Military veterans don’t need to pursue formal college degrees with their education benefits. Many certificate programs offer outstanding career options, without the time commitment of a full degree. As a result, we’ll use this article to discuss certificate programs that lead to high-paying jobs.
Specifically, we’ll discuss the following:
- What is a Certificate Program?
- Using Your VA Benefits to Pay for Certificate Programs
- 10 Certificate Programs that Lead to High-Paying Jobs
- Final Thoughts
What is a Certificate Program?
If you want to advance your education but don’t want to pursue a formal degree, certificate programs are great alternatives. These programs provide training in specific career fields. Upon completion, you receive a formal certificate stating that you’ve completed training in that field up to a specified standard.
This standardization means that, when you complete a certificate program, employers know exactly what sort of training you have received. This makes these programs an outstanding path into entry-level jobs in solid career fields. Put simply, once you complete a certificate program, employers know you can immediately begin adding value. For veterans looking to transition into civilian careers, certificate programs offer an efficient route into a variety of high-paying jobs.
And, while not college degrees, many colleges offer certificate programs. Both four-year and community colleges provide a variety of certificate programs. Some of these programs require degrees, but many others create a career path directly out of high school (or, for veterans, directly out of military service).
Using Your VA Benefits to Pay for Certificate Programs
Typically, certificate programs cost less than formal degrees. But, they can still be expensive. Fortunately, you can use your VA benefits to pay for a certificate. Specifically, the Post-9/11 GI Bill will pay for “non-college degree programs,” which is what the VA calls certificate programs. And, if a certificate program requires a separate certification exam, the VA will likely reimburse you for the associated exam fees.
To use your GI Bill benefits, you first need to actually apply and qualify for those benefits. Next, you need to either A) enroll, or B) plan to enroll in a non-degree program at an approved school (NOTE: the VA provides an online list of all approved schools). The VA will pay up to the national maximum in-state tuition and fees for non-degree schools. And, even if you’re not pursuing a traditional degree, you’ll receive the GI Bill monthly housing allowance while enrolled in training.
10 Certificate Programs that Lead to High-Paying Jobs
If the idea of a certificate program appeals to you, you still need to decide which program to pursue. While not a comprehensive list, we’ve outlined ten certificate programs below that lead to high-paying jobs. Of note, our listing system isn’t meant to rank these programs from best to worst. Rather, you’ll need to consider your own experiences and preferences to determine which certificate best supports your career goals.
Certificate Program 1: Web Developer
Here, we’ve used “web developer” as an umbrella term. Within this broad field, numerous specialized certificate programs exist. For example, you can complete certificate programs in web development, mobile application development, and web page design, among plenty of others. As highly technical certificates, each of these programs offers pathways directly into web-related careers.
Certificate Program 2: Project Management Professional
The Project Management Institute (PMI) offers the Project Management Professional, or PMP, certificate. This designation requires classroom work, real-world project management experience, and passing the PMP exam. And, many colleges provide certificate programs tailored to support the PMP classroom and exam preparation requirements.
From a career perspective, PMI research indicates that employers will need to fill over 2 million new project-oriented roles every year through 2027. Furthermore, project managers with PMP certification earn, on average, 25% more than their non-certified peers. And, while a four-year degree can speed up PMP eligibility, you can still qualify without a degree, so long as you have relevant project management experience.
Certificate Program 3: Medical Assistant
Like the term web developer, “medical assistant” covers a wide range of certificate options. Interested veterans can pursue programs leading to jobs in medical administration, clinical support, and healthcare management. Most certificate programs include a combination of classroom study and practical experience. And, while most of this practical experience entails unpaid hours, it also provides you outstanding opportunities to network with potential employers.
Certificate Program 4: Solar Photovoltaic (Solar Panel) Installer
As the United States transitions more and more rapidly to renewable energy sources, the solar power industry will need to fill jobs accordingly. Learning to install solar panels provides veterans an outstanding opportunity to break into this growing industry. From a training perspective, the Solar Energy International (SEI) provides the SEI Solar Professionals Certificate Program. Within this program, numerous certifications exist, depending on what aspect of the solar field interests you.
Certificate Program 5: Paralegal
In law firms, paralegals are like staff NCOs. They do all the behind-the-scenes grunt work to make lawyers’ lives easier. And, due to the large number of law firms in the United States, tremendous demand exists for qualified paralegals. To meet this demand, many universities offer paralegal certificate programs, which provide a path into high-paying paralegal jobs.
Additionally, countless specializations exist within the broader legal field. For paralegals, this means that you can seek careers at law firms that focus on your own interests and career goals. While not all-inclusive, law firms can focus on areas as varied as: bankruptcy, business, civil rights, entertainment, criminal, environmental, family, and far more.
Certificate Program 6: Optician
If you wear glasses, you’ve likely been to an optician. These professionals help you choose the correct glasses and contact lenses. And, a certificate can help you land a job as an entry-level optician. While some employers will let you conduct on-the-job training, most will require a certificate. If interested, this certificate program is offered by the American Board of Opticianry.
Certificate Program 7: Plumber
Most plumbers begin their careers with a multi-year apprenticeship, training under a master plumber. However, you also have the option to complete a plumbing certificate program. Typically, you’ll still need to complete an apprenticeship period afterwards, but the certificate can shorten the required length of these apprenticeships. As a result, a certificate program can offer an accelerated path to working as a master plumber or opening your own plumbing business.
Certificate Program 8: HVACR Mechanic and Installer
HVACR stands for heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration. These technicians work in both residential and commercial settings to troubleshoot, repair, and, if necessary, install new HVACR equipment. Similar to plumbers, most HVACR technicians begin work in an apprenticeship program. HVACR certificate programs can help to A) find an entry-level job, and B) speed up the apprenticeship period.
Certificate Program 9: Court Reporter
If you’ve seen any courtroom dramas, there’s a good chance you noticed a person with a small typewriter sitting by the judge. They’re court reporters, and they transcribe legal proceedings. Specifically, these people use an abbreviated language known as stenotype to transcribe courtroom discussions in real-time. This skill requires significant training, and many community colleges and technical schools offer court reporting certificate programs to provide this training.
Certificate Program 10: Heavy Vehicle Service Technician
Did you work in motor transport during your military service? If so, completing a certificate program can be an outstanding path into a high-paying civilian job as a heavy vehicle service technician. These technicians can find jobs repairing and/or inspecting vehicles. And, as vehicles become more and more complex, employers now want to hire new mechanics with formal certifications.
If college isn’t for you, that’s okay. Other options exist to find great careers. As military veterans, you have outstanding opportunities to combine A) military experience, B) VA education benefits, and C) certificate programs to land high-paying jobs.
Maurice “Chipp” Naylon spent nine years as an infantry officer in the Marine Corps. He is currently a licensed CPA specializing in real estate development and accounting.
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