For a job with a good salary that typically requires a relatively low investment of time and tuition, consider a certificate program. In the short amount of time spent completing a certificate program, you boost your earning potential dramatically. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, certificate holders earn a median weekly salary of $877 while high school graduates make $781 by comparison. It’s important to bear in mind, however, that not all certificate programs pay equally. To help you maximize your certificate’s earning potential, we ranked the highest paying certificate programs and provided extra information on key factors like degree requirements and job outlook.

Our Ranking Criteria

To compile our list of the highest paying certificate programs, we consulted the Bureau of Labor Statistics and CareerOneStop. We ranked certificate programs based on the median annual salary of common jobs associated with that degree. From there, we researched the best schools to pursue this certificate at, and collected data on their cost and number of credits required to graduate. We took care of the research to save you time and streamline your process.

building inspectors

business, building, teamwork and people concept – group of smiling builders in hardhats with clipboard and blueprint outdoors

The Highest Paying Jobs You Can Get With a Certificate

Building Inspector

Median Annual Salary: $62,860

What They Do: Building inspectors assess the structural soundness of construction projects and buildings. They enforce local zoning regulations, national building codes, and other specifications. Building inspectors are present at all stages of construction, and must issue violation notices, stop-work orders, and permits for construction as necessary. Successful building inspectors possess a strong ability to spot safety and structural issues and make difficult decisions using reason and advanced engineering and construction knowledge.

How to Become One: People who want to become building inspectors need at least a high school diploma, and many states require additional certification or licensing. A certification program can provide you with relevant, practical knowledge related to building inspection, home inspection, drafting, building codes and ordinances, construction technology, construction materials, principles of concrete, roofing, heating and cooling systems, and plumbing and electrical inspection. These programs also teach you how to read blueprints and how to understand the construction specifications of different building types.

  • 2020 Median Pay: $62,860 per year
  • Job Outlook, 2019-2029: 3% (average)
  • Highest Paying States: California, Alaska, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Washington

Top Certificate Programs for Building Inspectors:

School Tuition # Credits to Graduate
Mesa Community College Resident: $85 per credit: Out-of-County Resident: $441 per credit; Out-of-State Resident: $326 per credit 18
College of the Canyons Estimated tuition: $1,158 18
North Hennepin Community College $181.24 per credit 14

 


 

Architectural and Civil Drafter

Median Annual Salary: $57,500

What They Do: Architectural and civil drafters create detailed drawings of architectural and structural features of buildings, as well as topographical maps, relief maps and drawings for civil engineering projects such as roads, bridges, and public works. These technical drawings and plans are used by construction workers and other producers to make everything from high-rise buildings to tiny microchips. Typically architectural and civil drafters utilize special software for their drawings, but traditional drafting skills remain important as well.

How to Become One: People who want to become architectural and civil drafters typically need at least a high school diploma. However, in order to learn to use industry-standard software and utilize industry-specific language, aspiring architectural and civil drafters often need to complete a certificate program. A certificate program trains students to use software and techniques needed on the job. Some certificate programs focus on one specific type of software, while others cover multiple software types and also include coursework in design and structural engineering.

  • 2020 Median Pay: $57,500 per year
  • Job Outlook, 2019-2029: -3% (in decline)
  • Highest Paying States: Connecticut, Alaska, Maryland, California, Louisiana

Top Certificate Programs for Architectural and Civil Drafters:

School Tuition # Credits to Graduate
Community College of Baltimore County In-County: $122 per credit; Out-of-State: $242 per credit 15
College of the Canyons Estimated tuition: $1,737 31
Harper College In-District Residents: $133.50 per credit; Out-of-District: $390.50 per credit; Out-of-State: $466 per credit 6

 


 

Industrial Engineering Technician

Median Annual Salary: $57,320

What They Do: Industrial engineering technicians observe and analyze the workings of a factory, manufacturing plant, or warehouse to determine whether operations can be made safer or more efficient. These technicians can, for instance, recommend that equipment be replaced, that more or fewer employees work on the production floor, or that an assembly line be reworked. Their job involves taking stock of how a manufacturing or production process currently works and determining whether there are ways to improve it. Many industrial engineering technicians work under industrial engineers, carrying out tests and inspections as instructed.

How to Become One: People who want to become industrial engineering technicians typically need an associate degree or postsecondary certificate. Associate degrees typically require two years of full time study, whereas certificate programs can usually be completed in one year. Certificate programs focus on equipping students with practice knowledge in areas such as manufacturing, industrial electrical systems, hydraulics, robotics, and motor controls.

  • 2020 Median Pay: $57,320 per year
  • Job Outlook, 2019-2029: 2% (slower than average)
  • Highest Paying States: New Mexico, Maryland, Louisiana, Washington, Oklahoma

Top Certificate Programs for Industrial Engineering Technicians:

School Tuition # Credits to Graduate
East Central College Achievement: In-District: $3,516; Out-of-District: $5,113; Specialization: In-District: $2,376; Out-of-District: $3,448 36
Mesa Community College Resident: $85 per credit: Out-of-County Resident: $441 per credit; Out-of-State Resident: $326 per credit 14
Dakota County Technical College $185.49 per credit 35

 


 

Heavy Vehicle and Mobile Equipment Mechanic

Median Annual Salary: $55,350

What They Do: Heavy vehicle and mobile equipment mechanics are responsible for the testing, inspection, upkeep, and repair of vehicles used in construction, agriculture, and other commercial industries. They usually work indoors in repair shops, and often have to lift heavy, cumbersome parts, materials, and equipment. They often spend extended periods of time in uncomfortable positions in order to access the part of the machine or vehicle in need of repair. Because machinery breaks at all different times of day and night, mechanics frequently have to work outside of normal business hours.

How to Become One: People who want to become heavy vehicle and mobile equipment mechanics typically need at least a high school diploma. Because the technology is increasingly complex and computerized, employers often prefer mechanics who have completed some kind of postsecondary certificate program. These programs train students systematically in different parts of heavy vehicles and mobile equipment that may need repairing, including fuel systems and emissions; heating, ventilation, and air conditioning; and hydraulics.

  • 2020 Median Pay: $55,350 per year
  • Job Outlook, 2019-2029: 1% (slower than average)
  • Highest Paying States: Hawaii, North Dakota, Massachusetts, Wyoming, California

Top Certificate Programs for Heavy Vehicle and Mobile Equipment Mechanics:

School Tuition # Credits to Graduate
Lurleen B. Wallace Community College In-State: $7,729 total tuition: Out-of-State: $15,458 total tuition 59
Rio Hondo Community College Estimated Cost: $2,446 32
Eastern Maine Community College In-State: $96 per credit; Out-of-State: $192 per credit 31

 


 

Paralegal

Median Annual Salary: $52,920

What They Do: Paralegals are professionals with extensive knowledge of the law and legal matters who lack a law degree. They support lawyers and undertake a variety of different legal tasks, including drafting basic legal documents and conducting legal research. Like lawyers, paralegals can specialize in different areas of law, such as family law, criminal defense law, real estate law, and corporate law. They work in all types of organizations, particularly law firms, corporate legal departments, and government agencies.

How to Become One: Most paralegals have at least an associate degree or postsecondary certificate in paralegal studies. Time to complete a paralegal certificate varies, but typically a program takes about a year of full time study. In addition to gaining a firm foundation in paralegal fundamentals, students are typically able to choose more specialized coursework in subjects like business law, immigration law, advanced legal research, and victim advocacy, to name a few. The job outlook for paralegals is very favorable, so investing in a certificate program will likely result in a good-paying job.

  • 2020 Median Pay: $52,920 per year
  • Job Outlook, 2019-2029: 11% (much faster than average)
  • Highest Paying States: District of Columbia, California, Washington, Colorado, New York

Top Certificate Programs for Paralegals:

School Tuition # Credits to Graduate
Adams State University $660 – $729 per course 6 courses
North Shore Community College In-State: $669 per course; Out-of-State: $1,365 per course 27
Louisiana State University Average cost: $5,075 – $5,200 Non-credit

 


 

Sheet Metal Worker

Median Annual Salary: $51,370

What They Do: Sheet metal workers are skilled tradespeople who make, install, inspect, and repair sheet metal products. Common sheet metal products include parts of heating, cooling, and ventilation systems as well as roofing and drainage systems. Sheet metal workers can elect to specialize in fabrication, installation, or maintenance and repair, but most are skilled in all three of these areas. They use specialized equipment to cut, weld, and shape sheets of metal into usable products. Their work is labor-intensive and requires strength and stamina.

How to Become One: People who want to become sheet metal workers typically need to complete a postgraduate training certificate or apprenticeship. A certificate program typically focuses heavily on hands-on, practical job training rather than traditional classroom learning. Students spend time in real-world work environments learning from experienced tradespeople and becoming well-versed in the terminology and common practices in this line of work.

  • 2020 Median Pay: $51,370 per year
  • Job Outlook, 2019-2029: 1% (slower than average)
  • Highest Paying States: Alaska, Hawaii, Washington, District of Columbia, West Virginia

Top Certificate Programs for Sheet Metal Workers:

School Tuition # Credits to Graduate
Community College of Allegheny County County Residents: $118 per credit; Residents of other Pennsylvania Counties: $236 per credit; Out-of-State: $354 per credit 49
Chemeketa Community College In-State: $95 per credit; Out-of-State: $260 per credit 69
Columbus State Community College Resident: $167.93 per credit; Non-Resident: $343.47 per credit 25

 


 

HVAC Tech

Median Annual Salary: $50,590

What They Do: HVAC technicians install and repair heating, air conditioning, refrigeration, and ventilation systems. These various indoor climate control systems are important to our comfort, safety, and efficiency, but it’s easy to take them for granted. We often don’t think about these systems until something malfunctions, and we need an HVAC tech to do the repair. These techs often need to work in uncomfortable environments. For instance, it may be very hot if the air conditioning is not working. They frequently work outside of regular business hours because systems malfunction around the clock.

How to Become One: People who want to become HVAC techs typically need to complete a postsecondary certificate and/or apprenticeship. Some states also require HVAC techs to be licensed. Certificate programs in HVAC and Refrigeration servicing can typically be completed within a semester or two. These programs tend to be very hands-on and function like apprenticeships, where students are actively doing the work of HVAC techs and learning under experienced technicians. Some programs offer different specializations, such as residential servicing or commercial servicing.

  • 2020 Median Pay: $50,590 per year
  • Job Outlook, 2019-2029: 4% (average)
  • Highest Paying States: Alaska, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Washington, Massachusetts

Top Certificate Programs for HVAC Techs:

School Tuition # Credits to Graduate
Lone Star College $862 per semester 36
San Joaquin Valley College $21,901 total tuition 40
Forsyth Tech Community College $260 per credit 19-20 credits

 


 

Surgical Technologist

Median Annual Salary: $49,710

What They Do: Surgical technologists are key members of surgical room teams, responsible for ensuring that the operating room and all the required instruments are sterilized. They prepare protective equipment like gowns, gloves, and masks, and they collect medications and solutions from the circulator. Before surgery, they assist surgeons with putting on their gowns and other sterile protective equipment, and during the surgery they anticipate the needs of the surgeon by getting instruments, tools, and supplies such as sponges ready. They ensure the sterile environment is never compromised.

How to Become One: People who want to become surgical technologists typically need an associate degree or a postsecondary certificate. In order to qualify to take the national surgical technology certification examination offered by the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA), a candidate must have completed a program that is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES). Certification programs typically involve a combination of lectures, laboratory, and clinical components.

  • 2020 Median Pay: $49,710 per year
  • Job Outlook, 2019-2029: 7% (faster than average)
  • Highest Paying States: Alaska, Nevada, California, Connecticut, District of Columbia

Top Certificate Programs for Surgical Technologists:

School Tuition # Credits to Graduate
Quincy College $1,923 average cost 40
Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences $3,296 total tuition 50
Community College of Baltimore County $3,797 total tuition 4 modules

 


 

Audio and Video Technician

Median Annual Salary: $47,920

What They Do: Audio and video technicians set up, monitor, and take down audio and video equipment such as cameras, microphones, stereo systems, sound and mixing boards. They provide audio and video support for a wide range of live and recorded events, including concerts, meetings, conventions, presentations, podcasts, news conferences, and sporting events. They are skilled at setting up and trouble-shooting audio and visual equipment and usually work under the supervision of more experienced audio and video specialists.

How to Become One: People who want to become audio and video technicians usually need a high school diploma and postsecondary certificate or associate degree. Some certificate programs specialize in only sound or only video, while others offer a combination of audio and video training. Moreover, some programs focus more on audio and video servicing, whereas others center on original production. They can typically be completed within one calendar year.

  • 2020 Median Pay: $47,920 per year
  • Job Outlook, 2019-2029: 12% (much faster than average)
  • Highest Paying States: Washington, California, District of Columbia, New York, Massachusetts

Top Certificate Programs for Audio and Video Technicians:

School Tuition # Credits to Graduate
Fullerton College Resident: $46 per credit; Non-Resident: $258 per credit 32-34
Glendale Community College Resident: $85 per credit; County Resident: $42.50 per credit; Out-of-County Resident: $441 per credit; Out-of-State Resident: $326 per credit 39-40
Northwestern Michigan College In-District: $112 per credit; In-State: $234 per credit; Out-of-State: $305 per credit 32

 


 

Massage Therapist

Median Annual Salary: $43,620

What They Do: Massage therapists use touch to manipulate the soft-tissue and muscles of the body. They help clients to heal from injuries, experience relaxation, relieve pain, reduce stress, and optimize overall wellness. After consulting with clients about their symptoms, medical history, and goals, they use skilled touch to bring relief and relaxation to the body. They can specialize in a variety of different kinds of massage, such as deep tissue massage and Swedish massage.

How to Become One: People who want to become massage therapists typically need a postsecondary training program of at least 500 hours. Specific requirements differ from state to state and range from 330 to 1,000 or more hours of study and experience. In most states, massage therapy is government-regulated, and massage therapists must be licensed or certified in order to work with clients. Most massage therapy certificate programs can be completed within a calendar year, and feature extensive hands-on practice in an on-site or off-side massage therapy clinic.

  • 2020 Median Pay: $43,620 per year
  • Job Outlook, 2019-2029: 21% (much faster than average)
  • Highest Paying States: Alaska, Massachusetts, Washington, Oregon, Hawaii

Top Certificate Programs for Massage Therapists:

School Tuition # Credits to Graduate
Harper College In-District Residents: $133.50 per credit; Out-of-District: $390.50 per credit; Out-of-State: $466 per credit 34
Technical College of the LowCountry $190 per credit 31
Northampton Community College In-County Residents: $112 – $177 per credit; Other County Resident: $224 per credit: Out-of-State/County: $336 per credit 28

Massage Therapist

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Certificate Program?

Certificate programs are relatively short-term (lasting several months to a year), low-cost programs designed to train students in a very specific area. The specialized education and training usually prepares students to immediately get an entry-level position in that field after completing the certificate.

Who should pursue a Certificate Program?

Certificate programs are a great match for students who want to spend a relatively short period of time and a relatively small amount of money learning skills that translate directly into a specific profession. These certificates can be a quick and easy way to differentiate yourself from other applicants.

What Certificate Program pays the most?

Some of the most lucrative certificate programs are in building inspection, civil and architectural drafting, and paralegal studies. Other certificate programs that lead to good-paying jobs are in areas such as sheet metal working, HVAC installation and repair, audio and video support, and heavy vehicle and mobile equipment maintenance. The best-paying certificates are usually linked to hands-on, specialized professions.

How much does a Certificate Program cost?

The cost to complete a certificate program typically ranges from $1000 to $5000. The cost often depends on whether you are paying resident or non-resident tuition. The certificate programs included in this guide cost between about $800 on the low end and a whopping $21,000 on the high end.