Get Certified: Careers That Don't Require College Degrees

Today’s competitive job market and the skyrocketing cost of a college education have made it increasingly challenging to land a well-paying job.

In recent years, more companies and organizations have set the bachelor’s degree as a minimum standard for employment. However, some individuals are reluctant to enroll in college due to the often exorbitant costs associated with obtaining a degree. Others do not wish to spend at least two to four years of their lives pursuing a college degree, and still others simply do not wish to participate in the entire college experience.

For those who are looking to start second careers – either out of necessity or desire – certificates can open doors to new and promising pathways.

Luckily for those who aren’t interested in obtaining college degrees, there is a host of promising, well-paying careers that do not require one. A report by the McKinsey Global Institute shows that while low-skill jobs are on the decline, there will be a need for an estimated 47 million more mid-level workers with a high school education and/or vocational education/training by 2020.

These roles, which range from radiology technologists to auto service specialists, plumbers, electricians, massage therapists, and fitness trainers, generally only require specialized certifications that may be obtained by taking certificate courses and passing specialized testing. The majority of specialized certificate courses require 10 to 30 credit hours of study.

Although many other industries ­– such as retail – are shifting and shedding jobs, segments in other industries show promise for career growth. This is especially true in healthcare and construction. With several different types of certifications in a variety of categories, both industries offer practical employment paths.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that healthcare services will experience some of the largest job and career growth through 2020. Many healthcare-related positions which offer good pay also require only certificate education. These include EKG/ECG technicians (median annual pay $35,747), who monitor heart function, and X-ray techs (also known as radiologic technologists and technicians with an average median annual salary of $52,625), who assist by operating x-ray machines to examine bones, soft tissues, and organs. Another health-related career with promising growth is diagnostic medical sonographers ($65,210/a year).