Today’s job market is competitive.
To launch a great career — or advance your current one — you have to stand out from the crowd.
And you can do that through specialized education and training.
But college degree programs take years, are expensive, and don’t always pay off in the end. For many job seekers, they’re just not worth it.
Fortunately, there is another option.
Professional certifications can help you get a well-paying job in a variety of fields. Even if you’re already in a career you enjoy, a certificate can improve your opportunities for advancement.
This article will cover nine certificates that are great for your resume, as well as how to get them.
A professional certification demonstrates that you have the necessary knowledge or training for a specific job.
You usually get the certification by completing a course or training program (sometimes called a certificate program). The requirements will be different for each certification — one might require a year of classes, while another only requires three months of coursework followed by a test.
Some careers require certification. For example, you’re not going to become a licensed practical nurse (LPN) without specialized training and a certificate.
In other cases, a certification isn’t required, but it makes you a more competitive job candidate.
Getting a certification is much less expensive and time-consuming than getting an associate’s or bachelor’s degree and can benefit your career path.
Not all professional certificates are useful or impressive to employers.
If the recruiter or hiring manager has never heard of your certification, they probably don’t know what skills or special training it represents.
But don’t worry — with a little research, it’s possible to find certifications that are in high demand. Here are four ways to learn about them:
Go to your favorite job search website and look at recent listings for the type of job you want.
Many job ads have a “Requirements” or “Desired Qualifications” section. What type of training or licensing are the employers looking for?
For example, if most of the job descriptions for welders say they’re looking for AWS-certified welders, then you know that getting an AWS certification will open up lots of job opportunities.
CareerOneStop is the U.S. Department of Labor’s website for employment information, and it has a certification finder.
You can search the certification finder by the name of the certificate or the job that you want, and it will provide you with a list of certification programs and information on each one.
If you know anyone in your industry of choice, they might have insider information about the most useful certifications for jobs in that field. Or talk to your boss about certifications that could help you in your current career.
If you don’t have expert connections, try online forums like the Jobcase Community.
Community colleges and vocational schools usually offer a variety of useful certification programs.
Look at school websites to find out more information about these certifications, what you can do with them, and how long they take to complete.
Your certifications deserve to be showcased in a special section of your resume. You can call this section “Certificates” or “Professional Certifications.”
Make sure you include the following information for each certificate:
For example, your resume might look something like this:
Let’s take a look at nine different certifications that can add value to your resume and help you land your dream job:
HVAC stands for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning. Sometimes you’ll see it called HVAC-R to include refrigeration. As an HVAC technician, you install, maintain, and repair these systems.
As with many professional certifications, the exact requirements will vary depending on your location.
Check with local trade schools or community colleges. They often have courses that train you to be an HVAC tech and cover common certifications like NATE and HVAC Excellence. The programs last between six months and two years.
You might not realize it when you’re receiving healthcare in a hospital or clinic, but there’s more than one kind of nurse.
Some types, like registered nurses (RN), go through several years of education. Many have four-year degrees.
LPNs, on the other hand, can usually complete certification in just a year.
LPNs work under the supervision of RNs and doctors. They perform basic but critical nursing duties, 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. You can look for these programs at local colleges and nursing schools.
Note: In California and Texas, people in this profession are called LVNs, or licensed vocational nurses. The name is different, but the job is the same.
Construction and building inspectors make sure that buildings are up to code and meet zoning regulations. In this job, you might visit construction sites, inspect building remodels, or review blueprints.
In some states, you can be a construction or building inspector with just a high school diploma or GED, but many require a certificate or license. Check some building inspector jobs near you to see what’s typically required.
Dental assistants take on a wide variety of tasks in a dental office.
They often do administrative work, like scheduling patient appointments and recording patient medical history. They’re also a part of the care team, with responsibilities like taking x-rays or impressions of teeth.
The certification you need to be a dental assistant varies by state. Most programs last between nine months and two years. Look at CODA-accredited programs in your state to find a certification course that will qualify you for this job.
Certifications also exist for medical assistants. The duties and the training required are similar, but dental assistants make a slightly higher salary on average.
Most people love a good massage — and massage therapists love giving them. 88% of people with this job are “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with their career.
Massage therapists can work in all sorts of settings, like spas, clinics, hotels, fitness centers, and more. It’s a career with an expected 21% job growth rate over the next ten years and an average salary of $43,620 per year.
Most states require certification to be a massage therapist, but the requirements vary. To learn how to get this job, find the website for your state’s governing body on this list.
Most certificate programs require around 500 hours of training.
Real estate agents help clients buy, sell, or rent property.
Becoming a certified real-estate agent requires you to take a pre-licensing course and an exam. The length of the course varies by state.
After you pass the exam, you can apply for a real estate agent license.
A lot of people have never heard of this career, but the job outlook for phlebotomists is much faster than average, with an expected growth rate of 17% over the next decade.
Phlebotomists draw blood for tests or blood donations.
Since many people are scared or squeamish about blood draws, you’ll need to have empathy and patience in this position.
You’ll probably also have duties like verifying the patient’s identity, labeling the blood samples, and entering patient information into a database.
The average salary for a phlebotomist is $36,320 per year. Certificates are required by almost all employers and take around four to eight months to earn. Check community colleges and trade and vocational schools for programs.
Welders use heat to join metal parts together or fix holes in metal.
It’s a job that requires a lot of specialized knowledge about welding equipment, metals, blueprints, and more. While many states don’t require any specific training or certification to become a welder, employers usually do.
The most common certification required is the AWS Certified Welder certificate. Check out local job ads to find out which certification course would look best on your resume.
The expected job growth for welders over the next ten years is 3%, and the typical welder makes $44,190 per year.
The IT industry loves certifications.
Whether you’re a tech whiz looking to break into information technology or an IT professional with years of experience, certifications can improve your resume and salary.
The average salary raise in the IT industry is $5,000, but IT pros who got a raise due to a new certification earned $13,000 more on average.
Some of the best certifications for jobs in IT include:
Many jobs fall under the category of information technology, such as IT security, IT technician, or general IT service positions.
Professional certifications are a fast and inexpensive way to make your resume more impressive.
Many careers have certifications available. If your dream job isn’t listed above, check job ads, CareerOneStop, or local schools to find out if there’s a certificate for you.
For more job search tips, visit the Jobcase Getting Hired Resource Center.