Many manufacturing professionals who are looking for a promotion or new job often find themselves asking, will obtaining a APICS certification improve my career prospects?

Many professionals believe that companies place value on the APICS certification because it provides third-party validation that their knowledge and skills extend past on-the-job experience and a college education. As a result, thousands of supply chain and operations professionals across the country are enrolling in courses to pursue APICS certification.

Of course, there are also other professionals who believe it is not worth the time and energy to work towards a certification when it is not required in to work in the manufacturing industry. They value on the job experience over credentials and certifications.

So who’s right? Well, as we’ll explain below, it all depends on what you want to do with your manufacturing career. In this article, we’ll look at some of the costs and benefits of the APICS certification and their value to operations management and supply chain professionals.

The Requirements for an APICS Certification

The first thing to understand is that there are two APICS certifications to choose from: the Certification in Production and Inventory Management (CPIM) and the Certification as a Supply Chain Professional (CSCP). The CPIM is more geared toward managing internal manufacturing operations such as production and inventory management while the CSCP focuses more on managing global supply chains.

Before you enroll into one of the demanding eight-month APICS certification programs, you must first meet the minimum work experience and educational requirements. Of the two certifications, CSCP has more stringent requirements. These requirements are outlined in greater detail in the chart below.

Once you meet the minimum requirements, you must then pass a $500 exam composed of 200 questions to officially become certified. This process takes a lot of time and dedication, but being able to add the certification seems to have some serious financial benefits.

3 Ways an APICS Certification Can Help Your Manufacturing Career

1. Certification Makes Your Resume Look More Impressive
As some manufacturing sectors start to pick up steam again, hiring prospects are improving for candidates. However, much of the current demand is for skilled manufacturing workers. A 2012 study by the California State University at East Bay, found that between 2006 and 2011 there was a 13.7 percent increase in upper-level transportation, logistics and distribution management jobs and a 10.2 percent increase in mid-level sourcing, procurement and supply management positions.

Why is preference given to skilled workers? Study researchers found that the heightened demand for workers with special credentials in these fields is partially due to the fact that companies now rely on an international flow of goods. As such, companies need workers with more critical thinking capabilities and the know-how to efficiently move goods from Point A to Point B while maintaining profit margins.

2. On Average, APICS-certified Professionals Earn Higher Salaries
Beyond making your resume more attractive, there’s a good chance that certification will help you command a higher salary in your career. According to an APICS-commissioned study on the impact that certification has on earning potential, APICS-certified individuals can expect to earn between 14 and 20 percent more than similarly qualified peers.

In some instances, just enrolling the APICS coursework can improve your earning potential. Melissa Lee — a production planner at a composites company in Orange County, CA — received a 10 percent pay increase just for studying for her CPIM certification. After passing three of the five required exams, Lee’s managers noticed an increase in her efficiency and output and rewarded her accordingly.

3. APICS Certification Offers Multiple Paths to Career Fulfillment

CPIM-certified employees are taught the necessary skills to be efficient in inventory and production management, global supply chain and customer relations. Meanwhile, CSCP-certified employees have a tested understanding of global supply chain management and of highly specific technology and international trade rules and regulations. However, both certifications develop skills that raise an employee’s value and make them more attractive to current and future potential employers.

For instance, one of the side benefits of the CPIM certification is that it teaches workers a common language for various software systems that are often used in manufacturing production. This common language is often essential to installing something like an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system or develop sales and operation planning processes. As such, a CPIM-certified individual could find that their skills are useful for technology implementation projects.

The CSCP, on the other hand, hones skills in global supply chain management, including customer relations, managing relationships between different partners within the supply chain and overseeing complex documentation such as letters of credit. Like the CPIM, it also improves skills on relevant Internet technology while helping navigate the complex landscape of international trade rules and regulations.

If you are looking for a promotion or looking for a new job in the manufacturing sector, it might be a good idea to pursue an APICS certification. The eight-month course is demanding, and there are no guarantees, but the financial and vocational payoffs might be worth the gamble.