks?

Interpersonal skills - Are you a people person? Think about how you have built relationships in the past, because getting on with your team is key to career success, happiness and achievement.

Certification without skill will get you nowhere. Skill is required at all levels, as this is evidence that one is a perfect fit for the role being considered for. As you gain experience, and grow in your career, certification becomes equally important as a public evidence of your competence.

For instance, when starting your career, skills will get you to the door step, however, certification will enhance your chance.  I have come across people who possess some certification and at the end of the day do not have the right skills. When it comes to certification, my advice would be to search out reputable and recognized professional bodies that assess skills or sometimes called competencies, as this will ensure that when you secure the certification, it will be a true test of your capacity to deliver on the job role.

Acquire the skill required for your career progression, then get certified!


  1. "Acquire the skill required for your career progression, then get certified" key word for me. Thank you for this article.

  2. Certifocation proves you can do a certain tadk or job even if you dont know it.

  3. Certification proves you can do a certain task or job even if you dont know it

  4. Certification is a testimonial to your knowledge; Skill is a confirmation of your abilities!

    An erstwhile coach of the super eagles had the skills of a footballer and also highly certified as competent coach by the Apex Football governing body but he struggled to win matches simply because he had not acquired the necessary skills to execute from the technical bench.

  5. Mojisola GarberMay 7, 2016 at 5:14 PM

    To get to the apex of our career we must acquire the necessary skill and also the qualification i.e. certification.

    In the Micro finance industry to be the Managing Director you must know the market which is the skill and be certified by chartered institute of bankers.

  6. Certification is knowledge helps in making sound and analytical judgement highly biased by academics.

    Skill is making decisions using cummulative experience gained over time after making realistic assessments. This is at timed aided by use of practical tools and lessons learnt.

    A hybrid is fine. But skills is better especially when implemented through a process of strategic project management.

  7. Olawunmi PopoolaMay 7, 2016 at 6:04 PM

    A truly enlightening article, both are important but without a doubt its first for me skills followed by the certification. The certification caps up your competencies(skills)

  8. This is an eye opening article,certification must come after adequate skills have been acquired. Thank you sir!

  9. Food for thought! Acquire the skills before certification. Truly, skills/competencies will enhance you and show you were you are good at while certification in that field will help you gains mastery mastery and crown your skills. Good write up.

  10. Very insightful...
    This is becoming the best blog ever visited.
    What do you have to say to the fresh graduates (corp members) who decided to acquire professional certificate before ending their NYSC without say any skills?

    1. I recommend certifications that measure experience and the application of concepts learned. However, if you do have one of those that measure the content of the study material (theories), my recommendation is for you to seek practical experience, even if its as an Intern, as this will enable you defend your certification, and prove your worth to any organisation.

  11. Skills speak more for individuals on the job than certifications. Skills determine performance not certifications. Three important qualities of a professional are Knowledge, performance and personal skills. These show a two against one index as certification is majorly a proof of knowledge.

    Certifications are however highly recommended especially to entry/mid level applicants and workers for employment edge. But getting certifications without necessary skills will end in corporate disgrace, to the HR that employed the fellow and the fellow himself as this will ultimately result in termination of appointment.

  12. Very educative post, it might be difficult to isolate each word since both are intrinsic in practicality. However, SKILL is the real VALUE ADD and the real raw material any labour must possess. Certification only declares in formal sense that an individual has the capacity/skill to perform a particular duty. However, employees have failed in defending their certifications with respect to skill. Skill in this sense shows its superiority over certification. We must also note that skill is practically oriented and certification is theoretically oriented(case study). I like to know what an employee can do(value add) than what certification he/she has. Although we are certificate bias in this part of the world.

    Olagunju Omotola David. ACIPM, ACIA

  13. I am particularly glad with the kind of comments this blogpost has been generating. Please keep them flowing.

    Reading through the comments so far made, I felt the need to state that there is a difference between "certificate" and "certification". The two are not exactly the same. "Certificate" measures knowledge while "certification" measures skill. This is likely going to be a discussion for another day.

  14. Alot of people have the certificate but no skill.

    Sir, the present Nigeria believe in certificate that they will learn on the job.

  15. Aderonke Olufemi-BadaMay 29, 2016 at 6:25 PM

    Without skills your certificate won't take you far.A great lesson for me.

  16. I've seen Job ads that need ACCA or ACA before applying for any job. Where would they have gotten the skills before getting certified? This is a problem in Nigeria.

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  18. So i messaged Mr Emmanuel because i was frustrated at learning curve had stopped and i wanted to resign and go face my certifications, amazing thing was that all he replied was NO and this link....i wondered as i opened the link...but on reading anwwer was staring in my face...Thank You so much...Mr Emmanuel......its truly skills first