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The Top 5 Certificate Programs for Jobs With Growth Potential

Abigail Green

June 29, 2023

The pandemic created massive upheaval in the job market. In a short span of time, we saw a major shift to remote work, a surge in need for healthcare-related jobs, and jobs in some fields, like travel and entertainment, vanish almost overnight.  

As we reported earlier this year in our post, the 5 Types of Workforce Training Programs Trending for 2023, the Great Resignation could more accurately be called the Great Talent Reshuffle. While “reskilling” is a popular buzzword, Daphne Kis, CEO of WorldQuant University, pointed out in Forbes, “Reskilling used to go by another name—lifelong learning. The best employees were always reskilling.”

Non-degree credentials are growing in popularity; 90% of students agree that a professional certificate will help them stand out to employers.

That’s why we’re taking a closer look at certificate programs. Non-degree credentials are growing in popularity, with 90% of students agreeing a professional certificate will help them stand out to employers and 76% of employers stating they are more likely to hire a candidate who has earned one, according to a new report from Coursera. Does your education program offer certificate programs? If not, are you considering it? Here’s what you need to know. 

What Are Certificate Programs for Jobs?

Many people who want to enter a new career, change jobs, or gain skills to advance in their current position turn to higher education. However, not everyone has the time, money, or desire to enroll in a college degree program. An associate degree takes two years to complete, while a bachelor’s degree requires four years. 

Certificate programs provide training for specific jobs in less time and for less money than degree programs.

Certificate programs, often offered by colleges, provide training for specific jobs or fields in less time and at a lower cost than degree programs. While college graduates can take certificate programs, such as to learn a new software to advance in their current job, many certifications are designed for people with a high school diploma or GED who want to land an entry-level position. 

A certification program was the perfect option for single father Edward Cavaciuti, who was a DJ until the pandemic killed his business, according to the Hechinger Report. He turned to Delaware Technical Community College’s (Del Tech) continuing education/workforce training program, where he took a course in security training and passed a licensure exam. Cavaciuti has been hired by a security company, making a salary comparable to his pre-pandemic earnings, with the option to earn overtime.

Partnerships With Local Businesses Fill Regional Needs

“Community colleges that offer the most successful certificate programs put in the work to address labor shortages and create opportunities for students to learn marketable skills for in-demand industries,” Joseph Fuller, professor of management practice at Harvard Business School, told the Hechinger Report.

Del Tech has partnerships with 650 companies, and structures its certificate programs based on job listings and state labor statistics. Some of the school’s most popular programs are in fields like healthcare, welding, HVAC, and construction. 

Many schools structure their certificate programs to capitalize on their geographic location and job opportunities in their area.

Other institutions also capitalize on their geographic location and job opportunities in their area. For example, Bristol Community College in Fall River, MA, offers an offshore wind power technician certificate. It’s a smart move since wind turbine service technicians are predicted to be the second-fastest growing occupation of the decade. 

St. Johns River State College in Florida offers several postsecondary training programs that prepare students for entry into a particular career, such as Florida Corrections Officer and Florida Law Enforcement Officer. While these are not college credit programs, students are encouraged to take these career certificate programs as a part of the A.S. degree in Criminal Justice Technology.

Are there employers in your area your institution could consider reaching out to? Certificate programs are a win for everyone involved: the school offering the program, the students earning the credential, and the employers gaining qualified new employees. 

The Cost and Time Required for Job Certification Programs

There is no one simple answer to how much job certification programs cost, nor how long they take to complete. It varies widely depending on the industry, the institution offering the certification, and other factors. 

On one end of the spectrum, College of the Canyons, a public community college in Santa Clarita, CA, offers more than 250 sections of tuition-free classes to residents through the School of Personal and Professional Learning. These include two new certificate of completion programs for learners interested in careers as medical scribes and personal care aides.  

The cost of certifications varies widely from free to $8,000+, depending on factors like the industry and the institution offering the program.

On the other end of the spectrum, a web development certification program may cost upwards of $8,000. Of course, many higher-cost certification programs can lead to higher-earning careers. 

If you are a community college or professional training provider offering job certifications, it’s important to address these questions for prospective students in your community outreach and course marketing efforts. 

What Do Job Certificate Programs Cost?

Certificate programs are far less expensive than college tuition. U.S. News & World Report estimates a cost of $100 per credit, so a 12-credit course to earn a certificate could cost $1,200. 

Coursera, a U.S.-based massive open online course (MOOC) provider, estimates the cost of certificate programs is anywhere from $50 per month (for several months) to $6,000. 

This Forbes article gives a good breakdown of the cost of certificates compared to degrees and bootcamps.

The more transparent you can be about your pricing, the more easily students can weigh the return on investment for a certificate program. 

How Long Do Certification Programs Take to Complete?

Certificate programs can take anywhere from a few days to a couple of years to complete, depending on the specific industry and credential. It can also depend on how the certification program is structured. 

For example, Lorain County Community College (LCCC) in Elyria, Ohio, offers 65 free fast-track certificate programs, which can be completed in 16 weeks. Some are offered exclusively online. For students who have more time and want to gain hands-on experience, LCCC also offers a one-year Earn and Learn program that combines classroom work with an apprenticeship at a local company. Students pursuing jobs in high-demand industries such as cybersecurity, software development, and computer-aided machining often choose this option. 

The more options you can provide students, the better. Some may be interested in earning a certificate as quickly as possible, and prefer an online option. Others may seek out an in-person program that provides hands-on experience as they earn their certification. 

5 Popular Job Certificate Programs

Here are 5 job certificate programs that lead to well-paying jobs. Below the graphic, read on to find out the typical time it takes to complete them and the median salary for people who have earned that certificate, per U.S. News & World Report and the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

top 5 job certificate programs for 2023: Solar Photovoltaic Installer, Phlebotomist, Medical Assistant, Massage Therapist, Wind Turbine Technician

Solar Photovoltaic Installer
Typical time to earn certificate: a few days to a few months, depending on the course
Median salary: $47,670

What they do: This job involves installing and maintaining solar panels on homes and businesses to convert sunlight into energy.

Some community colleges and technical schools offer classes that lead to certification within a week. The longer and more complex the class, however, the more likely you’ll find a better-paying job. The BLS projects that solar photovoltaic installer jobs will grow much faster than average by 2031. 

Some organizations, like the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners, require you to take continuing education classes every few years and get recertified. 

Typical time to earn certificate: 4 to 8 months
Median salary: $37,380

What they do: Phlebotomists draw blood for tests, blood donations, transfusions, or research. They work in hospitals, doctors’ offices, medical and diagnostic laboratories, and blood donor centers. The BLS reports this job is growing faster than average. 

A typical pathway to enter this occupation is to take a phlebotomy technician program that culminates in a professional certification. It’s a 90-hour program that offers students NAACLS Entry Level Competencies Guidelines training in preparation of taking the National Certification Exam.  

Medical Assistant
Typical time to earn certificate: one year
Median salary: $37,190 

What they do: Being a medical assistant involves administrative, clinical, and management tasks within healthcare organizations. Medical assistants are employed in acute care hospitals, outpatient, ambulatory care facilities, medical offices and clinics.

A medical assistant program will prepare students to sit for the Certified Medical Assistant Exam. Students learn how to perform critical duties such as:

  • Maintaining patient records and accounting
  • Coding and insurance processing
  • Medication administration
  • Performing basic laboratory tests

Massage Therapist
Typical time to earn certificate: 2 years
Median salary: $46,910

What they do: Massage therapy is an occupation that’s growing much faster than average and has a lot of room for flexibility. Massage therapists work in a variety of settings, such as gyms and spas. Part-time work is common, and many massage therapists are self-employed.

To practice as a massage therapist, most states require you to have a license or certification. Massage therapy education programs are commonly offered by community colleges or other public postsecondary institutions. Depending on the program and whether the student has a degree, earning a certificate requires several months or years to complete.

Wind Turbine Technician
Typical time it takes to earn a certificate: 2 years
Median salary: $56,260

What they do: Wind turbine technicians maintain and repair wind turbines, which use wind to make electricity. Wind turbines run on electrical, mechanical, and hydraulic parts. Wind turbine service technicians generally work outdoors, and often in confined spaces and at great heights. 

​​Employment of wind turbine technicians is projected to grow a whopping 44% in the next decade, much faster than the average for all occupations. 

Wind energy education and training programs exist all over the country, with the exception of a few states. The Offshore Wind Power Technician Certificate at Bristol Community College in MA, for example, is a 29-credit program that teaches participants about electrical machinery, fluid systems, operations and maintenance, and offshore safety and survival, as well as giving them hands-on experience on assembly, installation, and maintenance of wind power systems.

All Types of Learning Matter 

One of the benefits of certificate programs is that they offer a shorter, more streamlined path to a job than traditional degree programs. It’s worth noting, however, that it’s not an “either/or” choice. Many certificates can be integrated into degree programs if the student wishes to continue their education, and many people pursue certifications after earning a degree.  

Our mission at CourseStorm is to connect as many learners as possible to education that can enrich their lives and careers. Check out our free resource, A Complete Guide to Types of Learning and Why We Need Them All, to help you spot opportunities to articulate your program’s value and partner with others so you can support more learners.

Abigail Green

Abby has overseen content development for higher education degree programs related to education, technology, business, and healthcare. One of her first jobs after college was working with children’s programs for the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. She is an experienced and versatile writer and editor whose work has been published by Johns Hopkins, the University of Baltimore Alumni Magazine, and The Chicago Tribune.

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