5 Certificate Programs That Can Advance Your Career

At a time when education is more important than ever, these credentials can mean greater job security, higher pay and a better chance of advancement

By Greg Scott Neuman
Posted 2012

Career Advancing Certificates
Career Advancing Certificates

The recent economic crisis has given many Americans a new respect for the value of higher learning. After all, it was those with the least amount of education who suffered the most. In 2010, when the recession was at its worst, workers who had only a high school diploma saw an unemployment rate of 10.3%. But it was only 5.4% for those who held a bachelor’s degree, and even lower – just 4% – for professionals with master’s degrees.

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However, not everyone has the time or resources to earn an MBA. Luckily, there are certificate programs you can complete in a year or less that can bring you more job security, higher pay and a better chance of advancement. Here are just a few of them.

1. Accounting. Accountants examine, analyze, and interpret accounting records to prepare financial statements. Professionals in this field may also be called upon to give advice, or audit and evaluate statements prepared by others.

The most important accounting certification is the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) designation. Earning it requires that you complete 150 credit hours of college coursework – 30 hours more than the typical bachelor’s degree – and pass the national CPA exam. Many states have other requirements as well, such as taking continuing education courses to maintain licensure.

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2. Crisis counseling. Crisis counselors help people deal with traumatic emotional, interpersonal or psychological events. Certification in this discipline is designed for professionals who work in the clergy, disaster relief, emergency medical services, fire sciences, healthcare, human services, law enforcement, nursing, psychology or social work.

The most popular crisis counseling certification is administered by the American Institute of Healthcare Professionals, Inc. (AIHCP). AIHCP certification requires that you have education and/or work experience in one of the fields listed above, plus a minimum of 275 lecture hours in an approved crisis intervention counseling program.

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3. Financial advising. Financial advisors help people make decisions about insurance, investments and taxes. They educate their clients on how to handle such matters and assist them in planning for the future.

There are a variety of certifications for financial advisors. The three most popular are Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA), Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and Certified Financial Planner (CFP). The CFA and CFP exams require that you hold a bachelor’s degree and pass an exam (or series of exams, where the CFA is concerned). The CPA, as noted earlier, has more stringent degree requirements.

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4. Information technology. Information technology (IT) professionals work in a variety of fields, including database management, network administration and software engineering. Because of the many products, services and skill requirements found in IT, it has more available certifications than almost any other profession.

Some of the more popular IT certificate programs are offered by technology companies; they train you on how to install, use and maintain their products. These include Microsoft certifications (MCSE, MCITP, MCTS), CompTIA certifications (A+, Network+, Security+, Linux+) and Cisco certifications (CCNP, CCNA, CCiE) among others. You do not generally need a college degree to acquire these credentials, but good IT skills are a must.

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5. Project management. Project managers supervise staff and allocate resources to ensure the correct and timely completion of work. They often take charge of a group for the duration of a particular project, then, once it is complete, move on to another project involving a different staff and different tasks.

By far the most important and popular project management certification is the Project Management Professional (PMP)® offered by the Project Management Institute (PMI)®. To apply for the PMP, you must have either a bachelor’s degree and three years of project management experience, or a high school diploma and five years of project management experience.

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