If you're like many Americans, you want to earn more in your career without accumulating thousands of dollars in debt. A low-cost certificate from a credible institution may be just the boost you need.
Take Charge of Your Earning Potential
Are you looking to make more money in your current line of work or increase your chances of landing that dream job? If so, a certificate may help you achieve these goals sooner than you think and without draining your wallet.
Benefits of Obtaining a Certificate
Before exploring the many benefits of low-cost certificates, let's first look at what a certificate actually is. While not the same as a degree, certificates are similar in that they are awarded upon completion of an educational program. They are best suited for individuals who want to train for a specific career as opposed to earning a degree.
With traditional four-year degrees, students can change their majors and minors without much time being wasted, making such degrees ideal for those who haven't settled on a particular career. On the other hand, the specialized nature of certificates is best suited for those who already know which career they want to pursue. Now let's take a look at the many benefits a certificate has to offer.
They Save You Time and Money
Budget is a huge consideration for many students. Whether you're fresh out of high school or a seasoned professional, certificates are a cost-effective way to gain an edge over the competition. For public institutions, a one-year certificate will cost you anywhere from $1,500 to upwards of $3,000. As for time, nearly all certificate programs can be completed within 2 years with 54% of certificates being earned within a year.
Great for the busy lifestyle, many certificate programs are offered online with the ability to participate and study on your own terms and at your own pace. With both public and private institutions as well as community colleges and ivy league schools offering certificates, most people can find a program that fits their schedule.
With countless options available to you, many certificates even count as credit toward an actual degree. This means you can obtain a certificate now with comparatively little time and money invested, then later, if you wish to further your education with a Bachelor's degree or higher, you can do so in a shorter amount of time. This path is a popular one as 33% of certificate holders go on to earn their Associate or Bachelor's degrees.
They Help You Earn More
If you're among the many students who think you can't earn well apart from a Bachelor's degree, think again. There's a reason why certificate programs have grown increasingly popular in recent years. In fact, when it comes to post-secondary education, certificates are the second most sought-after credential by both new grads and working adults, surpassed only by the number of Bachelor's degrees earned each year. There's a reason for their popularity, and that reason lies in the ROI that certificate holders often see in the job market.
As an example of such earning potential, the average salary for a Texan with a mechanical engineering certificate is $116,000 and that's just with a certificate from a community college. For a broader look at different markets, the careers that yield the highest returns for certificate holders are blue-collar jobs and those related to office support and IT.
According to Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce, the key to seeing the greatest return on your investment is to work in the field in which you received your certificate. While this seems to state the obvious, many workers change career goals after completing their course work. While perfectly acceptable, such change may come at the cost of a lower salary. With this in mind, it's important to determine what career you want prior to entering a certificate program.
How to Find the Right Program
If you think getting a certificate is the right path for you, there are a few things you should consider when choosing a program. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests that you look at each of the institutions you're considering and ask the following questions:
- Are they accredited by a legitimate, nationally recognized group?
- Do they provide a Gainful Employment Disclosure either on their website or upon request?
- Can you find any reliable reviews from teachers or former students?
- Do they request a flat-fee payment for a certificate (this indicates a scam)?
- Is their mailing address an actual campus location as opposed to a P.O. Box?
Whenever you deal with online organizations, there's always the chance to be scammed, so it's important to do your homework first. Some organizations like the Council for Higher Education Accreditation provide lists of accredited schools as well known scammers.