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What You Should Know About Professional Certifications

Don’t want to go into debt going to college? There are other options.

Can you make more money by not going to college? That depends on your field, but it is possible. With the insane amount of college debt in the country, many people are looking for alternatives to help avoid possibly going into hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of debt before they even start their careers.kid

One of the ways people are avoiding that debt is by pursuing professional certificates. A professional certificate is an acknowledgment that you have shown you have the skills to perform a specific job or task. Some certification programs are through trade schools, like welding or automotive repair. Some are through union apprenticeships. Others are specific to a product, often by the creator of the product. They can be broken down like this:

  • Professional — This can be anything from auto mechanic to nurse to lawyer. Professional certificates are issued by a governing body that oversees the field with a focus on maintaining a high standard for that field. Although the issuing body has no direct link to any government, many professional certificates are also recognized by law as the standard to work in that field. For example, you can’t work as a nurse without being certified.
  • Product — These certificates are very popular in IT. Companies like CISCO, Microsoft, and Oracle offer certificate programs for many of the products they offer. These certificates can really help you land jobs in the IT field. Product certificates can be in any field; many medical devices require product certification before doctors can use them. Welders often have to prove knowledge of different equipment.
  • Company — Your company may have a certification program based on a unique system they use. It could be anything from a certification for knowing the customer service standards to a higher standard for using equipment on the job. Some companies may even have internal certificates that they look at as equal to outside certifications. The only problem with a company certification is they often don’t transfer outside of that company.

College or certificates?

Why would you get certifications instead of going to college? The cost. Some certifications are free. Some, mostly trades like welding and construction, will pay you to learn the job. Some may look like they have a high price tag; however, even with one or two professional certifications, you can make back the costs in a paycheck or two.

Does a professional certification replace college? No. Professional certifications, for the most part, are very specific to a program, task, or device. College is intended to offer a well-rounded education. While college isn’t required to obtain professional certificates, even with a college education you may still need to acquire and keep professional certifications up to date.

Which way to go?

A lot of it depends on your goals and your finances. If you plan on becoming a tradesperson, like electrician or welder, you’re probably better off going to a trade program and racking up those certificates. Most programs of that type are also paid apprenticeships, so you’ll be making money while learning and getting your certification.

If you want to become a nurse or teacher, you’re going to need to go to college and also obtain certifications.

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