Get matched with vetted scholarships and enter our
I’m a high school student I’m a college or graduate student
100% Free. No Spam.
    Start typing in the text field above
    Advertiser disclosure

    Student-centric advice and objective recommendations

    Higher education has never been more confusing or expensive. Our goal is to help you navigate the very big decisions related to higher ed with objective information and expert advice. Each piece of content on the site is original, based on extensive research, and reviewed by multiple editors, including a subject matter expert. This ensures that all of our content is up-to-date, useful, accurate, and thorough.

    Our reviews and recommendations are based on extensive research, testing, and feedback. We may receive commission from links on our website, but that doesn’t affect our editors’ opinions. Our marketing partners don’t review, approve or endorse our editorial content. It’s accurate to the best of our knowledge when posted. You can find a complete list of our partners here.

    Top Certificates to Earn in 2024

    By Gabriel Jimenez-Ekman

    Gabriel Jimenez-Ekman is a content editor and writer at Scholarships360. He has managed communications and written content for a diverse array of organizations, including a farmer’s market, a concert venue, a student farm, an environmental NGO, and a PR agency. Gabriel graduated from Kenyon College with a degree in sociology.

    Full Bio

    Learn about our editorial policies

    and Cait Williams

    Cait Williams is a Content Writer at Scholarships360. Cait recently graduated from Ohio University with a degree in Journalism and Strategic Communications. During her time at OU, was active in the outdoor recreation community.

    Full Bio

    Learn about our editorial policies

    Edited by Maria Geiger

    Maria Geiger is Director of Content at Scholarships360. She is a former online educational technology instructor and adjunct writing instructor. In addition to education reform, Maria’s interests include viewpoint diversity, blended/flipped learning, digital communication, and integrating media/web tools into the curriculum to better facilitate student engagement. Maria earned both a B.A. and an M.A. in English Literature from Monmouth University, an M. Ed. in Education from Monmouth University, and a Virtual Online Teaching Certificate (VOLT) from the University of Pennsylvania.

    Full Bio

    Learn about our editorial policies

    Updated: February 29th, 2024
    Top Certificates to Earn in 2024

    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 $162,000

    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

    Program costs can vary quite a bit. You may pay a monthly fee, or you may pay a flat rate tuition. Regardless, a certificate program should come at a cost that, even if you have to take out loans for, should provide you a salary that makes it worthwhile. Below we’ve outlined what certifying exams cost for IT and HR programs. Certifying exams should be your only other cost in addition to tuition or monthly fees. 

    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

    Start your scholarship search
    • Vetted scholarships custom-matched to your profile
    • Access exclusive scholarships only available to Scholarships360 members
    Get Started

    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.

    3 reasons to join scholarships360

    • Automatic entry to our $10,000 No-Essay Scholarship
    • Personalized matching to thousands of vetted scholarships
    • Quick apply for scholarships exclusive to our platform

    By the way...Scholarships360 is 100% free!

    Join For Free