A diploma can help job seekers get a position in a high-growth career field -- but not a high school diploma. Postsecondary education is essential in this competitive job market, but one doesn't have to spend two, four or more years of study earning an associate or bachelor's degree to land a job. Increasingly popular diploma courses, focused on practical training in growing industries, can pay off, according to data projections from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
With some postsecondary education, high school graduates could increase their median weekly income in 2009 from $626 to $699, the BLS reported. Training for some careers in exploding industries like health care -- expected to grow by 3.2 million workers between 2008 and 2018 -- requires as few as six months to less than two years of study through a diploma course. For added convenience, many of these courses can be taken online.
Diploma courses provide education for high-growth careers
According to the BLS, these five occupations are expected to be fast-growing ones between 2008 and 2018:
- Home health aides, 50 percent growth
- Skin care specialists, 38 percent growth
- Dental assistants, 36 percent growth
- Medical assistants, 34 percent growth
- Pharmacy technicians, 31 percent growth
Not one of these five occupations requires completion of a four-year bachelor's or even a two-year associate degree. Post-secondary school training through a diploma course can prepare graduates to pursue these jobs. And gaining entry into an occupation in a growth industry could be the beginning of a life-long career path with ever-increasing opportunities for personal growth.
Training is first step to gaining necessary skills
The White House Summit on Community Colleges in October 2010 emphasized the role that community colleges need to play in creating a skilled workforce to meet the challenges America faces in a global economy. With the need for more practical, short-term training in those occupations with the most growth potential, community colleges, technical and vocational schools provide their students with the basic education necessary to enter the workforce ready to go.
For example, the top growth careers referenced above require training to take on these basic responsibilities:
- Home health aides, working under the supervision of medical staff, care for patients in their homes, monitoring their well-bring and administering medication. To work for an agency that receives funding from government programs such as Medicare, home health aides need to have a minimum of 75 hours of formal training and pass a competency evaluation or certification.
- Dental assistants work alongside dentists during dental procedures and perform a wide range of clinical tasks involving patient care and restorative dentistry, as well as record keeping. Training takes about a year, with additional licensing and certification training required for expanded responsibilities such as taking x-rays.
- Medical assistants may perform either administrative or clinical duties. Clinical medical assistants can specialize as ophthalmic assistants for eye doctors, optometry assistants for optometrists or podiatry assistants for foot specialists. Diploma programs last one year and cover topics such as medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, and clinical and laboratory procedures. Administrative courses include everything from keyboarding and record keeping to accounting.
- Pharmacy technicians may work in retail pharmacies or in medical care facilities. Diploma programs can take anywhere from six months to two years to complete and prepare students to assist pharmacists by handling administrative tasks (and, in the case of medical facilities, clinical procedures) required to fill prescriptions.
- Skin care specialists do facials, head and neck massages, full body skin treatments, and waxing. They must complete a state-approved course in cosmetology and take a licensing exam after completing their training.
Completing a diploma program for these and other in-demand occupations requires a relatively short investment of time, and the payoff is training in the key skills employers look for in new hires. The skills and confidence gained through a solid educational background can be the ticket to improved future earning potential in a career that is part of a high-growth industry.