Top Short-Term Career Training Programs

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Ready to embark on a new career, but don’t have the time (or money) to spend four years getting a bachelor’s degree? A short-term job training program might be just the ticket for you to gain access to a rewarding career field.

There are a surprising number of fields you can enter without completing long degree programs. Many offer salaries and job satisfaction similar to those that require four-year degrees. If you’re in the market for a job change, consider a short-term job training program in a growing occupation. You may find that you can qualify quickly for a rewarding new job.

Top 10 Short-Term Career Training Programs

1. Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) are in high demand given the increasing needs of an aging population for medical support. CNAs work in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, hospitals, private homes, and residential treatment centers. They support the medical efforts of the professional nursing staff by observing and reporting changes in vital signs and the health status of patients.

CNAs help patients to negotiate their daily activities such as eating, dressing, and bathing. Training programs are offered by the Red Cross, hospitals, community colleges, and online. Most programs can be completed in four to six weeks and require at least 75 hours of on-site training.

Search in your browser for "CNA training" to find a list of options in your area. Search Indeed.com by "CNA" or "Certified Nursing Assistant" to see some of the jobs offered in your area. Some hospitals and nursing homes offer free training programs to candidates who make a commitment to work for their organization. 

Job Outlook – According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), jobs for nursing assistants are projected to grow 11 percent faster than the average for all occupations from 2016-2026.

Salary - BLS data indicates that the median annual income for nursing assistants is $27,520. The top 10 percent earn at least $38,630, while the bottom 10 percent earn less than $20,680.

 2. Commercial Drivers transport goods and materials in trailers or other large capacity vehicles. Contact the division of motor vehicles in your state for the exact requirements in your area for obtaining a commercial license.

You will be required to complete a written test as well as a road test. Commercial driving schools abound. Consult with your local DMV website or office for a list of reputable schools in your area. Training programs generally last for two to six weeks. Learn more about a career in truck driving.

Job Outlook – Opportunities for commercial truck drivers are expected to grow about as fast as average, by 4-6 percent from 2016-2026.

Salary – The median salary for heavy truck drivers is $42,480 with the top 10 percent earning at least $64,000 and the bottom 10 percent earn less than $27,510. Delivery truck drivers earn considerably less with a median annual wage of $29,250 while the highest 10 percent earn more than $48,730 and the lowest 10 percent earn less than $17,660.

3. Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) are the first point of contact for people who are injured or suddenly become ill. EMTs intervene to provide medical assistance and stabilize injured or ill persons prior to treatment by physicians and then transport patients to hospitals for care. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects job prospects for EMTs to expand much faster than for the average occupation due to the aging population and attendant strokes, falls, heart attacks, and other emergency conditions.

The basic level EMT requires 100 hours of training.

The intermediate or advanced level EMT certification entails about 1,000 hours of training. Candidates must pass a national qualifying exam as well as complete an approved training program to qualify for all levels of EMT practice. Licensing requirements vary by state. Search the state department of health in your area with a query that includes "accredited EMT training programs." Learn more about a career as an emergency medical technician.

Job Outlook – Employment of EMTs is projected to grow much faster than average from 2016-2026 at 15 percent.

Salary – EMTs earn a median annual wage of $33,380. The top 10 percent earn at least $59,990 and the lowest 10 percent of earners are paid $21,880 or less.

4. Hair Stylists shampoo, cut, color, straighten, curl, and treat the hair of clients. Training programs are most commonly nine to 10 months in length with states requiring about 1,000-1,600 hours for licensing.

States require stylists to complete a written exam and sometimes a practical skills exam to qualify for a license. Search by the name of your state and keywords "approved cosmetology schools" to obtain a list of schools in your area. Here’s more hair stylist career information.

Job Outlook – Job openings are expected to grow at a faster than average rate of 13 percent from 2016 to 2026.

Salary – Hair stylists earn a median hourly wage of $11.95. The lowest 10 percent earn less than $8.73 while the highest 10 percent earn more than $24.36 per hour.

5. Massage Therapists manipulate muscles and the soft tissue of clients to relieve pain, reduce stress, and increase relaxation. They advise clients about ways to reduce stress and muscular tension and achieve greater relaxation. Massage therapists work in private practice, with chiropractors, and in hospitals, spas, and fitness centers.

Most states license massage therapists and require completion of an accredited program, usually a year or so in length, with at least 500 hours of study. Search by the name of your state and keywords "approved massage therapy schools" to obtain a list of schools in your area.

Job Outlook – Jobs for massage therapists are expected to grow by 26 percent from 2016-2026, a much faster rate than for other occupations.

Salaries – The median annual wage for message therapists is $39,990. The lowest 10 percent earn less than $20,300 while the top 10 percent earn at least $77,470.

6. Personal Trainers design and deliver fitness programs for clients. They develop routines to optimize the aerobic conditioning, flexibility, and muscular strength of their clients. Trainers must promote their services to prospective clients in an ongoing manner to maintain a viable income.

Personal trainers work in private homes of clients, community-based gyms/fitness facilities, and corporate or resort fitness centers. Certifying bodies require candidates to complete a written exam and in some cases a skills test. Candidates typically complete either online courses lasting six to twelve weeks or training programs lasting about six months. Search "personal trainer courses" and your location to identify some training programs in your area. Ask local personal trainers for recommendations regarding the best programs.

Job Outlook - Jobs for personal trainers are expected to grow by 10 percent from 2016-2026, a faster rate than for other occupations.

Salary - The median annual wage for personal trainers is $39,210. The lowest 10 percent earn less than $19,640 while the top 10 percent earn at least $74,520.

7. Physical Therapy Aides provide support to physical therapists and physical therapy assistants. They help to arrange equipment and prepare patients for procedures. Physical therapy aides greet patients and schedule appointments. Physical therapy aides help patients in and out of treatment areas. They reinforce treatment protocols after therapists have initiated interventions with clients. Most physical therapy aides are trained on the job for three to 12 months.

Job Outlook - Jobs for physical therapy aides are expected to grow by 29 percent from 2016-2026, a much faster rate than for other occupations.

Salary - The median annual wage for physical therapy aides is $25,730. The lowest 10 percent earn less than $19,620 while the top 10 percent earn at least $38,490.

8. Wind Turbine Technicians maintain facilities and equipment that generate power through the wind. They test equipment for safety and efficiency, diagnose problems, replace parts, and perform other repairs. Wind power has expanded rapidly due to the push for alternative energy sources and advances in wind power technology, so jobs are expanding at a much faster than average rate.

Technicians complete certificate programs which range in length from three months to two years. Search "Wind Turbine Technician Training" to identify some options in your area.

Job Outlook - Jobs for wind turbine technicians are expected to grow by 96 percent from 2016-2026, a much faster rate than for other occupations.

Salary - The median annual wage for wind turbine technicians is $53,880. The lowest 10 percent earn less than $37,850, while the top 10 percent earn at least $80,170.

9. Apprentice programs provide a mechanism for new workers to learn trades through a combination of paid on the job training and classroom instruction. Common apprentice occupations include plumber, electrician, heating and air conditioning technician, carpenter, machinist, and mechanic. Training typically lasts one to three years, but trainees receive pay during this time and there is generally no charge for the training. Research apprentice options in your area through your state apprenticeship office.

10. Sales Trainees engage customers and encourage them to purchase products or services. Candidates with strong verbal and interpersonal skills can often convince employers to hire them without any direct sales experience. Make sure you demonstrate drive and assertiveness in your approach to the employer. Conduct informational interviews with salespeople and other staff at target companies to showcase your communication skills. Many organizations have on the job training programs to educate trainees about their products and sales strategies.