Whether you’re just starting a new career or looking to boost your existing one, you need something on your resume that sets you apart. It should be something that impresses employers and proves you have specialized skills and knowledge.
A college degree can do that, but degrees can be time-consuming and expensive to obtain. You can rely on experience in some jobs, but that doesn’t help if you’re new to the profession.
Certificate programs give you the credentials you need to land a high-paying job — and they’re typically not as expensive or lengthy as traditional college degree programs.
This article tells you all about some of the best certificate programs and helps you determine how to choose the right one for you.
A certificate program provides you with specialized training and proves that you have the right skills or knowledge for the job. Programs vary in length, but you can often complete one in a few months to a year. Some programs only involve coursework, while others require an exam.
You can find certificate programs at your local community college or trade school. Be careful with online certificate programs — while legitimate schools or organizations offer some online courses, always be sure to check the credentials of the program.
Let’s take a look at how certificate programs differ from degrees.
Degrees and certifications are both ways to gain career skills and show employers that you have impressive qualifications. So how do you choose between a degree and a certificate program?
Some careers require degrees, but many don’t. Say you want to work in healthcare, for example — becoming a physical therapist requires multiple degrees while working as a medical assistant only requires a certification.
If you’re not sure about the education required for your job of choice, you can search the name of the profession on the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics website. Look for where it says “Typical Entry-Level Education.”
Certificates also take less time to earn and are often much less expensive. The typical one-year certificate program at a college costs $4,936 for in-state residents. At colleges offering bachelor’s degrees, four years of tuition comes to $34,620 on average.
Considering the great jobs available to certificate holders, many people decide that a certificate program makes the most sense.
Some jobs require certification. If you’re interested in one of those careers, enrolling in a certificate program is necessary. In other cases, even if you’re technically qualified for the job without certification, getting one could still be useful.
Make more money. The job market is competitive. Candidates with certificates on their resumes stand out from the crowd and may be able to earn a higher rate of pay.
Expand on your skills. Certificate programs teach essential skills and knowledge. You’ll be the expert that employers are looking for at the end of a good certificate program.
While the right certificate program can give your career a boost, the wrong one might not benefit you as much as it could. Before you spend time and money earning a certification, research which programs will impress recruiters in your desired field!
Here are four tips for choosing the best certificate program for you:
One of the best ways to find out what’s required for a certain type of job is to read job ads. Search job listings in your industry of choice. The Jobcase job search tool is a great place to start.
What kind of training do these employers require or desire? Look for a section titled “Requirements” or “Desired Qualifications.”
Do you know anyone who has the career you want? Can your friends connect you with someone who can provide advice? Maybe there's someone in the Jobcase Community who knows about your aspired field!
People with experience in the industry may be able to tell you if there’s a training program or professional certificate you should consider. If you want to stay in your current career, talk to your boss. There may be a certification program that would make you more competitive for job advancement.
CareerOneStop is the U.S. Department of Labor’s website for employment information.
You can search CareerOneStop’s certification finder by the name of the certificate program or job that you want. It will provide you with a list of programs and information about each one.
Community colleges and trade or vocational schools usually offer certificate programs. Look at school websites to find out more information about what certification courses you can take.
There are a lot of different certification programs out there. We’ve highlighted six of the most beneficial programs that can help you land a good job with a competitive salary.
A medical records technician is responsible for transcribing, organizing, and maintaining patient medical records. You could work at a medical office, hospital, nursing care facility, or insurance company,
It’s important that you have excellent attention to detail for this career since patient care depends on having accurate records.
The requirements for becoming a medical records technician vary by employer. A few only need you to have a high school diploma or GED, but most will require a certificate.
The medical records technician field is growing much faster than average, and the typical salary is $44,090 per year.
Court reporters attend trials, depositions, and other legal proceedings and transcribe what’s said word-by-word.
Court reporters need to be focused and organized. They also have to be able to keep confidential information to themselves.
Many states require court reporters to have a professional certification. Look for these programs at local community colleges and technical institutes.
The average court reporter’s salary is $61,660 per year, and job growth is much faster than average.
The path to becoming an electrician is slightly different from the other careers listed so far, but you can still do it without a degree. When you start out, all you need is a high school diploma or GED. Some aspiring electricians go to trade school after that, and others don’t. Either way, electricians have to complete an apprenticeship to get certified.
You can find an apprenticeship through a trade school or an electrician’s union. Make sure your state approves the program. In most states, you’ll take a test at the end of your apprenticeship that allows you to become a certified electrician.
The average salary for an electrician is $56,900 per year. Plus, the field is growing much faster than average.
The term “nurse” is often associated with registered nurses or RNs. But getting an associate’s or bachelor’s degree to become an RN isn’t the only way to become a nurse.
A licensed practical nurse (LPN) works under the supervision of a doctor or RN. They perform tasks like taking vital signs, collecting samples, and keeping patients comfortable.
To get LPN certification, you need to complete a certificate program that’s approved by your state. Most are a year long. You can find these programs at local colleges and nursing schools. In California and Texas, people in this profession are called LVNs, or licensed vocational nurses.
The job outlook for LPNs is very good, with much faster-than-average job growth. They make an average salary of $48,820 per year.
Brick masons use bricks, concrete, stones, or other materials to build and repair structures. It’s a physically demanding job. Brick masons spend long days lifting heavy materials and working on their feet.
Like electricians, most brick masons start their careers with an apprenticeship. Some technical schools also offer one-year certification programs. Check the requirements in job ads and ask about programs at local schools.
Brick masons make an average of $44,710 per year.
Claims adjusters evaluate insurance claims. They inspect buildings, vehicles, or other property on which an insurance claim has been made. Most claims adjusters eventually specialize in a certain type of claim. One might become an expert on automobile collisions, while another travels into hard-hit areas after a natural disaster.
You can be a claims adjuster with a high school diploma or GED in some states, while others require a certification course or a licensing exam. The requirements may also depend on the type of adjuster you want to be.
Many claims adjusters travel for work, so certifications in neighboring states can be useful, too.
The average insurance claims adjuster makes $68,130 per year.
Completing a certificate program has the potential to make you an attractive job candidate, so make sure to showcase your specialized career training when you apply for jobs. Here’s how.
Create a new section of your resume
Your certifications deserve to be showcased in a special section of your resume. Label this section “Certificates” or “Professional Certifications.”
Each item in the certificate program section of your resume should include:
The name of your certification
The organization that gave you the certification
The date you received your certificate
Make sure your certifications are up to date
Some certifications are forever while others need to be renewed either by additional coursework, taking an exam, or submitting a renewal form.
Be sure you know which type you have — it won’t look great to send a resume with expired certifications to a potential employer!
Talk about what you learned in the interview
Definitely mention in a job interview if you have a certification that’s in demand for your industry. But don’t stop there!
The interviewers may not be familiar with the specific skills you learned in your certificate program, so mention any that are relevant to the job (refresh your memory before the interview by rereading the job description.
Certificate programs are a great way to get a well-paying job without needing to pay a lot of money or be in school for years. If your dream career path isn’t on this list, it might still have certifications available. Check job listings, CareerOneStop, or local schools to determine if there’s a certificate program that’s right for you.
For more job search tips, visit the Jobcase Getting Hired Resource Center.