No Degree Required: Certificate Programs for In-Demand Jobs

Here are eight popular certificate programs that can ignite salary potential without a degree.

1. Information Technology Security. According to MATRIX Resources, one of the nation’s top IT staffing firms, managers are putting security and data recovery at the top of their priority lists. Though most IT fields saw a pay increase of 3.1 percent in 2006, those demanding the hottest skill sets — with security at the top of the list — saw increases of up to 4-5 percent.

2. Paralegal. There are approximately 600 paralegal educational programs available, and about 250 are approved by the American Bar Association. The National Association of Legal Assistants reports an above-average expected growth rate for the profession through 2010 at 33 percent.

3. Digital and Graphic Design. Beginning designers and career-changers are finding that the focused curriculum of certificate programs actually has incredibly broad design applications including entertainment, publishing, and media fields. According to Mary Domowicz, an acting associate director at New York University’s School of Continued Professional Studies, enrollment in the school’s design certificate programs has doubled in the past year.

4. Nursing Management. Nurses who aspire to supervisory roles can use certificate courses to apply credits to their degree and develop skill sets that include understanding the basics of health care organizations and administration; analyzing and managing data in health care systems; and applying the techniques of personnel management. There are about 126,000 unfilled nursing positions in U.S. hospitals — a number expected to grow to 400,000 by 2020 — says the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations.

5. Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA). A launching pad of sorts, Cisco’s CCNA certification is an introductory-level certification that is a prerequisite for higher-level certifications for working with networking and communications technology. Certification Magazine recently quoted the average salary for a Cisco certified IT professional as $59,550 a year. An average CCNA makes $9,967 more than before earning the certification.

6. Homeland Security. Certificate programs that originated from the military and National Guard are now attracting learners in private business and municipal government. The U.S. Department of Labor has been predicting that the employment of security management personnel will grow faster than all other occupations due to the threat of terrorism. Trends demonstrate increased demand for employees with knowledge of investigative services, surveillance systems, and risk management training.

7. Forensic Nursing. With nursing careers in demand, many RNs are boosting their credentials with specialization certificates. Forensic nursing coursework educates students on evidence collection, preservation, and documentation related to crime, acts of violence, mass casualty incidents, sexual assaults and human abuse. Beyond hospitals, local institutions like rape crisis centers and prosecutors’ offices contribute funding to support this training.

8. Executive Coaching. In 2002 the Harvard Business School Journal indicated that employers are willing to pay from $1,500 to $15,000 a day for executive coaching. Leading schools like Penn State’s Smeal College of Business, which added two new certificates to its executive education offerings this past year, are addressing this growing field. With applicability in any business setting — corporations, nonprofit organizations, and government — executive coaching certificates provide the chance to increase earning power.

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