10 Certificate Programs for Career Advancement

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Preparing for a stable career doesn’t need to be a long and expensive endeavor. Certificate programs provide practical career skills to high school graduates, career changers, or professionals wishing supplement work experience. If you feel that a two-or four-year degree isn’t the right choice but still want a career with good pay and job prospects, consider the following certificate programs.

Court Reporting

Court reporters create transcripts of legal proceedings and prepare transcripts. They generally work for state and local governments, but may also work on a freelance basis. Court reporters earned a median annual wage of $47,700 in 2010, and growth of 14% is projected through 2020*. Although on-the-job training is the basic requirement for some jobs, certification can greatly improve job prospects.


Skilled welders can expect good job opportunities due to lack of qualified applicants. A welding program may include instruction in arc welding, solid state welding, welding metallurgy, soldering, cutting, fabrication, quality control and safety procedures. Welders, cutters, solderers and brazers earned a mean annual wage of $38,410 in 2012. Job growth of 15% is projected through 2020.

HVAC Technology

HVAC or HVACR technicians install and repair heating, air conditioning, ventilation, and refrigeration systems. Heating, air conditioning and refrigeration mechanics earned a median annual wage of $42,520 in 2010. Rapid growth is projected, with a 34% increase in employment through 2020.

Automotive Technology

Automotive service technicians may specialize in collision repair, brakes, electrical, engine performance, and other areas. Long term on-the-job training is required for most jobs, but formal training can increase job opportunities. The median pay for auto technicians and mechanics was $35,790 in 2010.

Computer Systems Networking

Computer network support specialists test network connections, troubleshoot networks and perform maintenance. Formal training  is particularly useful for computer support specialists wanting to supplement work experience or on-the -job training. Computer support specialists earned median annual wage of $46,260 in 2010. Growth of 18% is projected through 2020.

Surgical Technology

Surgical technologists prepare patients and equipment for surgery, pass instruments to surgeons during operations, apply dressings and organize surgical tools supplies. Surgical technologists earned a median annual salary of $39,920 in 2010 and growth of 19% is projected through 2020. Visit ast.org for more information on surgical technology education and careers.

Dental Assisting

Dental assistants work under the supervision of dentists and dental hygienists. Their duties include office administrative procedures, taking x-rays, and preparing patients and equipment for procedures. Dental assistants earned a median annual wage of $33,470 in 2010 and rapid employment growth (31%) is projected through 2020.

Medical Assistant

Medical assistants may perform clinical and/or administrative duties such as scheduling appointments, maintaining medical records, taking patient histories, assisting with examinations, and drawing blood. With a projected growth of 31% through 2020, medical assistants can expect promising job prospects. The median annual wage for medical assistants was $28,860 in 2010.


Phlebotomists draw blood for the purpose testing, transfusions and donations. They may work for hospitals, medical laboratories, doctors’ offices. Phlebotomists earned a mean annual wage of $30,910 in 2012. Visit ascp.org/certification for more information.

Pharmacy Technician

Pharmacy technicians prepare medications according to prescriptions. They work under the direction of  a pharmacist, and generally work in retail or hospital settings. Job opportunities should be good, particularly for those with experience and formal training. Growth of 32% is projected through 2020 and pharmacy technicians earned a median annual salary of $28,400 in 2010.

For more career ideas, read 300 Best Jobs Without a Four-Year Degree, 4th Ed

*All wage and employment projection data from United States Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook 2012-2013