10 Certification Programs for Careers That Pay Well

If college isn’t practical or an option for you, that doesn’t mean you can’t find a well-paying career or that you shouldn’t try to further your education. You may want to consider completing a certificate program.

These programs, often offered by colleges, provide training in specific fields. You can take certificate programs as a college graduate, but there are many designed for people who have a high school diploma or GED and want additional training to land an entry-level position.

“For many high school students, technical certifications are the most direct route to a good career,” says Tracy Levine, CEO of Advantage Talent, a professional training and coaching company in Atlanta.

“Employers have more input into the creation of certifications, so they have direct business value. Unlike college degrees, certifications provide transparency into what is taught and what skills a student will bring to their employer,” Levine says.

That isn’t to say that a college degree doesn’t have a lot of value. But certificate programs may be more valuable to jump-starting a career than you would think.

[See: The 25 Best Jobs of 2021.]

Certificate programs are far cheaper than college, though the cost can add up. You might spend $100 per credit, give or take. That may not sound like much, but if you’re taking a 12-credit course to earn your certificate, you could spend $1,200. Still, considering that a college education can cost thousands of dollars per semester, a certificate program is much less expensive.

If certification is something you’re thinking about, check out these 10 certificate programs:

— Wind Turbine Technician.

— Phlebotomist.

— Massage Therapist.

— Landscaper and Groundskeeper.

— Medical Assistant.

— Nail Technician.

— Dental Assistant.

— Ophthalmic Medical Technician.

— Medical Records Technician.

— Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurse.

Wind Turbine Technician

Typical time it takes to earn a certificate: two years

Median salary: $52,910

This is a job in which you can climb way up the ladder of success. Wind turbine technicians, also known as wind techs, are often at the top of wind turbines, replacing parts, fixing something that has gone awry or simply doing maintenance and troubleshooting. It isn’t a job just for people who aren’t scared of heights. You also need to be sharp to take on this job: Wind turbines run on electrical, mechanical and hydraulic parts. If you’re looking to get a certificate to be a wind turbine technician, a lot of places throughout the country offer training programs.

This site can help you find a training program in your area, unless you live in a handful of states that don’t offer them. A typical program is the 28-credit Wind Turbine Service Technician Certificate program offered by the State University of New York’s Clinton Community College. Classes include “Blueprint Reading & Technical Schematics,” “Principles of Fluid Power Systems” and “Safety at Height and Rescue.”

Learn more about wind turbine technicians.


Typical time to earn certificate: four to eight months

Median salary: $35,510

Phlebotomists draw blood, learning, among other things, how to take the right amount and how to do it safely. Some states don’t require certification, but most employers will want you to complete a phlebotomy certificate program and earn professional certification. You can find these certificate programs throughout the country, often at community colleges, vocational schools or technical schools.

For instance, Pima Medical Institute, which has numerous locations in states like Colorado, Arizona and Texas, has a three-month program in which you’ll learn tasks such as how to label the drawn blood for testing or processing and how to enter patient information into a database.

Learn more about phlebotomists.

Massage Therapist

Typical time to earn certificate: two years

Median salary: $42,820

A massage therapist manipulates patients’ muscles to alleviate pain, relieve stress and help heal injuries. If you complete a certification program, you can become a professional and learn more than 80 different types of treatment. While you can get a certification in less than two years — and possibly within weeks — you’ll probably want to take something fairly rigorous to do it right. Most programs require at least 500 hours of study, and some require 1,000 or more hours, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

For instance, Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland offers an 810-hour massage therapy post-degree professional certificate. If you already have an associate degree (or a higher degree) from an accredited college or university, you can take a three-semester (one year) post-degree certificate program in massage therapy. Then you’ll be eligible to apply for the State Medical Board of Ohio license (most states require you to have a license to practice). Some of the courses you’ll take include “Applied Musculo-Skeletal Anatomy” and “Massage Modalities and Career Paths.”

Learn more about massage therapists.

Landscaper and Groundskeeper

Typical time to earn certificate: dependent on student

Median salary of the job: $30,440

You don’t need a certificate to become a landscaper or groundskeeper, but securing one may help you land the job you want — and it should certainly make you a more skilled landscaper or groundskeeper.

The National Association of Landscape Professionals offers numerous certifications, including business manager, exterior technician, horticultural technician, lawn care technician and more. You can earn a certificate through a self-study program, and take the exam for certification online.

Learn more about landscaper and groundskeepers.

Medical Assistant

Typical time to earn certificate: one year

Median salary: $34,800

If you’re interested in being a medical assistant, which involves administrative, clinical and management tasks in health care organizations, there are a lot of certification programs to explore.

Cincinnati State Technical and Community College, for instance, offers the Cincinnati State Medical Assistant Certificate program, in which medical assistant students complete supervised clinical practice, including 160 hours of unpaid practicum experience. After that, students take an exam to become a certified medical assistant.

Learn more about medical assistants.

[See: 25 Best Jobs That Don’t Require a College Degree.]

Nail Technician

Typical time to earn certificate: one year or less

Median salary: $25,770

Generally, you receive a nail technician certificate through a cosmetology school. For instance, the Michigan College of Beauty offers a nail technician course that is 600 hours.

Then, you’ll likely need to take a written and practical exam to get your license.

Your state board of cosmetology may be able to point you toward programs, and this site is also a helpful resource.

Learn more about nail technicians.

Dental Assistant

Typical time to earn certificate: two years

Median salary: $40,080

Generally, students study to become a dental assistant in a program at a community college, vocational school, technical institute, university or dental school. Most dental assistant programs take nine to 11 months to complete, according to the Dental Assisting National Board’s website, which has a lot of information on becoming a dental assistant.

Chances are, you can find an accredited dental assisting program near you. There are approximately 270 of these programs throughout the country, accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation.

For example, Arizona College of Allied Health has a dental assisting program that a student can finish in 38 weeks, and it includes clinical experience in a dental office.

Learn more about dental assistants.

Ophthalmic Medical Technician

Typical time to earn certificate: dependent on student

Median salary: $36,940

An ophthalmic medical technician takes a patient’s history and performs some visual testing, along with other duties, before the eye doctor comes in. Many people learn how to do this on the job, but if you want to advance your career or get training, you may consider a certificate program.

For example, the Certified Ophthalmic Assistant certification requires taking a three-hour test with 200 multiple choice questions. Down the road, you might want to get an advanced certification, such as Certified Ophthalmic Technician or Certified Ophthalmic Medical Technologist. You can learn more on the website for the International Joint Commission on Allied Health Personnel in Ophthalmology.

Learn more about ophthalmic medical technicians.

Medical Records Technician

Typical time to earn certificate: one year

Median salary: $42,630

Many community colleges offer medical records technician certificates. This career involves organizing medical records, including taking the doctor’s notes and putting them into the patient’s medical record.

One of the many places you can get the training for this career is Johnston Community College in Smithfield, North Carolina, which offers a medical records technician certificate with classes such as “Medical Legal Issues” and “Medical Terminology I” and “Records Management.” It’s an 18-credit course taken over two semesters.

Learn more about medical records technicians.

[See: 25 Best Jobs That Pay $100K.]

Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurse

Typical time to earn certificate: one year

Median salary: $47,480

Licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses do it all, from installing catheters to delivering medicine and starting IVs. It’s an important job, which is why if you’re going to complete a certificate program for either a licensed practical nurse or a licensed vocational nurse (both jobs are the same thing; LVN is simply what the job is called in California and Texas), it needs to be a state-approved certificate program.

Generally, you’ll find these programs at universities, colleges and nursing schools throughout the country. ( Practicalnursing.org is a good jumping-off point for research.) You’ll want to make sure the school you attend is accredited by national agencies such as the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

Learn more about licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses.

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10 Certification Programs for Careers That Pay Well originally appeared on usnews.com

Update 02/18/21: This story was published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.

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