Credentials That Count: The Ultimate Certifications for Entrepreneurs
For entrepreneurs and small business owners, education and training can be the keys to unlocking greater success.
In today’s complex and competitive business landscape, developing your skills through certifications and credentials has become essential.
Whether you’re looking to start a new venture or advance your existing business, certifications can provide you with specialized expertise and knowledge to strengthen your entrepreneurial skills.
The right certification will arm you with the latest strategies, techniques, and best practices in your field. This helps you make smarter decisions that can improve operations, boost productivity, and drive profitability.
But with hundreds of options out there, how do you determine the best certifications worthy of your time and investment? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.
In this comprehensive guide, we have researched, compared, and compiled the top 10 certifications to consider in 2023 for:
- Business management fundamentals
- Key areas like marketing, finance, and technology
- Maximizing your chances of startup and small business success
With the expertise you gain from these highly valuable programs, you’ll be equipped with the specialized knowledge and qualifications to confidently lead and grow your business.
So read on to discover the must-have certifications that belong in every entrepreneur’s toolkit!
- For business management fundamentals, consider PMP, Six Sigma Green Belt, CAPM, PHR, or SHRM-CP. These build expertise in operations, processes, projects, and people management.
- To strengthen marketing capabilities, look into CMS, CDMP, Google Ads, and Facebook Blueprint. These certifications reflect proficiency in content, digital, and social media strategies.
- For advanced financial skills, target CPA, CFA, CMA, or EA credentials. These programs lead to expertise in taxes, accounting, analysis, planning, and compliance.
- On the technology front, choose from CISSP, CISA, AWS, or other IT certifications. These validate your ability to leverage key systems, data, networks, and platforms.
- With the right certifications, you gain specialized knowledge, training, and qualifications in must-have entrepreneurial areas like management, marketing, finance, and technology.
- So take your startup or existing small business to the next level by investing in your professional development through these impactful certifications!
1. Certifications for Business Management Skills
Developing strong business management capabilities is a fundamental pillar of success for any entrepreneur or small business owner. That’s why starting with certifications that build critical management skills should be a top priority.
The programs below provide training in areas like operations, strategy, leadership, and maximizing human resources. Gaining this knowledge will empower you to efficiently organize, direct, and grow your budding venture.
a. Project Management Professional (PMP)
The PMP credential offered by the Project Management Institute is arguably the gold standard certification for mastering project management.
This highly respected and globally recognized certification validates your proficiency in leading teams, budgets, and resources to deliver successful projects.
To qualify for the PMP, you’ll need:
- A four-year degree
- At least 3 years and 7,500 hours of professional project management experience
- 35 hours of project management education
The PMP exam tests your expertise on:
- Project integration management
- Scope management
- Schedule management
- Cost management
- Quality management
- Resource management
- Communications management
- Risk management
- Procurement management
Holding the PMP certification proves you have the specialized skills to oversee all aspects of a project lifecycle. This can help you more effectively develop and execute projects when starting or expanding your business.
See related: Project Management for Entrepreneurs
b. Six Sigma Green Belt
Six Sigma is a data-driven approach to eliminating defects and variability in business processes. The Green Belt focuses on the practical application of Six Sigma tools and principles.
Earning a Green Belt will equip you with expertise in:
- Statistical analysis
- Process improvement
- Waste reduction
This can help optimize workflow and output quality in your startup or small business procedures.
Though not as comprehensive as higher Six Sigma certs, Green Belt provides a manageable starting point for entrepreneurs before tackling more advanced Black Belt or Master Black Belt certifications.
c. Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)
Offered by PMI, the CAPM is ideal for managers newer to hands-on project execution. Compared to the PMP, eligibility is easier to obtain. You’ll need:
- A high school diploma
- 1,500 hours of project experience
- 23 hours of project management education
The CAPM covers critical topics like:
- Project Integration
- Cost management
- Human resources
Since the CAPM focuses solely on PMBOK project management principles, it’s especially helpful for entrepreneurs managing simpler, smaller-scale initiatives in a startup environment.
d. Professional in Human Resources (PHR)
For entrepreneurs who want to build expertise in recruiting, managing, and retaining top talent, the PHR from the HR Certification Institute is a great choice.
This certification covers key HR topics including:
- Workforce planning
- Training and development
- Employee relations
- Labor relations
- Risk management
With strong human capital management skills, entrepreneurs can assemble and lead more productive, successful teams. The PHR shows you have the strategic HR acumen to get the most out of your people.
e. SHRM Certified Professional (SHRM-CP)
The SHRM-CP certification also develops critical people management capabilities. This credential validates proficiency in:
- HR strategy
- Law and regulation
- Workforce planning
- Talent acquisition
- Development and retention
- Performance management
- Technology management
- Risk management
- Corporate social responsibility
Pursuing either the PHR or SHRM-CP certification will equip entrepreneurs with the expertise to handle essential HR duties when launching or expanding a venture.
For business leaders looking to develop well-rounded management skills, these top certifications for operations, projects, processes, and people management are invaluable investments.
They provide the specialized training to successfully build, direct, and scale a new startup or existing small business.
With PMP, Green Belt, CAPM, PHR, or SHRM-CP certifications on your resume, you showcase highly sought-after abilities to strategically organize and optimize workflows, processes, teams, and resources.
The knowledge gained also allows better management of budgets, schedules, risks, and operations.
Strengthening these core competencies paves the way for entrepreneurs to accomplish business goals and climb higher heights of success.
So for small business owners and entrepreneurs seeking management excellence, put these top certifications on your radar!
2. Certifications for Marketing Skills
For entrepreneurs ready to attract more customers and boost brand awareness, sharpening marketing skills is a must.
The certifications below can equip you with specialized expertise to successfully promote and sell your products or services.
a. Content Marketing Specialist (CMS)
Offered by the Content Marketing Institute, this certification dives deep into effective content creation and distribution strategies. Key topics covered include:
- Content strategy development
- Content creation management
- Distribution and promotion tactics
- Metrics and analytics
With a CMS certification, entrepreneurs gain insight into producing and sharing quality content that engages customers and drives business growth.
b. Certified Digital Marketing Professional (CDMP)
The CDMP credential developed by the Digital Marketing Institute provides comprehensive training across key digital marketing platforms and tools.
You’ll learn tactics for:
- Search engine optimization (SEO)
- Pay-per-click (PPC)
- Social media marketing
- Mobile marketing
- Email marketing
- Web analytics
For tech-savvy entrepreneurs, understanding these essential digital skills can significantly bolster marketing efforts for startups and small businesses.
c. Google Ads Search Certification
Knowing how to leverage Google Ads is incredibly valuable for entrepreneurs. This certification covers skills like:
- Setting up and optimizing campaigns
- Managing accounts and billing
- Creating high-performing ad copy
- Targeting ads to the right audience
- Analyzing campaign data
Unlocking Google Ads expertise can help entrepreneurs reach more qualified leads and customers cost-effectively.
d. Facebook Blueprint Certification
With billions of active users, Facebook offers massive marketing potential. This certification provides training in:
- Creating and managing Facebook Pages
- Developing ad campaigns
- Leveraging Instagram and Messenger for business
- Analyzing insights with Facebook Analytics
Learning best practices for Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger advertising gives entrepreneurs powerful tools to build their brand community.
For entrepreneurs serious about supercharging their marketing strategy, these digital, content, and social media-focused certifications offer incredible value.
The specialized expertise gained in search, social, and online platforms allows creating targeted campaigns that reach and resonate with ideal customers.
The data-driven approach of these certifications also empowers measuring ROI and continuously refining efforts for optimal success.
With CMS, CDMP, Google Ads, and Facebook Blueprint certifications under your belt, you showcase up-to-date skills to:
- Produce high-quality, engaging content
- Run advanced digital advertising campaigns
- Make data-backed decisions to maximize marketing impact
This knowledge helps entrepreneurs establish authority, generate leads, boost sales, and stand out from the competition.
For startups and small business owners striving to build their brands and connect with customers in a digitally-driven world, these marketing certifications are key stepping stones to success.
3. Certifications for Financial Skills
Handling finances and accounting are core competencies every entrepreneur needs to master. The certifications below provide training to adeptly manage money, taxation, profitability analysis, and other critical financial aspects of running a business.
a. Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
The gold standard for accountants, the CPA license is ideal for entrepreneurs seeking advanced accounting and finance skills. To become a CPA, you must:
- Pass the 4-part Uniform CPA Exam
- Hold a bachelor’s degree
- Complete 150 credit hours of education
- Have 1-2 years of general accounting experience
CPAs possess expertise in:
- Financial accounting and reporting
- Auditing, planning, and attestation
- Business environments and concepts
- Regulation and taxation
This extensive knowledge helps entrepreneurs expertly handle taxes, compliance, financial statements, and cash flow management when starting or growing a business.
b. Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)
Earning the prestigious CFA charter signals proficiency in complex financial analysis and advanced investment decision-making. Key topics covered include:
- Ethical standards
- Quantitative methods
- Financial reporting
- Corporate finance
- Equity and fixed income analysis
- Derivatives and alternative investments
- Portfolio management
Though geared more toward financial advising, the CFA program provides robust training in financial analysis that enables entrepreneurs to make shrewder funding, investment, and growth decisions.
c. Certified Management Accountant (CMA)
Ideal for small business owners, the CMA focuses on financial planning, analysis, control, and decision support. To earn CMA certification, you must:
- Pass 2 exams
- Hold a bachelor’s degree
- Have 2 years of professional experience
CMAs possess financial expertise related to:
- Budgeting, forecasting, and financial planning
- Cost and profitability management
- Risk mitigation and controls
- Financial analysis and decision-making
- Technology and analytics
This proficiency in management accounting and financial management empowers optimal business planning and spending.
d. Enrolled Agent (EA)
Enrolled Agents are licensed by the IRS to represent taxpayers before the government. By becoming an EA, entrepreneurs gain mastery of taxation that helps minimize IRS scrutiny and business tax obligations.
To become an EA, you must pass a comprehensive exam covering:
- Individual and business tax preparation
- Representation, practices, and procedures
- Ethics and circulatory matters
With their specialized tax knowledge, EAs can provide strategic tax planning and preparation services while ensuring full legal compliance.
For entrepreneurs looking to strengthen financial acumen, these certifications deliver advanced skills in accounting, analysis, planning, compliance, and taxes.
This expertise in managing finances, predicting and controlling costs, and optimizing spending enables startups and small businesses to maximize profitability.
Gaining any one of these highly respected financial certifications also demonstrates credibility and proficiency that builds trust when seeking funding or investors.
For entrepreneurs serious about mastering money management, pursuing CPA, CFA, CMA, or EA certification is a strategic investment in long-term business success.
4. Certifications for Technology Skills
In today’s digital era, technology capabilities are imperative for business success. These premier tech certifications can help entrepreneurs effectively leverage tools to be more productive, efficient, and competitive.
a. Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)
Earning the CISSP credential shows you have advanced skills to design, implement, and manage a robust cybersecurity program. This certification covers:
- Asset security
- Security architecture
- Access management
- Operations security
- Disaster recovery
- Legal regulations, compliance, and investigations
- Telecommunications and network security
With cyber threats growing daily, entrepreneurs need security knowledge to adequately safeguard critical startup or small business systems and data.
b. Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA)
CISA holders possess expertise to monitor, assess, and enhance organizational IT and business systems. Key focus areas include:
- IT governance
- Systems acquisition and development
- Data management
- Business process management
- IT service delivery and support
- Protection of information assets
Obtaining CISA certification enables entrepreneurs to implement controls that reduce risk and maximize the effectiveness of IT investments.
c. Amazon Web Services (AWS) Certifications
With widespread business adoption, cloud computing on AWS offers tremendous advantages. AWS certifications build skills to leverage services like:
- Compute power
- Database storage
- Content delivery
- Machine learning
- And more
AWS expertise allows entrepreneurs to rapidly deploy secure, scalable technology solutions to run and grow their startups or small businesses.
d. More Top Technology Certifications
Other worthwhile credentials include:
- Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA)
- IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL)
- Red Hat Certified System Administrator (RHCSA)
- Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE)
- Certified ScrumMaster (CSM)
In our digital world, mastering technologies that enhance efficiency and innovation is imperative for startups and small companies to stay competitive.
These premier tech certifications validate proficiency in managing data, systems, networks, security, cloud platforms, and agile DevOps. This expertise allows entrepreneurs to effectively leverage technology to cut costs, improve processes, and enable business growth.
With credentials like CISSP, CISA, AWS, and more on your resume, you showcase specialized skills to strategically select and manage 21st-century technical solutions. For entrepreneurs operating in the digital age, being fluent in these technologies is essential to thrive.
Conclusion – Best Certifications for Entrepreneurs
For aspiring and current entrepreneurs alike, education through certifications can provide tremendous value by unlocking specialized knowledge and skills for success.
The certifications covered above are some of the best options to equip you with expertise in:
- Business management fundamentals
- Key areas like marketing, finance, HR, and technology
- Startups and small business operations
Whether launching a new venture or advancing your existing business, these premier certifications offer training in today’s most in-demand capabilities.
Gaining credentials in these fields demonstrates you have the specific qualifications and competencies to excel as an entrepreneur or business leader.
So empower yourself on your entrepreneurial journey! Invest in your own professional development by pursuing the certifications that align with your business goals and growth strategies.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Why are certifications valuable for entrepreneurs?
Certifications provide structured training and education in specialized subject areas. This helps entrepreneurs master key business competencies like management, marketing, finance, and technology required for startup or small business success.
2. What are the benefits of getting certified?
Certifications offer many benefits for entrepreneurs, including:
- Gaining expertise in high-demand business skills
- Applying proven frameworks, models, tools, and best practices
- Building credibility and trustworthiness
- Differentiating your qualifications and knowledge
- Expanding your professional opportunities
- Investing in your continuous professional development
3. What certifications are best for new entrepreneurs?
For entrepreneurs just starting out, opt for entry-level certifications that provide fundamentals. Good options include CAPM, Six Sigma Green Belt, Google Ads, Facebook Blueprint, QuickBooks, and HubSpot.
4. How much do certifications cost?
Costs vary but expect to invest $100-$1000+ depending on the certification. Most require passing exams plus annual maintenance fees. However, many programs offer financial assistance. Thoroughly research costs before committing.
5. How long does it take to earn a certification?
Timelines range from a few weeks for short online courses to over a year for comprehensive programs. The right timeline depends on your schedule and goals. Accelerated or self-paced options allow customizing your pace.
6. What is the best way to prepare for certification exams?
Certification issuers provide exam content outlines. Rigorously review these to target your studying on key topics. Use prep books, online courses, practice tests, study groups, and other resources to ensure full preparation.
7. Should I put certifications on my resume?
Absolutely! Feature relevant certifications prominently on your resume. List the certification name, issuing organization, and date earned. This effectively communicates your specialized expertise to employers or clients.