Certificate Programs That Lead to High-Paying Jobs

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There are many degree programs that can help increase your chances of finding a high-paying job. However, many of these programs are costly, and can take years to complete.

An alternative to a degree program is a certificate program. Certificate programs are short-term training programs that often take less time than a degree––you can earn some certificates in as little time as a couple of months. They also tend to cost less money.

Certificate programs can help you develop 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 or are looking for a mid-life career change. Find the right program for you, and you’ll be on your way towards a successful career.

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 will make you look more impressive in the job market.

If you already have a career, you still might complete a certificate program to hone a particular skill. For example, there are a number of IT certificate programs that help people develop skills and knowledge bases that are necessary in 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 certification. 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 a number of accounting certifications that can help an accountant move up in his or her career. These certifications typically require an exam. Sometimes you can take a certificate program to help you prepare for a licensure or certification.

How to Find the Right Certificate Program for You

 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 what certificates you might get to help your career. If one of your contacts completed a certificate program, get their feedback on 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. He or she might have some suggestions for certificates that could enhance your resume and even lead to a promotion. Also check into whether or not your company offers to pay (or partially refund) 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 the least expensive certificate programs.

Find an accredited school. Make sure the school you select is accredited by the US Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education. For-profit schools are not always accredited, and they sometimes lack rigorous academics and/or useful career services. Just because a school produces a lot of advertisements (in print, online, or on billboards) does not mean it is the right school for you.

Find a program that works with your schedule. Look into what each program costs, how long it takes to complete the program, and what the program offers (i.e., on-the-job training, courses, exams, etc.). Select a program that fits your schedule. For example, if you want to continue to work full time while completing the program, make sure the program’s schedule is flexible.

If it’s 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 alumni. Most schools should be willing to put you in touch with alumni who can answer your questions about the program. Ask those alumni what the program was like, and whether or not it helped them find a job.

10 High-Paying Jobs that Require (or Recommend) a Certificate

These are well-paying jobs which either require a certificate, or for which there are relevant certificate programs. For most of these positions, a certificate can help someone early in their career get a good first job.

1. Web Developer

Web developers create and design websites. They create the look of the site, and handle the website’s performance, speed, and capacity. Web developers might work for computer systems design companies, work for marketing firms or departments, or be self-employed. While some web developers have an associate’s degree in web design, others have a certificate in web development instead. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook, web developers earn a median of $66,130 per year, and will see much faster-than-average job growth over the next ten years.

2. Construction and Building Inspector

Construction and building inspectors inspect construction sites and buildings to make sure that the structures meet all required codes and regulations. Many construction and building inspectors have a certificate from a local or community college, although others have a two-year associate’s degree instead. They earn an average salary of $58,480, and are expected to see faster-than-average job growth in the next ten years.

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 some four-year programs. Drafters earn an average of $53,480 per year.

 4. Industrial Engineering Technician

Industrial engineering technicians assist industrial engineers with revising methods of operation at manufacturing plants and other industrial sites. They help revise methods of operation, equipment layout, and more to make a factory run more smoothly. Most industrial engineering technicians have either an associate’s degree or a certificate from a vocational-technical school. Industrial engineering techs earn an average of $53,330 per year.

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 that plumbers and pipefitters be licensed. Plumbers and pipefitters can earn an average salary of $51,450, and they are expected to see much faster-than-average job growth over the next ten years.

6. Court Reporter

A court recorder transcribes, word-for-word, various legal proceedings such as depositions and trials. Most court reporters work in courts or legislatures. Many court reporters have at least a postsecondary certificate in court reporting from a community college or technical institute. Court reporters earn an average of $51,320 per year.

 7. Heavy Vehicle and Mobile Equipment Mechanics

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 that have completed a one-to-two-year certificate program in diesel technology or heavy equipment mechanics, since some of the latest machinery is very complex. These kinds of mechanics earn an average of $50,810 per year.

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, and soldering sheets. Many sheet metal workers learn their work through an apprenticeship or a certificate program from a technical school. They earn an average annual salary of $46,940.

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. HVACR technicians earn an average of $45,910, and are seeing a much faster-than-average rate in job growth.                                                                                                                                   

10. Surgical Technologist

Surgical technologists assist in operating rooms in hospitals. They help prepare operating rooms, arrange equipment, sterilize patients, and help doctors during surgeries. They often complete a certificate program in surgical technology. These can last from a few months to two years. Surgical technologists earn an average of $45,160, and are seeing faster-than-average job growth.

Other Jobs that Require (or Recommend) a Certificate

 Healthcare Jobs

  • Dental Assistant
  • Diagnostic Medical Sonographer
  • Emergency Medical Technician
  • Hospital Transcriptionist
  • Licensed Practical and Vocational Nurse
  • Medical Assistant
  • Medical and Clinical Lab Technician
  • Medical Coder
  • Medical Transcriptionist
  • Pharmacy Technician
  • Radiologic Technologist
  • Veterinary Assistant

Industrial Jobs

  • Automotive Mechanic
  • Computer-Controlled Machine Tool Operator
  • Machinists
  • Telecommunications Equipment Installer and Repairer
  • Tool and Die Makers
  • Welder and Welder Fitter

Other Jobs

  • Computer Support Specialist
  • Cosmetologist
  • Firefighter
  • Fitness Trainer and Instructor
  • Hairdresser
  • Manicurist
  • Massage Therapist
  • Network and Computer Systems Administrator
  • Pedicurist
  • Procurement Clerk
  • Real Estate Agent

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, an apprenticeship, or a two-year degree can qualify you to get started.