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Top Certificates to Earn in 2023

Have you ever wondered what alternatives to a four year degree might be out there? With the cost of 4-year colleges continuing to rise, alternative education options are becoming increasingly popular. Certificate  programs typically take a fraction of the time and money of a 4-year degree. 

Who can earn a certificate? 

Certificate programs are for everybody! Whether you aren’t interested in going the traditional college route or are a working professional and just want to level up your skills, certificate programs can be a great way to improve yourself. 

Below is a rundown of some certificates proven to increase career and salary potential. We’ve broken our picks down into two categories: human resources and IT. While certificates are available in many fields, these are the two most common general fields for certificate programs.

Certifications in information technology

1. Google Certified Professional Cloud Architect

This program will prepare you to design and plan cloud solutions and architecture. Boasting a typical graduate salary of around $176,000, this program can help increase your earning potential dramatically. To pass the exam, Google recommends having “3+ years of industry experience including 1+ years designing and managing solutions using Google Cloud.”

2. AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate

This test will assess your capability in designing solutions on Amazon Web Services. You’ll need to have at least one year of hands-on experience with AWS technology to qualify. Graduates can expect to earn a salary of about $143,000 per year.

3. Certified Information Security Manager (CISM)

This program will help you hone your experience in “information security governance, program development and management, incident management and risk management.” Graduates earn an average base salary of $118,000

4. Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control (CRISC)

The CRISC is offered by the same organization as the CISM, but is tailored towards “mid-career IT/IS audit, risk and security professionals.” It boasts a typical graduate salary of $125,000.

5. Project Management Professional (PMP)

This is one of the most prestigious project management certifications out there. However, it takes a fair amount of work; on top of 35 hours of formal education, you’ll have to complete an hour quota for project management experience. This will be 4,500 hours for bachelor’s degree holders and 7,500 for anyone else.

Also read: Information technology major overview

Human resources certifications

1. Associate Professional in Human Resources (aPHR)

This is a great option for anyone looking for an entry-level HR position. The program does not require any prior experience. It can also be useful for people in non-HR positions who manage workers. 

2. Professional in Human Resources (PHR)

This program is for anyone who works in HR under the direction of an HR director. You’ll need a minimum of one year of experience in a professional-level HR position and a master’s, or two years of experience and a bachelor’s, or four years of experience and no degree.

3. eCornell Human Resources Certificate Programs

Cornell offers a wide variety of online human resources certifications programs. You can find programs to meet your situation whether you are new to the field, have extensive experience, or work in an HR-adjacent position.

4. American Staffing Association Staffing Professional Certification

The American Staffing Association offers several professional certifications. This general one demonstrates your familiarity with federal and state labor laws. If you work in a staffing position, this is a great way to show that you have a solid understanding of the basics. You can also look into more specialized programs from the organization, such as their health care staffing certification.

5. SHRM Certified Professional

This certification is recommended for “HR professionals who implement policies and strategies, serve as point of contact for staff and stakeholders, deliver HR services, and perform operational HR functions.” To be eligible, you must either hold a master’s degree and currently be employed at an HR position, or have 1 year of experience and a bachelor’s degree, or 4 years of experience without a bachelor’s. 

How much do certificate programs cost

Information technology programs

In general, IT certifications are very affordable. The only cost you’ll pay directly to the certifying body is the exam registration fee. For most of these, this fee falls somewhere between $50 and $250. Oftentimes, there are even discounts on the exam. Some organizations offer complimentary study material as well. If your organization does not, you may have to factor in the cost of a few books as well. But you’ll rarely have to pay any more than $500.

Human resource programs

Human resource certifications are a bit more expensive than information technology certifications tend to be. You’ll probably end up paying somewhere between $300 – $500 for the exam and all of the necessary materials. It’s worth noting, though, that this is still a tiny fraction of the cost of a 4-year degree program.

Using the CareerOneStop Tool

The US Department of labor has created a valuable tool for searching out certification programs that are specific to your field. You can use CareerOnestop to browse programs by field or by job. The site lists all of the requirements for each program and shows you where you can sign up. If you didn’t find an opportunity that fit your desired skill set on our list, you should definitely try out CareerOneStop.

Also read: Is coding bootcamp worth it?

Accessible option: Google Certificate Program

If you’re wondering where to start in your search for a certificate program, we recommend checking out Google’s programs. The Google Certificate Program has no prerequisites, is highly affordable, and has a flexible schedule. If you find a program that appeals to you, it’s worth investigating. On top of that, there are scholarships available. With the combination of its accessibility, flexibility, and affordability, it’s hard to go wrong with Google Certificates.

Next Steps

Next Steps

  • If you’re looking into certificate programs, you should start by investigating the fields that they encompass
  • Find the one that is most interesting to you, and then look for reputable programs that will fit your schedule and financial situation
  • The programs on this list are reputable and high-paying, so if you find a fit there, we recommend going for it
Next Steps

Frequently asked questions about certificates 

Can certificates get you a job?

Certificates may very well help you get a job somewhere. It’s not a guarantee that you will get hired, but having a certificate in the field you’re applying to should certainly help. Remember that experience is also a big piece of the puzzle for many jobs. When you first earn your certificate, be willing to take jobs that will help you gain that experience. Achieving your dream role might take you a few years, but don’t get discouraged!

Is it better to get a certificate or a degree?

Whether or not a certificate or degree is better than the other depends on what you want to do and what resources you have access to. If you are able to attend a four year university, or an online one, and earn an associates or bachelors in your desired field then that might be worth considering. However, if you are a working professional looking to level up your resume in your field, or just looking to branch out into a new field without the commitment of a full degree.

Are certificates worth it on a resume?

Yes, certificates can be a great addition to your resume! A certificate can show a lot about who you are, especially when you receive them in addition to an associate or bachelor’s degree. LIke we said above, experience is also key on your resume, which means you may need to take some time building up your experience before you land the exact role you want.