Leadership remains a valuable workforce skill, and those who possess a leadership certification enjoy an average salary of $74,000 per year1 on average. Students who want to move ahead in their careers can leverage the knowledge and training from a leadership certificate to command teams, departments, and even whole companies.
This guide explores the different types of leadership certifications available and what students can expect.
What Is a Leadership Certification?
A leadership certification offers official credentials from colleges, universities, and training schools in the art of leading. They provide advanced management skills, as well as training for developing teams and collaboration. They impart vital people skills to those who want to move into leadership and management positions within an organization.
Students gain several benefits from participating in leadership certifications, including:
- Enhanced soft skills: Students learn to negotiate, manage time, assess risk, and think critically using time-honored tactics and techniques. They strengthen these skills and provide valuable collaboration tools to improve organizational efficiency.
- Real-world examples: Certification programs often use real-world examples to give students the opportunity to explore and problem solve. They give students practical training that participants can immediately use in their current workplace or use to boost a resume.
- Networking and collaboration: Participants get to meet other like-minded individuals in their certification courses, providing valuable feedback and collaboration. When leaders have others who share their experiences, they can draw on that community knowledge anytime a challenge arises.
- Understanding leadership style: Not all leaders lead the same way. Certification courses guide participants so that they can find their own leadership style and leverage that to get the best from their teams. Students get to try out different styles to find out which one works the best for them.
- Boost expertise: Leadership certifications offer a competitive edge. They demonstrate that a candidate has the management expertise required of higher-level positions and help job seekers stand out. It also showcases a willingness to engage in professional development, a vital part of advancing a career.
How Can I Use a Leadership Certification?
Students graduating with a leadership certification can command an average salary of around $74,000 per year1, which is well over the average national salary. Students who participate in specialized certificate programs may possess the potential for an even higher salary.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) noted that in 2018, more than 43 million people held a professional certificate of some kind2. People with certifications were more likely to participate fully in the workforce than those without one2. This type of professional differentiator could provide a valuable boost to those seeking positions in competitive industries.
Leadership Certification Courses
Students pursuing leadership certification take courses that build critical soft skills. Every program differs slightly, but these represent some common topics students might explore.
Building High-Performing Teams
Team building and collaboration remain foundational skills for effective leaders. Students explore the psychology of teams, leverage tools for optimal collaboration, and build the communication and negotiation skills that keep teams running smoothly. Students also learn to bring out the talents of individuals.
Interpersonal Communication Skills
Interpersonal communication is a touchstone of the workplace. Participants learn about the process of exchanging ideas and information, working out any issues that arise between people, and the emotional foundation of those exchanges. These types of courses teach leaders about the value of these interactions and how to ensure that teams maintain positive and healthy relationships while collaborating and behind the scenes.
21st Century Leadership
Leadership skills changed with the widespread adoption of technology. Students learn the best practices for motivating remote workforces, for example, or how to foster a reliable corporate social media policy. They can learn about agile and lean principles of management and how the use of data can change the way business decisions happen.
Those planning to lead businesses need an understanding of best practices for corporate leadership. Strategic management courses involve tools and frameworks to plan and execute a solid business strategy that values both its goods and the people involved. Students learn market positioning, value propositions, and industry analysis.
Not all teams or organizations will flow smoothly. When challenges arise, good leaders must know how to manage workplace behavior, minimize and mitigate damage from conflicts, and bring teams back to the table. Courses such as these offer practical skills for communicating, understanding, and negotiating a crisis.
Change can disrupt operations and companies run the risk of losing both talent and historical legacies. Organizational change management courses provide leaders with the skills they need to lead companies through the process of change successfully. This course remains especially important as companies undergo digital transformation for operations in the 21st century.
Diversity and Inclusion
Modern leaders must understand the dynamics of leading a diverse workforce. Courses such as these prepare leaders to improve diversity, manage change, and foster the talents of a workforce spread across cultures, locations, and ages.
Leadership Certification Concentrations
Students may choose to specialize their certification in a particular type of leadership. While programs differ and students may find any number of options, this list offers some common leadership certification concentration choices:
Human Resource Management
This type of leadership certificate provides training in managing people within an organization. This focus helps businesses leverage their talent to provide the best foundation for competitive advantage. It also helps leaders maximize employee performance by providing a healthy workplace, reducing stress and conflict, and ensuring excellent communication.
This concentration trains leaders to motivate team members and plan the strategic goals for an entire organization. Participants learn the interplay of organizational dynamics with team and individual dynamics. They’ll understand best practices for ensuring that assignments and decisions carry out those goals.
Leaders in the modern world need specialized skills to handle the interconnected, global business world. For this leadership certificate, participants learn hiring, marketing, sales, and other tactics to operate an international business or a business with an international customer base.
An executive leadership certificate provides budding C-suite executives with the skills to manage organizations and make difficult but necessary decisions. Students learn to oversee all business activities, leverage the expertise of the boardroom and managers, and motivate entire organizations of employees to success.
Applied leadership focuses on the practical side of leadership. Applied leadership often focuses on a specific industry, giving students the chance to explore what leadership looks like tailored to a specific focus or industry.
How Long Does It Take to Earn a Leadership Certification?
Certifications rarely take as long as a two- or four-year degree. Many take just one year of part-time study, following a format allowing students to take just one or two courses at a time. That time could shorten to as few as a few months or a single semester with some certifications.
Certifications possess flexibility. Students who need a certain time frame can research different choices that fit their needed time schedule. Students can also take certifications online, making logistics much easier.
Discover More About Leadership Certifications
Q. How do leadership programs work?
Few people possess all the required skills for enacting lasting organizational change. Leadership programs provide those tools for making better decisions and fostering communication while supporting the natural leadership abilities of each of the participants.
Q. What is the application process for leadership certifications?
Students should follow the individual requirements for their chosen leadership certification programs. Some programs require a certain amount of work experience, while others require some kind of previous degree. However, programs vary so much that prospective participants should be able to find one that suits their experiences.
Q. Are scholarships available for leadership certifications?
Students can check with their program to discover more about the possibility of scholarships or grants. Some employers may also offer professional development credits to offset the cost. Participants might also check out diversity scholarships if they come from a traditionally underrepresented group in the leadership world.
Q. Is a leadership certificate worth it?
PayScale estimates that those with a leadership certification can earn almost twice the national salary average1. It allows job seekers to stand out in their job search and shows employers that participants value professional development.
Q. Does location matter for leadership certification?
Leadership certificates often happen online. The programs target those already in the workforce, so many certifications make it easier for students to attend without having to quit work or move from their current location.
Q. Is online an option for leadership certifications?
Yes, many programs offer online leadership certificates that run concurrently with on-campus programs and follow the same curriculum. These programs cater to those already in the workforce with high-demand jobs.
Q. How much does leadership training cost?
Programs vary, so students should check with their chosen program for specific costs. Online programs may offer slightly lower rates than in-person certifications, but this isn’t a hard and fast rule.
 PayScale. (2021). Salary for Certification: Leadership Certification. https://www.payscale.com/research/US/Certification=Leadership_Certification/Salary
 Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2019). Professional certifications and occupational licenses: evidence from the Current Population Survey. https://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2019/article/professional-certifications-and-occupational-licenses.htm