Certification programs

Certification programs for you to consider

When people think of a top-paying career, they often think of jobs that require a traditional bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree. However, many jobs can get you an excellent salary without any higher education requirements. Certification programs are often shorter than degree programs and offer many excellent benefits. Learn what certification programs are, review the benefits of completing one, and consider a list of potential programs to try for yourself.

What is a certification program?

They are often thought of as an alternative to traditional degree programs. These training programs are designed to prepare you for a specific career by giving you the education and training you need to fulfill that role after completing the program.

Some enter the certification program directly after high school instead of going to college or university. Others receive certificates to improve their promotion and pay opportunities during their careers or use the training program to transition to a whole new career field during their working year.

15 high earning careers with certification programs

These 15 positions pay very well and generally do not require higher education except certification:

Emergency Medical Technician (EMT)

Average base pay: per year, $35,830

Most EMTs require a certificate in EMT-I Basic. Generally, this program takes about two years to complete. Once finished, you move on to an exciting and fulfilling career helping people in need during a medical crisis.

Industrial Engineering Technician

Average base pay: per year, $65,969

To become an industrial engineering technician, you need a certificate from a vocational-technical school or an associate’s degree. Any of these options takes about two years to complete. Industrial engineering techniques interpret and improve engineering drawings and schematics and assist in the performance of work.

Funeral Director

Average base pay: per year, $48,536

The National Funeral Directors Association offers many specialized certifications such as arranger training, cemetery certification, and certified celebration training. These certificates can help you find a job as a funeral director, fulfilling job responsibilities such as arranging a funeral and communicating with the family and friends of the deceased.

Real estate brokers

Average base pay: $75,823 per year

Each state indicates the required licensing and certification requirements for real estate brokers. In most states, real estate brokers must complete a range of training and certifications to qualify for the job. This role is different from the role of a real estate agent in that brokers can own their brokerage pay and hire other agents.

Brick masonry

Average base pay: $69,839 per year

The Mason Contractors Association of America provides certification to masonry companies to ensure proper education and training. Other similar programs are available for independent brick masonry to complete. General responsibilities for brick masonry include laying bricks, stones, and tiles and completing repairs on stone works.


Average base pay: $47,949 per year

Many clients receive certifications rather than gaining skills and experience on the job to expand the work they can do and their career potential. Plumbers perform job duties such as fixing leaky pipes and installing sinks and toilets.

Personal trainer

Average base pay: $40,000 per year

The National Academy of Sports Medicine offers many options for earning a certificate as a personal trainer. Most gyms, fitness centers, and other personal trainer employers expect their employees to have a certificate. Personal trainers help clients work out safely, create fitness plans, and manage schedules at a fitness facility.

Air traffic controller

Average base pay: per year, $41,665

Air traffic controllers can get various degrees ranging from associate’s degree to master’s degree. The associate degree program is usually only two years and equips potential controllers with the skills needed to manage aircraft traffic in the air and on the ground.

Medical coder

Average base pay: per year, $33,716

While certification is not required for medical coders, those who choose to complete one seem to have increased job opportunities and higher pay offers from prospective employers. The American Academy of Professional Coders offers many medical coding certificates to help medical coders perform their job duties well, such as coding appropriate medical bills for insurance companies.

Fire Fighter

Average base pay: per year, $50,346

Firefighters are responsible for more than controlling structural fires and wildfires. People injured in the fire will also have to seek emergency medical care. As such, firefighters must have training and certification as EMT or paramedics.

Web developer

Average base pay: per year, $68,524

Many web developers are self-taught. The field is constantly evolving, adapting, and changing, so certifications are a great way to quickly develop new skills and prove to potential employers what you can use. Many web developers earn certificates in Google AdWords, ACE Web Specialist, and HTML5 application development. Web developers often perform tasks such as maintaining websites, creating applications, and troubleshooting technical issues.

Surgical technologist

Average base pay: per year, $48,174

Surgical technologist licensing and certification requirements vary by state, but most states prefer the certification of a reputable organization. The National Association of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assistance provides certification for surgical technologists. These careers include job duties such as preparing a surgical suite for the operation and assisting doctors and nurses during surgery.

Building inspector

Average base pay: per year, $35,086

Building inspectors can earn a lot of certificates as they progress through their careers to increase their skillset and salary potential. Common certifications include Certified Electrical Inspector Certification, Certified Professional Inspector, and Commercial Building Inspector B2 Certificate. Also Building inspectors perform tasks such as determining a building’s compliance with state and federal law, responding to proposed plans, and overseeing construction work.

Court Reporter

Average base pay: per year, $44,477

Court reporters often receive certifications as well as continuing education to keep their skills up to date.  Besides National Court Reporters Association awards many credentials to interesting journalists, including a registered professional reporter, a certified realtime reporter, and a registered merit reporter. Court reporters make accurate records of court proceedings.

Architectural and Civil Drafter

Average base pay: per year, $44,010

Architectural and civil draftsmen may be qualified for the job by completing technical school, vocational school, or degree programs. Many prefer degree programs for certificate programs because they are shorter and cheaper. In addition to training, most CADs earn a certificate, as large job responsibilities include creating architectural drawings using CAD software.

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