Certificate programs offer targeted career training in a specific skill or expertise. For students looking to enter the workforce quickly or professionals who want to enhance their resume, a focused certificate program can offer practical skills in a short time frame. Unlike degree programs, which often include general education requirements and a wide range of electives, certificate programs focus on a specific topic. While certificate programs are similar to diploma programs in their duration--and some institutions may use the terms interchangeably--a certificate often indicates competency in a particular skill rather than an area of study.
A 2010 study by Complete College America found that students in certificate programs benefit from the ability to begin training immediately and complete their program efficiently. The report also found that in some fields, earning a certificate can result in a greater salary increase than earning a degree.
5 Types of Online Certificate Programs that lead to Solid Careers, Good Paychecks :-
1. IT Certificate Programs
For IT professionals, certification can boost a resume or salary in ways that few other employment sectors match. Not all IT certifications are created equal, however. According to a 2010 study from Foote Partners, the following IT certifications were among those that resulted in the biggest pay bumps for certificants:
- Cisco Certified Design Association (CCDA)
- Cisco Certified Voice Professional (CCVP)
- IBM Certified Solutions Developer
- Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE)
- Oracle DBA Administrator Certified Professional
- Red Hat Certified Architect (RHCA)
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that about 2.7 million jobs should be added in the professional science and technology services sector between 2008 and 2018. The computer systems design and related services sector is expected to add about 675,000 of those jobs.
In the IT profession, pay scales look as good as employment. Network and computer system administrators made a median salary of $67,710 in 2009, while the top 10 percent raked in more than $105,000. Computer systems analysts earned a median annual salary of $77,080 in 2009.
2. Project Management Certificate Programs
Project managers "define a project's goal, create a plan, monitor progress and close out the project when it is done," according to the BLS. Balancing the time, money and scope of a project, these organized, outgoing professionals analyze schedules, budgets and technical requirements for large-scale projects in such industries as construction, information technology, science and engineering.
While some universities now offer a master's degree in project management, working professionals can also opt for campus or online certificate programs and courses from private training centers. The Project Management Professional (PMP) and Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) are perhaps the most sought-after project management credentials. Both can be obtained through online certification programs.
While the BLS does not report wages for project managers, the Project Management Institute reports that a 2009 salary survey found a PMP credential could boost salaries by 10 percent.
3. Teaching Certificate Programs
In today's unpredictable economy, professionals from diverse backgrounds continue to consider teaching as a career-change opportunity with both stability and social impact. Even before the economic downturn that began in December 2007, alternative teacher certification programs were popping up in urban and rural areas across the nation. Teach for America and the New York City Teaching Fellows are two well-known and well-established such programs.
While the processes for alternative teacher certification programs vary, individuals looking to take this route must already have a bachelor's degree. Certification programs generally require additional coursework in education and teaching.
For individuals who do not already hold a bachelor's degree, a traditional teacher certification or accelerated online teaching certificate program may work best. To qualify as a classroom teacher, a bachelor's degree and teaching certification is needed in almost every state.
The BLS predicts job growth of 12 percent for teachers between 2008 and 2018. Earning credentials in fields with a teaching shortage can help applicants compete better in the marketplace. Individuals qualified to teach ESL, math, science, and special education may face the best job prospects, according to data complied by The Office of Public Education.
Nationwide, elementary school teachers had a median annual wage of $50,510 in 2009, the BLS reports, while secondary school teachers earned a median wage of $52,200.
4. Certificate Programs in Nursing
Most people who research the job market for any reason are well aware that registered nurses occupy one of the highest-demand professional sectors in today's economy. But pay for nurses can vary significantly depending on experience, place of employment, and geographic region. Level of education can make a difference as well.
According to blogger Bill Wilinski, who also serves as Vice President of Nursing Recruitment for Martin, Fletcher, those certifications that allow RNs to act as mid-level providers or assist in the operating room are at a premium. The following are some examples of such certifications:
- Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)
- Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM)
- Critical Care Registered Nurse (CCRN)
- Certified Nurse Operating Room (CNOR)
- Trauma Nurse Core Certification (TNCC)
As one might suspect, RNs with advanced degrees, such as a master's degree in nursing or nurse practitioner (NP) certification, see excellent career prospects and higher salaries, as well. While the BLS reports that RNs earned a median annual wage of $63,750 in 2009, a survey by ADVANCE Magazine for Nurse Practitioners found that the average annual salary for NPs in 2009 was $89,579.
5. Business and Finance Certificate Programs
Business certificate programs run the gamut from pre-M.B.A., graduate-level programs for individuals with science, engineering, medicine and liberal arts backgrounds to those that include courses and certificates in topics such as business analysis, credit analysis, financial analysis and financial risk management, portfolio management, and international finance.
Finance and accounting are especially in-demand areas for business professionals. According to the BLS, accountants and auditors are expected to experience 22 percent job growth between 2008 and 2018. Some popular certifications for finance professionals include:
- Certified Public Accountant
- Chartered Financial Analyst
- Certified Financial Planner
Wages for accountants and auditors vary with experience; the median annual salary was $60,340 in 2009 but the top 10 percent made over $104,450, according to the BLS.
Certificate programs stand to play an important role in helping the U.S. improve post-secondary education rates. With substantial benefits that can be earned in a short time frame, certificates may be the ticket to success.