In today’s workforce, higher learning is more important than ever before. According to reports, 65% of U.S. workers have earned some form of postsecondary education. With the everchanging professional landscape, there are numerous paths to education and employment that don’t require a years-long commitment and thousands of dollars in student loans. Some of the best certifications for jobs that pay well are only a few short weeks away.
What Is a Certification and How Is It Different From a College Degree?
Two of the most common avenues to higher education are college degree and certificate programs. Both offer students exposure to a broader knowledge of a chosen subject area. While traditional four-year degree tracks include a core curriculum aimed at turning out well-rounded graduates ready to enter the job market, certifications are narrowly focused and industry-specific.
Students may choose to seek certifications in lieu of degrees, or degreed individuals may wish to enhance their skills and expand their job prospects with additional certifications. A student pursuing a certificate course or program will study the actionable skills needed to perform their job duties at an advanced, sophisticated level.
How Much Does a Certification Program Cost?
One of the main draws of a certification program is the shorter time commitment necessary to complete the course. Additionally, many certs can be earned through online study, letting students complete modules at their own pace. The financial cost depends on the type of course, the institution through which it is offered and the overall value of the course within a specific industry. Generally, certifications are significantly cheaper than degree programs.
Best Certifications for Jobs That Hiring Managers Look for on Resumes
While college graduates typically earn around $25,000 more than high school graduates, many people choose to enter the labor force as soon as possible. Luckily, there are many career fields that don’t require a university education. The following certifications are essential and valuable for gaining entry or mid-level employment in high-demand jobs across the country.
A serious long-term shortage of medical workers has led to a concerted effort to bring new talent to the field. Therefore, there are many affordable short-term certification opportunities that lead to lucrative health care jobs.
Licensed Practical Nurse
Licensed practical nurses are responsible for patient care in clinical and hospital settings. The requirements to become an LPN include earning a high school diploma or GED certificate and completing a one-year training program that is state-approved and/or accredited through the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing. After sitting for the NCLEX-PN exam, newly credentialed LPNs are ready to start an exciting career that yields an average wage of $24.00 per hour.
Phlebotomists are responsible for collecting blood from people who need lab testing or those who wish to donate blood. Phlebotomists must be able to communicate effectively with patients and maintain a safe, sterile environment. The median salary in the field is $32,710, and training can be completed in as few as one or two months.
Additionally, the need for phlebotomists is expected to increase by as much as 25% in the coming years, making it a hot opportunity for anyone looking to break into patient care.
Surgery techs are valued members of surgical teams who assist doctors and anesthesiologists in the operating room. They make sure the environment is sterile and the equipment is placed properly as well as provide patient care during operations. Becoming a certified surgical tech requires one or two years of study, and the earning potential is around $47,000 annually.
Pharmacy Technician Professional
Pharmacy techs work alongside pharmacists to prepare and fill prescription drug orders. The role includes communicating with patients and handling insurance issues. Pharmacy jobs exist within major medical facilities and private retail centers. The certification program is 24 weeks long, and the average salary is about $30,000 per year.
Behavioral Technician Specialists
Behavioral technicians are essential workers for mental health facilities, hospitals, schools and child development centers. Under the supervision of board-certified behavior analysts, technicians implement treatment plans for children living with autism. They teach language, communication and life skills while collecting data for analysis. The certification course lasts 11 weeks, and full-time techs can earn more than $31,000 per year, making it one of the quickest and best certifications for jobs in the medical field.
Project Management Professional
Hiring managers love to see continuing education efforts along with career progression. For industry leaders and seasoned managers, a project manager certification adds tremendous value to a resume. Those who earn PMP status tend to be more dynamic and sophisticated leaders who think creatively and solve problems effectively. Plus, the program can be completed in under 12 weeks.
Skilled Trade Certifications
Jobs in the skilled trades are currently in high demand and are only expected to grow in future years. Two of the major industries in need of talented workers are commercial construction and manufacturing. There are many lucrative specialties to consider for anyone wishing to break into the industrial space. Becoming a skilled worker generally requires one or more of the following:
- A high school diploma
- A certificate from a technical school or community college
- An apprenticeship program through a trade union or employer
- A written and/or practical exam
- State licensure, if required
Trade jobs require hard work and dedication, but they typically pay well and offer stable employment. The top seven best certifications for jobs in the skilled trades include:
Plumbers install and fix pipes that supply water and gas to residential and commercial buildings. They also hook up fixtures such as sinks, toilets and appliances. Most plumbers receive their training via an apprenticeship program that combines classroom and on-the-job training. The median salary is around $55,000 per year with the top 10% earning $94,000 annually.
Professional electricians maintain a building’s wiring and electrical components by diagnosing problems, reading technical blueprints and troubleshooting problems. The most common path to gaining certification is by going to technical school. Qualified electricians can earn around $30.00 per hour, and the career demand is expected to grow by nearly 10% in the coming years.
Welding requires a lot of training and practice in metallurgy, but it is a highly rewarding trade that leads to industry positions such as engineer and project manager. Aspiring welders can start via a community college program or earn one of the best certifications for jobs in welding through a union apprenticeship. Skilled individuals can go on to work in aviation, automotive shops, oil refineries or even underwater. The median welder salary is around $40,000, but depending on the level of skill required for a job, the earning potential is much higher.
Carpenter is one of the simplest titles to earn because it doesn’t require any kind of formal exam or education program. An aspiring carpenter simply needs to become a helper to a professional carpenter and learn the trade through practice. If mastery is the goal, then interested individuals can take industry courses, but minimal education is needed to earn a living as a woodworker. The need for carpenters is growing at an average of 8%, and the earning potential is about $45,000 annually.
5. Truck Driver
Tractor-trailer drivers travel near and far to deliver packages. Driving such large vehicles requires specialized education. Aspiring truck drivers can earn a commercial driver’s license in as few as four weeks through a 160-hour CDL course and start making around $20.00 an hour on the open road. Truckers can work for companies and corporations, or they can be self-employed with their own vehicles.
6. Wind Turbine Technician
Wind turbine technicians identify and solve problems with wind turbines. Tech must be able to tolerate heights and maintain a fitness level that allows for climbing. Wind turbine techs inspect and repair systems within the units, so they must be qualified to work in this highly technical field. The best certifications for jobs in wind technology can be earned through technical or community college programs in as few as 24 weeks, and beginner techs can earn as much as $22.00 per hour.
Not all trade jobs are physically demanding. Paralegals work as legal assistants to attorneys by conducting research, administrative duties and trial preparation. Paralegals typically hold state-issued credentials that determine the education level and testing requirements needed to gain and maintain licensure. There are several ways to complete these requirements, from community college programs to online courses. Paralegals generally earn around $35,000 per year, and many go on to complete law school and become practicing lawyers.
The role of a salesperson is dynamic and constantly evolving as the world changes. Since consumers have taken to social media and e-commerce as a primary means of buying, those working in sales face new and exciting challenges in their efforts to establish and maintain customer relationships. Because of this, many companies encourage additional training for sales professionals to enhance their skills. Some valuable certifications that help individuals strengthen their skills and achieve their career goals include:
- SPIN selling
- Certified professional salesperson
- Certified sales leadership professional
- Inbound sales certification
- Certified sales executive
Adding one of these certifications to your resume is as simple as signing up for an online course through a professional training platform. If you’re already employed in a sales position, your company may even cover the cost of your training.
Currently, one of the best certifications for jobs in the sales industry is a Salesforce certification. Salesforce is one of the most popular customer relationship management software programs used today. Potential new hires who come with the Salesforce certified administrator designation and experience are extremely valuable to hiring managers who recognize the importance of data and analytics in marketing and sales. There are many certifications offered through Salesforce that are tailored to specific roles such as administrators, architects and developers. Certifications are earned via examination, and the average cost per test is $200.
Most professional accountants start their careers with an associate, bachelor’s or master’s degree in accounting. However, there are two additional in-demand designations that hiring managers look for in new applicants. These include the certified public accountant and chartered financial analyst certifications.
CPA Certification Requirements
CPAs are tax professionals who advise and perform financial tasks for clients who report to the IRS. Individuals wishing to earn the CPA designation must meet all education and work experience requirements and pass a four-part exam administered by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. Newly qualified CPAs earn around $66,000, and experienced professionals can earn $120,000 annually, making it one of the best certifications for jobs in the U.S.
CFA Certification Requirements
CFAs are financing and investing experts who execute financial strategies and often aspire to become chief financial officers for major corporations. Anyone wanting to become a CFA must possess at least a bachelor’s degree, enroll in a CFO program and successfully complete a three-level CFA exam. New CFA holders typically earn $45,000-$52,000 per year while a three-year veteran can pull in more than $60,000.
How To Find the Best Certifications for Jobs You Want
To find the best path to the career you want, you need to find the right certification program for you. Before taking a blind leap into a sea of educational opportunities, do the following research:
- Take an interest or aptitude survey to determine career prospects
- Review job advertisements for companies and take note of position requirements
- Interview professionals working in high-demand jobs and ask for their advice
- Speak to your current employer about programs to boost your career and get you promoted
- Visit your state and local government websites to find licensing and certification requirements for your desired occupation
- Talk to advisors from community colleges, certification programs, universities or technical schools to see if the courses and workload are right for you
Whether you’re just starting your career or looking to advance, pursuing one of these best certifications for jobs in your industry will provide the specialized training you need to develop more skills and thrive in your workplace.