Career Information for Non-Degree Programs, General

High school graduates who opt not to attend a traditional degree program may instead choose to acquire certification in a specialized skill or field. Read on to find out about these certifications, along with the career options, job growth, and salary info to which they may lead.

There are a number of career options that can be pursued that do not require a postsecondary degree. A degree is not required to be a sales representative, a medical assistant, or a childcare worker.

Essential Information

Not all post-high school educational programs lead to college degrees. A professional or trade certificate, for example, is a short college program that can help workers demonstrate important job qualifications.

In addition, some workers obtain professional certification, which often increases chances for employment or promotion. Both professional bodies and corporations may award professional certifications, generally following successful completion of an exam. Some certifications require completion of a brief training program. Some professional non-degree certifications may need to be renewed periodically, while others must only be completed once.

Career Sales Representative Medical Assistant Childcare Worker
Required Education High school diploma or equivalent Postsecondary certificate High school diploma or equivalent
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 6% (for wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives) 23% 5%
Median Salary (2015)* $55,730 (for wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives) $30,590 $20,320

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Options

Certificate programs can be a great way to garner the training needed to secure employment or advance in many professions. These programs are slightly different from certifications, which are professional credentials earned by meeting experience and/or education requirements. However, some certifications are awarded after completing specific training. Examples of workers for whom professional non-degree training may lead to better pay and increased chances for employment include sales representatives, childcare workers and medical assistants.

Sales Representative

Not all sales careers require a college degree, and in fact many employers are more interested in a prospective employee's sales experience, industry knowledge and personality than in his or her formal education. Certification programs are an excellent way to demonstrate the sales and industry knowledge employers seek. Careers in sales vary depending on industry sector, but the duties involved--convincing customers to buy a given product--remain the same throughout all industries. Sales representatives must be self-starters in order to combine travel and appointments in the most effective way possible. Face-to-face selling is an immensely powerful tool, and the skills are highly transferable between industries.

Career prospects and job security for wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives (except technical and scientific products) should be stable for this reason, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Average growth of 6% is expected between 2014 and 2024. The median salary for sales reps in the wholesale and manufacturing fields (except technical and scientific products) was $55,730 in May 2015, according to the BLS.

Childcare Worker

Childcare workers interact with children of all ages in various environments, from public and private schools to homes and institutional facilities. Childcare workers organize activities that stimulate the physical, emotional, intellectual and social growth of the children in their charge. Professional certifications offered in this field include the Certified Childcare Professional and Child Development Associate designations.

The job outlook in this field is expected to be relatively good over the 2014-2024 decade as more childbearing-age women enter the workforce and need someone to look after their children, according to the BLS. Five percent employment growth is expected during that decade, which is about average. Childcare workers earned a median of $20,320 per year as of May 2015, per the BLS, but pay can be increased with additional education and experience.

Medical Assistant

Medical assistants may perform a combination of clinical and administrative tasks or specialize in one of these areas. Some common clinical job duties include taking patients' vital signs, assisting doctors during examinations, doing lab tests, preparing patients for procedures and giving medication advice. Some administrative tasks include scheduling appointments, buying supplies and equipment, doing medical coding and answering calls. Medical assistants usually need to earn a certificate at a community college or trade school. They can also pursue certification, such as the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA), Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) and Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA) credentials.

The BLS reports that medical assistants can expect to have very fast job growth of 23% from 2014 through 2024. The expansion of medical facilities will lead to a need for more of these professionals. Certified medical assistants can expect even better prospects. In May 2015, medical assistants made a median salary of $30,590, according to the BLS.

Sales representatives and childcare workers can begin their careers with a high school diploma. A sales representative may benefit from knowledge about the products they're selling, and may opt to take courses related to that product or field. Childcare workers typically need to complete state licensing requirements, while medical assistants can enter the field with a certificate or diploma. Certification for medical assistants is optional.

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