Certificate Programs That Lead to High-Paying Jobs

This illustration lists the ways to find the best certificate program for you including "Use the CareerOneStop Certification Finder," "Talk to alumni," "Find an accredited school," "Talk to your current employer," "Check local schools," and "Look for a program that works with your schedule."

 Theresa Chiechi © The Balance

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. 

You can earn some certificates in as little time as a couple of months.They also tend to cost less money than a degree program.

Certificate programs can help you develop the skills and experiences necessary for a particular job. There are certificates for jobs in a variety of industries, including healthcareadministration, 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 toward 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 stand out in the job market.

Even if you already have a career, you may still benefit from completing a certificate program to hone a particular skill.

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 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 accounting certifications that can help an accountant move up in his or her career. These certifications typically involve sitting an exam. Sometimes you can take a certificate program to help you prepare for licensure or certification.

How to Find 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, with 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 what certificates 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. He or she 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 the least expensive certificate programs.

Find an Accredited School: Make sure the school you select is accredited by the U.S. 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 a lot of advertisements (in print, online, or on billboards) 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 it takes to complete the program, and what the program offers (e.g., on-the-job training, courses, exams). Select a program that fits your schedule. For example, if you want to continue to work full-time while pursuing the program, make sure the program's 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 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 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 inquire 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.

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 the website's performance, speed, and capacity. Web developers might work for computer systems design companies, or 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.

Salary and Employment Outlook: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, web developers earn a median income of $73,760 per year and will see much-faster-than-average job growth of 13% between 2018 and 2028.

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.

Salary and Employment Outlook: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, construction and building inspectors earn a median income of $60,710 per year and will see faster-than-average job growth of 7% between 2018 and 2028.

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 $56,830 per year and will see little or no job growth between 2018 and 2028.

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.

Salary and Employment Outlook: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, industrial engineering technicians earn a median income of $56,550 per year and will see little or no job growth between 2018 and 2028.

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.

Salary and Employment Outlook: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, pipefitters and plumbers earn a median income of $55,160 per year and will see much-faster-than-average job growth of 14% between 2018 and 2028.

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 postsecondary 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 $60,130 per year and will see faster-than-average job growth of 7% between 2018 and 2028.

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 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.

Salary and Employment Outlook: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, heavy vehicle and mobile equipment mechanics earn a median income of $51,590 per year and will see job growth of 4% between 2018 and 2028—about as fast as average.

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.

Salary and Employment Outlook: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, sheet metal workers earn a median income of $50,400 per year and will see faster-than-average job growth of 8% between 2018 and 2028.

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 $48,730 per year and will see much-faster-than-average job growth of 13% between 2018 and 2028.

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 $48,300 and are seeing faster-than-average job growth of 9% between 2018 and 2028.

More Jobs You Can Get With a Certificate

Healthcare Jobs

Industrial Jobs

Other Jobs

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.

Apprenticeships are one of the best alternatives to consider since they combine training with pay and result in a credential or certificate upon completion.

Article Sources

  1. CareerOneStop. "Certification Finder." Accessed May 23, 2020.

  2. U.S. Department of Labor. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Professional Certifications and Occupational Licenses." May 23, 2020.

  3. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Web Developers." Accessed May 23, 2020.

  4. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Construction and Building Inspectors." Accessed May 23, 2020.

  5. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Drafters." Accessed May 23, 2020.

  6. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Industrial Engineering Technicians." Accessed May 23, 2020.

  7. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters." Accessed May 23, 2020.

  8. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Court Reporters." Accessed May 23, 2020.

  9. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Heavy Vehicle and Mobile Equipment Service Technicians." Accessed May 23, 2020.

  10. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Sheet Metal Workers." Accessed May 23, 2020.

  11. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Mechanics and Installers." Accessed May 23, 2020.

  12. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Surgical Technologists." Accessed May 23, 2020.