Recently, various corners of the procurement universe have been producing a lot of rhetoric about the exact compensation benefits of industry certifications (e.g., ISM credentials). Without question, it appears on paper that certifications lead to higher salaries. However, I'm wondering if these results are causal or correlated based on the curriculum and material one studies and learns in the process of getting and maintaining a certification. It's like the old question of whether Harvard Business School graduates make more money than their peers at other programs five years out because either: A) Harvard picks the right set of leaders in the admissions process; B) The training they receive in classes leads to better jobs and faster promotion (relative to other MBA programs); C) The network they meet at HBS leads to higher paying jobs; or D) Those who get into Harvard are simply the most ruthless and self-motivated of all the business school grads, and would make the same amount regardless of whether or not they had the credential in the first place.
Let's now apply this thinking to procurement certifications. Clearly, "A" has no bearing. There's nothing exclusive about entering a certification course of study or receiving a certificate -- anyone can do it. "B" is a possibility, although many of the superstars (based on income) that I know in procurement could care less about formal certifications as it relates to their own success and career progression. "C" is a strong possibility. Perhaps those who receive an ISM certification make more because their network grows as they become active in local and national ISM communities (which would basically suggest that there is no need to get a formal certification to receive the benefit -- simply networking within the community would be enough). "D" is also a strong possibility, which is to say that those individuals who are motivated enough to pursue a credential themselves are those who are already most likely to make more due to their tenacity and approach.
In other words, I don't believe that certification alone is necessarily a directly correlated factor when it comes to procurement salaries -- it's probably a combination of an individual's use of a network that an industry association exposes them to, their overall tenacity and willingness to grow professionally, and of course, the training and skills they put into practice after learning from their course of study. Just like an MBA is not necessary to succeed in business, an ISM or another competitive credential does not necessarily give you the advantage you might think going into it (though it might benefit you in other ways that you did not consider before pursuing the certification). I think we'd all agree that there are many paths to career growth and financial success in the Spend Management world.
- Jason Busch