Completing a certificate in a specialized vocational area is often a springboard to an exciting new career. Most certificates can be completed in a few months to two years. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests that certificates can lead to high paying positions in several fields, based on surveys of workers and occupational experts conducted by the Occupational Information Network. A little research can help you find an accredited certificate program aligned with workforce needs that offers an attractive starting salary and promotional opportunities.

Health Care Occupations

Surgical technologists sterilize hospital equipment, prepare patients for surgery and hand surgeons instruments during medical procedures. Surgical technology is one of the higher paid certificate programs in the health profession. Many two- and four-year schools offer training that lasts from several months to two years. Salary data from the BLS in 2012 showed that the median income for surgical technologists was $41,790. Another good-paying medical occupation is licensed practical or vocational nursing. Training for LPNs and LVNs involves completion of a state-approved instructional program that takes about one year. After obtaining their license, practical and vocational nurses are qualified to perform basic nursing duties. The median annual salary in 2012 was $41,540, according to the BLS.

Protective Services

Firefighters are skilled professionals who respond to fires and medical emergencies. The minimum postsecondary educational requirement for hire is certification as an emergency medical technician at the basic level, which consists of a 120- to 150-hour course and passing the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians examination. Additional training is provided on the job. In 2012, the median wage for firefighters was $45,250, according to the BLS. Private investigators who collect evidence for court earned slightly more in 2012 -- $45,740. Schools such as the University of North Texas offer a 200-hour professional private investigator certificate that meets the educational requirements for taking the state of Texas private investigator licensing examination.

Equipment Repair and Maintenance

Jobs in heating, air conditioning and refrigeration repair and installation will increase faster than average between 2012-2022, according to BLS projections. The median wage in 2012 was $43,640, and workers in the top 10 percent income bracket reported an annual salary over $68,990. Although it’s possible to learn on the job, BLS indicates that technicians are increasingly likely to complete a heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration certificate program lasting six months or more. A certificate is also the educational requirement for most telecommunications equipment repair jobs that are in high demand. In 2011, these jobs paid a median wage of $53,960.

Computer Technology

Many schools offer certificates in computer technology that prepare graduates for computer related jobs in schools, business and industry. For example, students at Pasadena City College can earn a certificate of achievement in areas such as microcomputer support, client/server operations, Web development and computer programming. In addition, students may opt to complete an occupational skills program, such as the CISCO Certified Network Associate curriculum that’s one of the requirements for being certified to work on CISCO equipment. The BLS reported that the typical network administrator earned $72,560 in 2012.

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About the Author

Dr. Mary Dowd is a dean of students whose job includes student conduct, leading the behavioral consultation team, crisis response, retention and the working with the veterans resource center. She enjoys helping parents and students solve problems through advising, teaching and writing online articles that appear on many sites. Dr. Dowd also contributes to scholarly books and journal articles.