Fortune Recommends™ is editorially independent. We may earn affiliate revenue from links in this content.

Experts say that earning relevant certifications can boost your salary by as much as 20%. Here’s how you can boost your own pay

Photo illustration of a large gold dollar sign balloon being blown up with a pump.
Experts say that adding relevant certifications to your resume can boost your salary by as much as 20%.
Photo illustration by Fortune; Original photo by Getty Images

In the aftermath of the pandemic, many companies slowed down their hiring and were more conservative about handing out raises and promotions in an effort to stay afloat amid the ongoing economic uncertainty—to many workers’ dismay. 

But waiting on your boss to give you a raise isn’t the only way to increase your salary. You could make a strong case for a pay bump if you can prove that you add more value to your company. 

One concrete way to do that is to work toward expanding your skill set.  

Wages aren’t outpacing inflation

For many Americans, their salaries aren’t enough to make ends meet. 

An April report by and LendingClub highlighted the pressure that rising prices have put on average consumers. The data showed that 60% of United States consumers lived paycheck to paycheck as of March 2023. 

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that wages aren’t currently outpacing inflation. 

The most recent Consumer Price Index (CPI) showed that the cost of everyday goods saw a 4.9% increase for the 12 months ending with April, while wages have only grown by 4.4% over the same period. 

So how can workers pad their budgets? By adding to their skill sets.

Employees can sharpen their skills to boost their pay

Experts suggest that certain courses and certifications can not only can expand your earning potential long-term, but can potentially strengthen your case for a raise or promotion at work in the near term.  

“Adding relevant certifications to your résumé can potentially lead to higher earnings, with studies showing salary increases ranging from 5% to 20%, depending on the industry and demand for the certification,” says Ryan Miller, director of client success at Employment BOOST, a career consulting company. 

A few popular certifications to consider might include: 

  • Experience using A.I.: Some learning platforms are offering certifications that help you master using A.I. and learn how to use it as a solution in the workplace, recognize its limitations, use it to inform your company’s business strategy, and more. 
  • Data or tech certifications: According to Indeed, the Google Professional Cloud Architect certification is one of the most lucrative certifications. Employees who earn this certification earn an average of $139,529. Other certifications to consider might include HTML, CSS, Python, and JavaScript certifications. 
  • Digital marketing certifications: Certifications in Search Engine Optimization (SEO), email marketing, social media management and strategy, content marketing, and more can help your company grow its audience or customer base. 
  • Project management certifications: If your line of work involves projects with tight budgets, specific timelines, or multiple stakeholders, a project management certification could train you to oversee those initiatives from start to finish and keep everyone on track. Common certifications include the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification, Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM), and Certified Project Management Practitioner (CPMP). 

There are countless certifications you can earn to stand out from the crowd and open the door for new and better opportunities at work. If you’re not sure where to start, it may be worth your while to set up some time to speak with your boss to determine what kinds of skills are most useful and what your areas of improvement are, and then plan accordingly. 

Paying for specialized certifications and courses

Picking up a new course and earning a certification can help you earn more in the long run, but it may come with a few upfront costs. If you’re considering taking a new course, but aren’t sure how to pay for it, you have options. 

  • Take advantage of free online resources: There are several online learning platforms like Coursera and Alison that offer free online courses and certificates in IT, health, language, business, sales, marketing, and more. 
  • Ask your employer to consider paying for your training or certification. Review your benefits package or set up some time with your HR department to ask about any learning and development stipends your company may offer. “Some companies will pay for your courses or for the exam,” says Sara Madera, career coach for working moms and owner of Plan Creatively. “Others have tuition reimbursement or a signing bonus if they know you are committed and it will add value to your role. Be sure to share your interest or willingness in your interview and likely they will share this information in the interview or in your offer.” 
  • Consider applying for grants or scholarships. Depending on the degree or certification, you may qualify for certain private scholarships or grants. 
  • Revisit your budget. If your employer isn’t willing to cover the cost of your course, but you’re certain that obtaining a specific certification could be a major salary and résumé booster, it may be worth your while to make extra room in your budget. Think: spending a little less on unnecessary expenses like travel or dining out—at least until you’ve saved enough for your course. 

The takeaway 

Learning doesn’t always end after you’ve earned your degree. Showing your employer that you’re always teachable and looking for opportunities to improve and add to your skill set can not only help you be more successful in your role, but it could also lead to a pay bump. 

Find the best banking products available to you
If you… We recommend…
Want to earn the best APY you can on your money High-yield savings accounts
Don’t mind locking away your money for a set period to earn better interest Certificates of deposit
Want to save money and earn interest but want easy access to it Money market accounts
Are interested in a new checking account but don’t want to pay fees Free checking accounts
Need help choosing an online bank or credit union Online banks and credit unions
Own your own business and need an account to manage your income and expenses Business checking accounts
Are looking for a bank that offers a nice cash bonus with a new account Checking account bonuses

Follow Fortune Recommends on Facebook and Twitter.

EDITORIAL DISCLOSURE: The advice, opinions, or rankings contained in this article are solely those of the Fortune Recommends editorial team. This content has not been reviewed or endorsed by any of our affiliate partners or other third parties.