If you feel like you can’t dedicate the time or money to work toward a college degree right now, spending a few weeks or months earning a credential may be a good alternative, positioning you to make more money than you would without any training and in less time than a degree. You may even get a paycheck while you are still training.
What Is a Credential?
A credential or certificate program offers short-term training that results in a certificate rather than a degree. It focuses on the specific skill set for a specific job and proves to employers that you are qualified in that area.
Some certificates that can lead to sustainable careers include:
- Automotive service
- Certified nursing assistant
- Heating ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) technician
- Network systems administrator
- Web design
How Can I Get One?
Credentials may be earned online or at a community college or technical school. Programs usually last several weeks or months rather than years, and most include hands-on learning. Some programs even pay you for your time in training.
Workforce development providers, such as local Goodwill organizations and CareerOneStop, can help you decide which certificate program to pursue and how to get started.
How Much Do Credential Programs Cost?
The cost of the program can range anywhere from $200 to $2,000 or more depending on the type of certificate you’re seeking, the institution offering the program and how long the program takes.
Similar to attending a two- or four-year college, federal financial aid is available for certificate programs, although it is less common. Filling out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid will uncover any available federal grants, loans or work-study opportunities that will help pay for the program.
Schools also offer scholarships, and some employers, trade organizations and nonprofits will cover the cost of tuition for certificates in in-demand fields.
You may also be able to take out a private loan to cover the cost, but make sure that the payment terms and interest are manageable and will not derail you from your financial goals.
Why Are Credentials Beneficial?
Certifications can help you land jobs that you might not be able to otherwise. Although your time in the program is relatively short, you learn a lot because you are focusing on one specific skill set. Some employers even value certification more than experience in the field.
Employers also value candidates who have multiple certifications, known as stacked credentials. This is when you hold several related certifications – such as phlebotomist and electrocardiogram technician. A small medical facility that doesn’t have a need for two full-time employees in these roles might prefer hiring one person who can do both.
In some cases, related certifications may have overlapping requirements, allowing you to obtain both of them more quickly. You can also wait and add on more credentials over time or pursue an advanced degree in the field as you move up in your career.
For people looking to jump-start their career, a credential program can be a great educational option that takes less time and money than a college degree. A certificate can position you as an expert in your field, offering unlimited future possibilities.