A variety of different degree programs can help increase your chances of finding a high-paying job. However, many of these programs are costly and can take years to complete.
A certificate program is an alternative to a degree program. Certificate programs are short-term training programs that often take less time to complete than a degree.
What Is a Certificate Program?
A certificate program offers special training to help you develop the skills and experiences necessary for a particular job. There are certificates for jobs in a variety of industries, including healthcare, administration, and information technology (IT).
These programs can be useful for people who are just starting their careers, as well as for people who already have years of experience and want to boost their skills, and even for those who are looking for a mid-life career change.
You can earn some certificates in as little as a couple of months. They also tend to cost less than degree programs.
Why Get a Certificate?
There are many benefits to completing a certificate program. If you are starting your job search, completing a certificate program will boost your skills and abilities, and it can even help you stand out in the job market.
For example, a number of IT certificate programs help people develop skills and knowledge bases that are necessary for entry into the IT industry. There are also certificates in management, such as project management certificates.
Keep in mind, however, that certificates are not the same as professional licenses and certifications. Licenses are required for particular jobs, such as teaching and cosmetology.
Certifications show that a person has gained skills in a particular field. For example, there are accounting certifications that can help an accountant move up in their career. These certifications typically involve taking an exam. Sometimes you can take a certificate program to help you prepare for licensure or certification.
Even if you already have a career, you may still benefit from completing a certificate program to hone a particular skill.
How to Find the Right Program for You
There are a wide variety of programs available, and it's important you find the right fit to help you meet your career goals. Consider these ideas for choosing the right program for you.
Use the CareerOneStop Certification Finder
Search the Certification Finder by certification name, organization, industry, or occupation to generate a list of certifications. You'll also get information on the certifying organization, how to get certified, and exam details.
Ask Your Contacts
If you are interested in starting on a particular career path, ask people in that field what kinds of degrees and certificates people in that field usually have. Set up informational interviews to ask these contacts to recommend certificates that might help you in your career. If one of your contacts has completed a certificate program, get their feedback on both the school and the program.
Talk to Your Current Employer
If you are looking for a certificate program to help boost your career, talk to your employer. They might have some suggestions for certificates that could enhance your resume and even lead to a promotion.
Check whether your company will pay for—or partially reimburse—a certificate program if it's related to your current job.
Check Local Schools
Most certificate programs are issued by schools, although some are issued by companies and other organizations. Once you know what kind of certificate you want, check your local colleges, community colleges, and vocational-technical schools to see what programs they offer. In-state and community colleges often have less-expensive certificate programs.
Find an Accredited School
Make sure the school you select is accredited by the Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. For-profit schools are not always accredited, and they sometimes lack rigorous academics and/or useful career services. Just because a school generates lots of advertisements—in print, online, or elsewhere—that doesn't mean it's the right school for you.
Find a Program That Works With Your Schedule
Look into what each program costs, how long each takes to complete, and what the program offers. Is there on-the-job training? What about courses or exams? Be sure to select a program that fits your schedule. For example, if you want to continue to work full-time while pursuing the program, make sure its schedule is flexible.
If It Sounds Too Good to Be True, It Probably Is
If you find a certificate program that seems too easy, too inexpensive, or too quick to complete, it likely is.
Do some research to make sure the program is accredited.
Talk to Alumni
Another way to avoid bad certificate programs is to talk to programs' alumni. Most schools should be willing to put you in touch with alumni who can answer your questions about their program. Ask those alumni what the program was like and whether it helped them secure a job.
Consult With Officers From Your Professional Association or Union
Ask about certifications in your field that will enhance your marketability, and about programs offered or endorsed by your association.
10 High-Paying Jobs that Require (or Recommend) a Certificate
These are well-paying jobs that require a certificate or for which relevant certificate programs exist. For most of these positions, a certificate can help someone early in their career get a good first job.
1. Web Developer
Web developers design and develop websites. They create the look of the site and handle its performance, speed, and capacity. Web developers might work for computer systems design companies or marketing firms or departments, and some are self-employed. While some web developers have an associate's degree in web design, others have a certificate in web development instead.
Salary and Employment Outlook: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, web developers earn a median income of $77,200 per year and will see job growth of 8% between 2019 and 2029.
2. Construction and Building Inspector
Construction and building inspectors inspect construction sites and buildings to make sure that all required codes and regulations are met. Many construction and building inspectors have a certificate from a local or community college, although others may have a two-year associate's degree instead.
Salary and Employment Outlook: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, construction and building inspectors earn a median income of $62,860 per year and will see average job growth of 3% between 2019 and 2029.
3. Architectural and Civil Drafter
An architectural and civil drafter creates drawings of the structural features of buildings or creates maps of civil engineering projects—including public works, bridges, and roads. Most drafters have training in computer-aided design and drafting (CADD), engineering, mechanical drawing, and other design and engineering skills. This training can be from a certificate program, a two-year program, or even a four-year program.
Salary and Employment Outlook: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, drafters earn a median income of $57,960 per year and will likely see a decline in jobs between 2019 and 2029.
4. Industrial Engineering Technician
Industrial engineering technicians assist industrial engineers with revising methods of operation at manufacturing plants and other industrial sites. Their goal is to help make the factory run more smoothly. Most industrial engineering technicians have either an associate's degree or a certificate from a vocational-technical school.
Salary and Employment Outlook: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, industrial engineering technicians earn a median income of $57,320 per year and will see slower-than-average job growth of 1% between 2019 and 2029.
5. Pipefitter and Plumber
Plumbers and pipefitters install and repair pipes at offices, homes, factories, and other buildings. Many plumbers learn their work through a certificate program and/or a four- to five-year apprenticeship. Some states also require plumbers and pipefitters to be licensed.
Salary and Employment Outlook: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, pipefitters and plumbers earn a median income of $56,330 per year and will see average job growth of 4% between 2019 and 2029.
6. Court Reporter
A court reporter transcribes legal proceedings such as depositions and trials. Most court reporters work in courts or legislatures. Many court reporters have at least a post-secondary certificate in court reporting from a community college or technical institute.
Salary and Employment Outlook: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, court reporters earn a median income of $61,660 per year and could see faster-than-average job growth of 9% between 2019 and 2029.
7. Heavy Vehicle and Mobile Equipment Mechanic
Heavy vehicle and mobile equipment mechanics, also known as "service technicians," inspect and repair vehicles and machinery used for transportation (including rail transportation), farming, construction, and more. More and more employers want to hire mechanics who have completed a one- to two-year certificate program in diesel technology or heavy equipment mechanics, as some of the latest machinery is very complex.
Salary and Employment Outlook: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, heavy vehicle and mobile equipment mechanics earn a median income of $53,370 per year and will see no job growth between 2019 and 2029.
8. Sheet Metal Worker
A sheet metal worker constructs and/or installs products made of thin sheet metal. This work might involve measuring and marking dimensions on sheets; drilling holes in sheets; carrying large sheets; or welding, bolting, riveting, or soldering sheets. Many sheet metal workers learn their work through an apprenticeship or a certificate program from a technical school.
Salary and Employment Outlook: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, sheet metal workers earn a median income of $51,370 per year and will see slower-than-average job growth of 1% between 2019 and 2029.
9. Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Mechanic and Installer
These mechanics and installers, also known as "HVACR technicians," work on heating, cooling, ventilation, and refrigeration systems in homes, offices, and other buildings. HVACR technicians usually complete a degree or certificate program from a trade or technical school or a community college. These programs can last from six months to one year.
Salary and Employment Outlook: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, HVACR technicians earn a median income of $50,590 per year and will see average job growth of 4% between 2019 and 2029.
10. Surgical Technologist
Surgical technologists assist in operating rooms in hospitals. They help prepare operating rooms, arrange equipment, and help doctors during surgeries. They often complete a certificate program in surgical technology, which can last from a few months to two years.
Salary and Employment Outlook: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, surgical technologists earn an average of $49,710 and could see faster-than-average job growth of 7% between 2019 and 2029.
More Education and Training Options
There are also other high-paying jobs available that don't require a four-year degree. For some of these career options, vocational training or a two-year degree can qualify you to get started.
There are a variety of careers that require a two-year degree:
- Air traffic controller
- Dental hygienist
- Network and computer systems administrator
- Respiratory therapist
Others require an apprenticeship:
Apprenticeships are one of the best alternatives to consider, since they combine training with pay and result in a credential or certificate upon completion.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Do I List Certifications on My Resume?
Depending on your field or desired position, you might list your certifications in the "education" section of your resume. However, if you have many certifications, it may make more sense to create a separate section for any applicable certifications or licenses.
How Do I Add Certifications to My LinkedIn?
Adding certifications to your LinkedIn profile can help you stand out. Go to your profile, click on "Add profile section," and then scroll down to "Licenses & Certifications." After clicking on it, you can fill in all the relevant details.
How Long Do CPR Certifications Last?
CPR certifications last two years from the end of the month in which the course completion card was issued.