There are many short certificate programs that pay well that you can consider if pursuing an associate’s or bachelor’s degree isn’t an option.
Most of these certificate programs take anywhere between three and 12 months to complete, with a sizable percentage taking approximately six months.
Apart from the fact that short certificate programs are cheaper than college degrees, some can also be a gateway to enjoying high-paying careers in the future.
Certificate programs are mainly offered in community colleges and entry requirements are quite achievable. With some paying as high as $60,000 a year, you can still enjoy financial stability without having to pursue a four-year bachelor’s degree or even a master’s degree.
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Below we highlight 13 careers you might want to consider if you do not wish to pursue an associate or bachelor’s degree.
1. Certified medical coder
A medical coder reviews patients’ files and translates the information into universal codes for insurance companies to process insurance and medical claims. They must ensure the right code is used every time or else it will lead to serious problems.
It takes as short as four months to complete a medical coding program, with advanced programs taking up to 15 months.
Non-certified medical billers and coders earn an average of $41,543 a year while certified experts earn an average of $57,646 a year.
Here’s a full list of the highest-paying medical coding jobs in the US along with their annual salaries.
2. Phlebotomy technician
Phlebotomy technicians draw blood from people, including patients, for testing, donations, or research. They take the time to explain to the patients or donors why and/or how the blood will be taken.
While some states do not require phlebotomists to be certified, most employers prefer those with a phlebotomy certificate and professional certification.
You can enroll in the certificate program in a community college, vocational school, or technical school to learn essential skills such as how to draw & label blood and how to enter patient information into a database.
The certificate program takes 3 to 9 months to complete and you can work in labs, hospitals, or donor centers.
3. Medical assistant
This is one of the quick medical certifications that pay well, with the highest earners enjoying annual salaries of more than $50,580.
The roles of medical assistants can be grouped into two distinct categories: clinical and administrative. Clinical roles include preparing patients for examination, drawing blood samples, taking patient vital signs, and administering medications following the directions of a physician.
Their administrative roles include scheduling appointments, processing patient billing, and maintaining patient medical records.
It takes 9 to 12 months to become a certified medical assistant, but you can take advantage of the online accelerated CMA programs that take less than 8 weeks to complete.
The mean annual salary for medical assistants is $36,930. The highest-paid 10% earn more than $50,580 a year with the highest paying states being Alaska, California, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Minnesota, and Washington.
4. Dental assistant
If you’re looking for a quick certification that pays well without a degree then being a dental assistant is one of the best out there.
Dental assistants help dentists by preparing and organizing dental tools, keeping patient records, and scheduling appointments. The duties of dental assistants vary by state and work setting.
According to the American Dental Association, most dental assisting programs take between 9 and 11 months to complete, but you also go for accelerated training, part-time programs, or distance education programs.
You should also get certification by passing a certification examination and if you wish to get nationally certified then you have to take and pass the Dental Assisting National Board’s Certified Dental Assistant examination.
The mean annual salary for medical assistants in the U.S. is $42,310 with the top earners getting more than $58,400 a year.
5. Ophthalmic medical technician
Ophthalmic medical technicians help ophthalmologists by performing visual tests. They may administer eye exams & medications and advice patients on optical hygiene and how to use and take care of corrective lenses.
Most ophthalmic medical technicians learn on the job, but you can also take a short certificate program. A certificate program will allow you to pursue advanced certification programs such as Certified Ophthalmic Technician or Certified Ophthalmic Medical Technologist.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, you need at least a high school diploma or its equivalent to enroll in the certificate program or receive on-the-job training. The time it takes to get certified varies but it’s a matter of a few months.
The mean annual salary for ophthalmic medical technicians is $40,010 while the highest-paid 10% earn more than $57,900 a year.
6. Emergency medical technicians (EMTs)
If you’re not the type to enjoy sitting behind an office desk but instead enjoy going out and helping people, being an emergency medical technician might be the perfect career for you.
To become an EMT, you should have a high school diploma or equivalent and a cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certification. This paves way for entry into postsecondary educational programs in emergency medical technology.
The certificate program takes about 6 months to complete and is one of the short certificate programs that pay well, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The mean annual salary for emergency medical technicians is $40,370 with those at advanced levels, including paramedics, earning more than $62,000 a year.
Here is a short overview of being an EMT. Video courtesy: Madison College.
7. Real estate brokers
Real estate brokers help real estate property owners find clients for rental properties. Real estate brokers and agents do similar jobs, but only brokers are licensed to manage their real estate businesses. This means a real estate agent must work with a broker.
One must complete a real estate certification program to be eligible for licensure. Depending on one’s state and the number of learning hours per week, it will take between 4 to 6 months to complete the program. You can also complete the program in about four weeks if you opt for an online program.
It’s vital to note that some employers prefer to hire candidates with a college degree, especially if you have no firsthand experience in handling real estate properties or lack complementary experience in a related field.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, real estate brokers enjoy a mean annual salary of $81,630 with the top earners getting more than $170,000 a year.
8. HVACR Technicians
Heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration technicians work on heating, cooling, ventilation, and refrigeration systems that control air quality and temperature in buildings.
They install, clean, do maintenance, inspect, repair, and test HVACR systems and their components. They can also recommend maintenance to improve the system’s performance.
Requirements to become an HVACR technician keep increasing due to advanced technology and the systems getting more complex.
It takes 6 to 9 months to complete a certificate program in heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration. In case you opt for an apprenticeship, it will take you between 3 to 5 years to be certified.
The mean annual salary for HVACR technicians in the United States is $48,225. According to Coyne College, the highest-paid HVACR technicians earn more than $73,000 a year, which makes this one of the short certificate programs that pay well.
9. Commercial truck driver
Another short certificate program that pays well is the commercial truck driver program. Heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers do not need to pursue an associate’s degree but instead attend a professional truck driving school or a community college offering truck driving training.
They learn how to drive heavy trucks and the federal laws and regulations governing interstate truck driving. The training program takes 3 to 6 months to complete, upon which the trainees receive certificates of completion.
It’s important to note that all commercial truck drivers must have a commercial driver’s license (CDL), which is obtained by passing the driving and knowledge tests. If a driver gets their CDL suspended in one state, other states can refuse to grant them a new CDL.
Driving commercial trucks is one of the best jobs for introverts without a degree. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean annual salary for commercial truck drivers is $48,710. You can earn as high as $69,480 a year with more experience.
10. Automotive service technicians and mechanics
Automotive service technicians and mechanics inspect, maintain, and repair light trucks and cars. They do basic care and maintenance tasks such as checking fluid levels, changing oil, and rotating tires. They also repair and/or replace worn parts, including sensors, wheel bearings, and brake pads.
You need to complete a vocation or other post-secondary education program that takes 6 to 12 months where you get intensive training and hands-on practice.
There are also short-term certificate programs that focus on a specific area, such as brake maintenance or engine performance. You can, however, pursue an associate’s degree if you wish and get to work in automobile manufacturers’ and dealers’ service shops under the guidance of experienced technicians.
The mean annual salary for Automotive service technicians and mechanics in the U.S. is $46,760 and the top earners enjoy annual salaries of more than $71,940.
11. Financial clerks
Financial clerks compile, compute, and record billing, accounting, and statistical data for organizations and businesses. There are many types of financial clerks, and each job type comes with slightly different responsibilities.
They include billing & posting clerks, brokerage clerks, credit authorizers & checkers, gambling cage workers, insurance claims clerks, procurement clerks, loan interviewers, and payroll & timekeeping clerks.
You can pursue a certificate, associate’s degree, or even a bachelor’s degree if you wish to land any of these jobs. Certificate programs take anywhere between 3 and 12 months to complete, with completion time largely depending on required credits.
The mean annual salary for financial clerks is $46,310. The highest-paid professionals with years of experience earn more than $65,850 a year.
12. Flight attendant
This is one of the short certificate programs that pay well, with the top earners getting more than $85,000 a year on wages. Flight attendants are tasked with monitoring the safety of the aircraft cabin.
They also provide services to airline passengers such as explaining pertinent safety information, serving food & beverages, and responding to emergency incidents.
It takes three to six weeks to complete training and be eligible for certification. One has to be certified by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) before applying for flight attendant positions.
Please note that landing a job as a flight attendant is no mean task and interviews can take between 3 to 6 months. Additionally, airline companies prefer candidates with at least 1 to 2 years of experience in service occupations such as customer service.
The mean annual salary for flight attendants in the United States is $59,150 with the top earners getting more than $84,790 a year.
13. Web design
Web design is one of the fun jobs that pay well without a degree, with many web designers not needing even an associate’s degree.
A web design certificate program takes between 6 and 9 months to complete and you can opt for online programs that provide more flexibility.
Just like graphic design, this program is ideal for creative minds. It’s one of the high-paying careers for creative personalities who do not have an associate’s or bachelor’s degree.
According to Kinsta, salaries for web designers range between $60K and $75K a year. Closely related careers include UI design and UX design which can pay as high as $125K a year.
We have highlighted just a few of the short certificate programs that pay well in the United States. As noted, some of them pay well above $100,000 a year, which is amazing considering it’s faster and cheaper to complete a certificate program.
Watch this video by The Career Guide about short certificate programs that pay well.