Short-Term Certification Programs: Long-Term Career Rewards
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Dr. Kari Whaley, Ed.D.
Dr. Kari Whaley, Ed.D. is a professor at Full Sail University, where she teaches in accelerated master's degree programs in business, film, and gaming. She serves on the Institutional Advisory Board of Osceola Technical College (oTECH), a career and technical education college in Central Florida. She has also worked closely with Valencia College in Orlando, Florida, home to Accelerated Skills Training Programs in Advanced Manufacturing, Construction, and Healthcare. Kari was the President/CEO of the St. Cloud Chamber of Commerce until 2019, where she facilitated connections between employers and business and human resources.
Shannon Lee has been writing for over 20 years. Her catalogue includes a dozen novels, thousands of articles and millions of words written, and her work includes textbooks, web content, white papers and more. She writes predominantly on education, but also writes on health, psychology and finance. She lives in Kentucky with her family.
In most cases, those who have higher levels of education have an opportunity to make a higher salary. But there are some jobs that turn that conventional wisdom on its head, such as those well-paying jobs that can be had after completing a short-term certification program. In fact, many of these programs take six months or less to complete and can get a graduate into the workforce very quickly, where they begin earning a living wage – or even a quite comfortable salary. This guide looks at short-term programs and how they help students and explains why they just might be the best option for those who want to make good money but don't want to sit in a classroom for years in order to do it.
What Should You Know about Short-Term Certification Programs?
Short-term certification programs sound like an ideal option for those looking to start a new career as quickly as possible. But they're not for everyone. It's important to understand the basics before going any further with enrollment in a short term program.
Given the practical nature of many jobs available to graduates of short-term certification programs, many of the programs have hands-on curriculum requirements. For example, many pharmacy technician programs will have an externship component in which students receive real world training. Graduates of an auto mechanics programs will typically start an apprenticeship after graduation. Other professions that usually require a blend of virtual classroom and on-site learning include construction jobs, such as electrician and plumbing.
Why are these programs valuable?
Short-term programs are…well, short. They save students from paying for schooling any longer than necessary. Completion of the program allows graduates to enter the workforce as soon as practicable, thus leading quickly to a paycheck. Short-term programs emphasize instruction on tangible, real-world skills to allow students to be ready to work as soon as they graduate, and they are often the kind of skills that cross career lines. But besides that, many of the practical skills students gain from these programs benefit them in their everyday life, such as with their business affairs, health, home, vehicle or personal technology devices.
Who could benefit from these programs?
Short-term certification programs are ideal for anyone looking to get professional training and instruction, but they are especially useful for those who do not have the time or money to disrupt their lives to sit in a classroom for months on end. This can include students who cannot afford to be in school for an extended period of time, need to start bringing in a paycheck as soon as possible, or both. Even those who have the time and financial resources to attend school for several years will still appreciate an abbreviated program, as it means they can start working in their chosen career sooner rather than later.
How do I find a program?
Start with a simple search through an online search engine, or find a program on the appropriate accredited institution's website. For instance, the CAAHEP has a “Find a Program” tool that helps users find a CAAHEP accredited program at the diploma, certificate, associate, baccalaureate or master's level in a variety of professions. In addition, career or occupation-oriented websites often have special search tools for students looking for a potential program to apply to. One such online search tool can be found at CareerOneStop's Certification Finder. Finally, individuals can look for a program by finding a school first, then exploring the programs that school offers.
What does it take to qualify?
Most short-term certificate programs will require a high school diploma or a GED for admission. Additionally, the institution may expect incoming students to make financial arrangements to show they can pay for their tuition and school-related costs. In most cases, students must show proficiency in the English language.
From there, the specific program may impose additional requirements. For example, in a medical assisting or other health-related program, the student will likely need to show they are current on their immunizations and have a medical professional sign a health clearance before they can begin the clinical or hands-on portion of their curriculum.
Industries & Careers with Short-Term Certification
There are many industries and hundreds of jobs and careers that require an applicant hold only a short-term certificate. Let's take a look at some of the options.
Industry: Allied Health
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 2.4 million new jobs are expected to be added in the healthcare industry between 2016 and 2026. Many of these positions require six months of less of formal education, including a phlebotomist, emergency medical technician and pharmacy technician. These skilled workers will be necessary to provide the increase in medical services anticipated as the need for healthcare grows.
With the aging population and implementation of the Affordable Care Act, the US Department of Labor estimates that the number of healthcare jobs in the United States is expected to rise 18 percent from 2016 to 2026. This is well above the national average for the economy as a whole. Some jobs that require less than one year of coursework include physical therapy aides and massage therapists.
Industry: Information Technology
With the ubiquity of the internet, it's safe to say almost everyone in developed countries is online. According to the Pew Research Center, about 52 percent of adults were online in 2000. In 2018, that percentage grew to 89 percent. Such massive growth has led to a huge demand for the creation and management of the information infrastructure. As a result, a variety of jobs that barely existed a few decades ago are now in hot demand, such as web developer, computer support specialist and social media manager.
Computer Support Specialist
Industry: Renewable Energy
Fossil fuels are a limited resource, so renewables are the wave of the future. The already huge demand for these types of jobs is only expected to grow. The US Energy Information Administration reports that the consumption of renewable energy reached record levels in 2017, with much of the growth in renewable energy coming from wind and solar. This means there's a strong demand for workers with short-term certificates, such as wind turbine technicians and solar installation installers.
Solar Installation Technician
The American Bar Association says there are more than 1.3 million attorneys in the United States. However, much of happens in the legal world – the small yet vital tasks that keep the court system moving right along – is not done by lawyers, but rather by their support staff, including legal assistants, law clerks and paralegals.
Construction is a key component of the United States economy. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports strong growth in the single-family, multi-family and industrial construction sectors. Many of the skilled trades in the construction industry, such as plumbing, masonry and electrical work, are unique in that much of the education comes from on-the-job training.
An essential function of any successful business or organization is keeping track of financial information. So it's no wonder that the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the growth of accountants and auditors to be around 10 percent from 2016 to 2026. But accountants can't handle all of an organization's financial documentation. Therefore, the need for additional accounting professionals is strong. This includes bookkeepers and auditing clerks.
The heyday of car manufacturing may be over in the United States, but the rate of car ownership continues to grow. For example, from 1990 to 2016, the number of registered cars in the United States grew from around 190 million to almost 270 million. That's a lot of cars to build and repair, so automobile mechanics and assembly line assemblers are still an integral part of the economy.
The United States relies on a consumer driven economy. To make goods and services readily available to consumers, a solid transportation network is essential. To put things in perspective, more than 74 million passengers flew on commercial airlines in the United States in November 2018. And more than 70 percent of all freight in the United States gets moved by truck. This leads to a great need to hire flight attendants, commercial truck drivers and aircraft mechanics.
Industry: Real Estate
According to the National Association of Realtors the median gross median income of a realtor was $39,800 in 2017. With having a place to live being an essential need for anyone, it's no wonder there's a need for real estate agents, property managers and community association managers.
Real Estate Agent
Short-Term Certification Program FAQs
Am I eligible for financial aid when enrolled in one of these short-term certification programs?
How much can I make?
Can I use a short-term certification to springboard into a different job in the future?
Can I attend a short-term certification entirely online?
Benefits of Short-Term Certification Programs
Besides advancing education, earning a short-term certificate has a variety of benefits that can lead a promising career and professional growth.
Earn quickly after completion: Because graduates can earn their credentials fairly quickly, it's only natural that they will also start earning money quickly after graduation. The whole point of a certificate program is to get individuals into the workforce as soon as possible. Even when additional hands-on training is required, recent graduates often get paid for this on-the-job training.
Valuable skills: A short-term academic or vocational program will be heavily geared toward practical skills and training. Unlike a four-year or even two-year college degree, short-term programs focus on teaching skills rather than theory. This makes short-term certification programs some of the most efficient methods of learning a professional skill.
Get into an in-demand industry: When there is a shortage of a certain type of worker, it's common for the educators in the industry to take steps to facilitate quick student training. The shorter the program, the faster workers can fulfill an industry's need for employees.
Make valuable connections: Networking is a critical component of professional development, no matter the industry or extent of formal training. Those in certificate programs can start building those connections from day one. Classmates can become future business partners. Professors can become mentors. The school's career office can facilitate creating connections with other professionals already in the industry.
From the Expert
What are some of the misconceptions students have about these programs? Do they expect too much -- or too little?
After completing the program, do most students go into the area they trained for? If not, what do they tend to do?
So, when students are applying to programs, they should ask the institution about job placement and seek specifics about potential employers and the percentage of graduates who leave the program with a job offer.
The student should consider their field of study and how the market for that industry is in their region. For example, in Central Florida, there are a number of advanced manufacturing, construction, and healthcare related companies, so graduates in those areas are typically placed quickly with companies who do work on the Space Coast or with high tech companies like those housed at NeoCity or Medical City in Orlando. If there is not a large market in the area where the institution is based, ask what kind of connections the school has outside of the region.
Another important resource to connect with is a career counselor or coach. These individuals can help you get access to hiring managers, job openings that may not be publicly posted yet, and interviews. It's important that the student initiate these conversations and connections early in the program to start building a network months before graduation.
Anything else you would like to add about short term certification programs?
Additional Short-Term Certification Resources
Bureau of Labor Statistics – Occupational Outlook Handbook: The home of official occupational data, including projected growth, median salaries and how to start working in a particular profession.
CareerOneStop: Sponsored by the US Department of Labor, this website provides a plethora of career information, especially for those interested in finding a new career.
Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP): The CAAHEP is the primary accrediting body of many entry-level programs relating to health science and allied health.
Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs (DAPIP): This searchable database allows anyone to search among post-secondary institutions that have accreditation from US Department of Education recognized accrediting bodies.
Federal Trade Commission (FTC) – Choosing a Vocational School: Most vocational and technical schools are reputable, but some are definitely not. The FTC offers information to help prospective students research schools and find the best ones for them.
Mechanical Contractors Association of America (MCAA): The MCAA represents thousands of businesses in the electrical, plumbing, HVAC and mechanical fields.
National Association of Realtors (NAR): The NAR is the most prominent trade organization for real estate professionals.
National Association of State Contractors Licensing Agencies (NASCLA): NASCLA represents the interests of contractors, governmental licensing entities and trade associations with respect to bringing uniformity to licensing and regulation.
National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA): The NECA represents the electrical construction industry and advocates on their behalf.
US News and World Report – Education: Well-known for its college rankings, this site offers a detailed database of traditional and online colleges and universities and their programs, including everything from certificates to doctoral degrees.
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