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Professional qualifications fall into several broad categories, and include educational, on-the-job, and independent pursuits. Within the vast arena of academic credentials are various degreed programs. Through these, graduates receive certificates of completion, or degrees awarded by trade schools, community colleges or institutions of higher education. Successful completion of testing programs that certify an individual's competence in a particular area of expertise is yet another of the types of professional qualifications. Unlike those who are qualified based on credentials, various artisans may obtain recognition of expertise based primarily on craftsmanship.
Using the educational route to obtain professional qualifications is very common. Generally speaking, three factors increase the value of educational credentials: level of competency obtained as measured by an academic institution through a grading process, the amount of time invested, and the particular field of academic pursuit. Achieving higher grades, undergoing lengthier studies, and pursing more technically oriented coursework will typically generate more income-earning potential over the lifetime of the graduate. Even if an academic pursuit does not result in the awarding of a degree or certificate, the learning experience may still enhance a candidate's résumé.
On-the-job training as a credential varies considerably in terms of the professional qualifications that may be awarded. Sometimes, extensive work experience may be an acceptable substitute qualifier for a job position that typically requires completion of an academic degree. For example, a person who has worked in computer programming and obtained competency in working with certain computer languages, but has no computer science degree, may be considered equally qualified with another candidate who has a degree in computer science.
Some companies award certificates or give promotions to workers who have demonstrated competency in their work. In other cases, qualifications associated with a demonstration of competency may be required by local, regional, or national laws. An example would be a bar exam, which is typically undertaken by law-school graduates. Similarly, passing an exam that qualifies a candidate as a certified public accountant (CPA) may also be required for some positions.
Independent pursuit of credentials varies widely, and usually depends heavily upon a person's demonstration of competency. These types of professional qualifications may be achieved in several ways. Some methods might include amassing a plethora of personal recommendations, or achieving milestones as a business owner. An effective track record as a productive salesman, for example, would be another way to earn credentials.
Craftsmanship is an ancient method of obtaining professional qualifications. Artisans, craftsmen, and writers are examples of positions that require this type of professional credential. A best-selling novelist almost always obtains credentials that publishers would likely value. Public showings of handcrafted or unique items, or works of art also comprise professional qualifications. In this case, a person's productive value is measured in large part by the level of economic demand for his or her craftsmanship.