A topic of conversation that has certainly become more popular over the last few years as individuals realize that they need to differentiate themselves (or be seen as "best in class") among their professional peers is the value of professional certifications/designations. In general I am a believer in the value of professional designations as I am a Certified
I believe that obtaining and having professional certifications can serve several "purposes":
1. Facilitates the mastery of skills that will help develop the technical skills needed within a given profession
2. Demonstrates a mastery of a defined set of skills (provides an inherent level of professional credibility)
3. Provides a "built in" professional network of fellow certification holders
4. Facilitates involvement in professional associations
5. Opens doors to career advancement (or keeps them from being closed to you)
However, professional certifications can be costly in terms of time and money. If you want to "do the math" sponsoring organizations should have information on "how much more" holders of their certification make over the course of a career. Also many professions offer more than one certification and you must access the marginal value of each one to your career. A great way to do this is to talk to successful professionals in your field both who hold the certification and do not hold it and see what impact having or no having the given certification has had on their careers.
The cost/benefit analysis for any certification is personal and it depends on factors such as: your current job, your particular industry or desired industry of employment, your desired career path, and how you plan to leverage (or not leverage ) the certification.
Professional certifications can open doors and keep them from being closed on you, but it is an individual's job to invest time and money only in those that have the most impact on his or her career. Like most things in life, the benefits of a professional certification will be what YOU make of it.