For many people, going back to school full time simply isn’t an option. Maybe you have a family to support, or maybe you just can’t afford the tuition. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still get ahead in your career. There are plenty of short certificate programs out there that can help you get the skills you need to land a high-paying job.

The beauty of short certificates is in how specific they are. Unlike a degree, which can take years to complete, a certificate focuses on teaching you the specific skills you need for a certain job. That means you can be ready to start working in your new field much sooner. And since employers know that you’ve focused on learning the skills they need, they’re more likely to trust that you can do the job well.

There are plenty of high-paying jobs that only require a short certificate. In this article, we are going to discuss some of the best options.

Certificates vs Degrees

This will forever be a debate among  job seekers. Which one looks better on a resume, a certificate or a degree?

The answer is that it depends on the job you’re applying for. If you’re going for a job that requires a higher level of education, such as a manager position, then you’re going to want to list your degree. But if you’re applying for a job that requires specific skills, such as an electrician or plumber, then your certificate will be more impressive to employers.

It really comes down to what the employer is looking for. But in general, certificates are becoming more and more popular because they prove that you have the specific skills needed for the job.

There’s something about specificity that makes us much more believable in the eyes of employers. You’ll instantly be recognized as someone who knows what they’re doing with the right certificate.

Degrees offer a wider breadth of knowledge, which can be helpful in some cases. But they’re also a gamble for employers. You never know what the real skills of someone with a degree are until you’ve actively tested them.

Plus, consider that the skills you’ll gain are completely different. Certificates are usually about physical skills that you can directly apply in the workplace. They don’t require as much theoretical knowledge because they’re all about getting down to business.

And that’s what employers are looking for: people who can get down to business and get the job done quickly, efficiently, and correctly. If you want to make a great first impression, then a certificate is the way to go.

Another difference is  the time commitment. Certificates can be obtained in as little as a few months, while degrees often take years. That means you can start working and earning money much sooner with a certificate.

And finally, certificates are often cheaper than degrees. If you’re paying for your education yourself, then this is another big factor to consider.

How to Choose a Program?

Now that we’ve discussed the benefits of getting a short certificate, let’s talk about how to choose the right program. The first step is to figure out what kind of job you want. Once you know that, you can start looking for programs that will help you get there.

There are a few things to keep in mind when you’re looking at programs. First, make sure the program is accredited. This means that it has been evaluated by an outside organization and found to meet certain standards.

Accreditation is important because it ensures that the program will actually give you the skills you need to get a job. It also shows employers that the program is reputable and can be trusted.

The next thing to look for is whether the program offers job placement assistance. This means that the school will help you find a job after you graduate. Many schools have connections with employers in their industry and can help you get your foot in the door.

Finally, you should look at the cost of the program. If you’re paying for it yourself, then you want to make sure you can afford it. But even if you’re not, it’s still a good idea to know how much the program costs so you can plan your finances accordingly.

The 6 Best Short Certificate Programs that Pay Well

Let’s start with some definitions. With ‘pay well’ we mean any job that pays at least twice the yearly minimum wage – which, as of now, is $15,080.  And with ‘short,’ we mean any program that can be completed in 6 months or less.

Let’s see what jobs you can do with a certificate that takes 6 months or less to get.

1. Welder

Welding is the process of joining two pieces of metal together by melting them and using a filler material. It’s a skilled trade that requires training and practice to master.

The average welder makes $22.60 an hour, or $47,010 per year. But experienced welders can make much more than that. In fact, the top welders in the country make over $100,000 per year. Usually this is the case for GTAW welders (Gas Tungsten Arc Welding), which is a more specialized form of welding.

To become a welder, you need to complete a welding program at a trade school or community college. These programs typically take between six and twelve months to complete. And once you have your certificate, you can start looking for jobs.

However, there is an even faster way to become a welder, albeit a basic one.  Some companies will train you on the job if you have a high school diploma or GED. These programs usually last between two and four weeks.

Of course, these programs won’t give you the same level of training as a formal welding program. But they will give you the basics and allow you to start working right away. You’ll then pick up new things at your daily job, and you could even ask your employer to pay for additional training once you’ve established yourself at the company.

If you get the AWS D1. 1 3G and 4G SMAW welding certifications you’ll be well on your way to find a job in the welding industry.

2. Forklift Operator

A forklift is a type of industrial truck that is used to move heavy materials. Forklifts are commonly used in warehouses, factories, and construction sites.

Operating a forklift requires a special license from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). To get this license, you need to complete an OSHA-approved training program. These programs typically take between three and five days to complete.

Once you have your license, you can start looking for jobs as a forklift operator. The average forklift operator makes $18.45 an hour, or $38,380 per year. But experienced operators can make much more than that.

Not bad for a 5-days course. And realistically, it’ll be a 2 days course in most of the US.

3. HVAC-R Mechanic

HVAC-R stands for heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration. An HVAC-R mechanic installs, maintains, and repairs these systems.

The average HVAC-R mechanic makes $23.38 an hour, or $48,630 per year. But experienced mechanics can make much more than that. A 6-figures salary isn’t out of the question for the most experienced mechanics.

To become an HVAC-R mechanic, you need to complete a training program at a trade school or community college. These programs typically take between six and twelve months to complete.

For example, the MIAT college of technology offers a 9-months long course to become an HVAC-R mechanic.

But there are people who managed to get a similar certification in a matter of weeks.

For example, the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) offers a certification program that can be completed in as little as two weeks.

Of course, these programs won’t give you the same level of training as a formal HVAC-R program. But they will give you the basics and allow you to start working right away. And eventually, you’ll learn more advanced skills on the job.

4. BSNF Railroad Operator

A railroad operator is a type of conductor who is responsible for operating a train. Railroad operators typically work for freight or passenger railroads.

The average railroad operator makes $30.84 an hour, or $64,150 per year. But that’s an average. More experienced operators earn way more than that of course.

The path to becoming a conductor is kind of complicated. First, you start with a 5-6 weeks long course on things like safety, rail equipment, and other theoretical things. Then, you’ll start working as a conductor, but it’s still considered as a training period.

Expect to spend another 2-3 months  as a conductor-in-training before you’re allowed to operate a train on your own.

After that, you’ll be able to start working as a full-fledged railroad operator. And if you want to move up the ranks, there are plenty of opportunities to do so. For example, you could become a yardmaster or even a train dispatcher.

5. CPR Instructor

CPR stands for cardiopulmonary resuscitation. It’s a lifesaving technique that is used to revive someone who has stopped breathing.

CPR instructors teach CPR to laypeople and healthcare professionals. It’s hard to find exact salary data for them because the Bureau of Labor Statistics lumps them with other nursing instructors

But we do know that the average salary for healthcare instructors is around $80k per year. And CPR instructors are likely to be on the higher end of that spectrum since they require specialized training.

To become a CPR instructor, you need to take a course from an organization like the American Red Cross or the American Heart Association. These courses typically take a few days to complete.

After that, you’ll be able to start teaching CPR to others. And who knows, you might even save a life in the process.

6. Table game dealer

A table game dealer is a casino employee who deals cards or operates other games of chance.

This is a bit of a complicated one, as it’s way more location dependent than any other field in this list. There are casinos where you’ll earn $60k-70k a year, and casinos where you’ll barely reach $25k.

And this is exemplified by statistics. The average table game dealer in the US makes $13.29 per hour, or $28,960 per year. It’s still almost double minimum wage, but it’s not that much when you compare it to other jobs on this list.

The path to becoming a table game dealer is also location dependent. But in most cases, it involves completing a training program at the casino you want to work in. These programs usually take a few weeks to complete.

And after that, you’ll be  ready to start dealing blackjack, poker, or whatever game is your favorite.


Education doesn’t need to take years. If you’re on the look to switch careers, consider a program that can be completed in weeks or months, not years. They might not be as comprehensive, but they will still get you started in your new field.

There are plenty of great options out there. And who knows, maybe one of these short certificate programs is the perfect fit for you. So what are you waiting for?

Start researching and find the perfect program for you. And before you know it, you’ll be well on your way to a new career. And—hopefully—make bank off it.

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