Advancing your education is a great way to advance your career. But what if you don't have the time, energy, or financial ability to invest in a new or another degree?
Certificates and other short-term training programs take less time and cost less than pursuing a traditional degree while still imparting plenty of useful knowledge. No matter whether you're just starting out, changing careers, or already in the C suites, advancing your professional education will enable you to remain current in your field, stand out among other job applicants, and lead successfully.
Ready to grow your career with unique educational opportunities? The following list will help guide you toward certificates and training programs that can enhance your skills and advance your career options.
To find the right learning program for your needs, consider asking your employer or contacts in your field for suggestions, searching out accredited schools, and investigating the certificate programs on offer at nearby colleges or universities. You can also get started with any of the following opportunities for professional education.
Who it's for: Most of the professional certificate programs on Coursera are designed for industry professionals or aspiring professionals in the fields of information technology or data science.
Coursera is an online learning platform that offers a variety of professional certificates from universities and corporations, often for a fraction of the cost of more traditional academic programs. Examples include an IBM Data Science Professional Certificate, Google's IT Professional Support Certificate, UCI's Project Management Professional Certificate, and much more.
The platform is very "with the times" and offers training for in-demand subjects including cloud architecture and applied AI. Occasionally, a non-tech-related course will pop up — for example, Arizona State University's TESOL Professional Certificate for those who want to teach English. In every case, the online courses allow you to learn at your own pace, create work samples to showcase your learning, and connect with other industry professionals.
Who it's for: Entry-level professionals looking to legitimize their interest in and basic understanding in a given field. These certifications demonstrate your commitment to the field and enhance your resume.
The National Career Certification Board (NCCB) offers a variety of entry-level certifications in several industries, including Allied Health and green technology, as well as professional career and coaching certifications. These certifications range widely in focus. For instance, the NCCB's professional career certifications include:
Who it's for: Anyone who works in project management, whether directly or tangentially. Prior to enrolling in the certification program, participants must meet a set of qualifications, such as holding a four-year degree, having a minimum of three years of project leadership experience, and having undertaken 35 hours of project management training.
"Project management" covers such an array of skills that the term can sometimes seem nebulous. The Project Management Professional (PMP) certification helps formalize and legitimize your project management-related skills via a well-regarded certification. In fact, CIO magazine has ranked PMP as the top project management certification around, and certified PMPs earn a reported 25 per cent more than project management professionals who don't hold this certification.
Who it's for: No matter your level or industry, the Six Sigma and Lean methodologies can help improve your organization’s business processes. These certifications are especially useful for employees whose workplaces are committed to Lean or Six Sigma practices.
Six Sigma, which also goes by 6Sigma, offers a variety of learning methodologies, from on-site training to online training, interactive webinars, and blended training. The organization doesn't divulge much about its training courses before you pay for them, but it claims to provide a "structured map" that helps organizations improve business practices, thereby increasing productivity, minimizing waste, and decreasing costs. If your workplace is committed to the Lean or Six Sigma methodology, then boosting your knowledge in these areas can help you remain an effective team player.
Who it's for: Anyone who uses Salesforce at work or is applying for roles where Salesforce may be used. No matter whether you're a Salesforce administrator, architect, developer, marketer, or consultant, Salesforce-specific certifications can give you a boost.
Salesforce’s free, public-access learning platform, Trailhead, lets users select their current or desired role and get certified in a wide range of relevant skills. For instance, Salesforce administrators can earn their Advanced Administrator or CPQ Specialist certification. Marketers can get certified as a Marketing Cloud Consultant, Pardot Specialist, Marketing Cloud Email Specialist, and more. Salesforce developers can earn certs for Platform App Building, Platform Development, and so on. Other modules allow professionals to train in the likes of B2C Commerce Project Management. In all cases, the online study tools allow you to learn at your own pace and schedule exams at your convenience.
Who it's for: Anyone who wants to get more comfortable thinking on their feet, connecting with others, or speaking in front of an audience. All kinds of professionals could benefit from standup classes.
At first glance, standup comedy or improv classes might seem unrelated to professional development. But these classes can actually teach skills that are relevant to the workplace. For starters, they can help you learn how to manage performance anxiety, which can be seriously helpful the next time you deliver a presentation. These classes also grow your skills when it comes to bouncing back quickly from setbacks, developing rapport with other people, and growing self-confidence.
Who it's for: Anyone who needs beef up on their soft skills, such as speaking in front of an audience, whether by delivering talks, conducting interviews, or presenting at board meetings. It can also be useful for people in a position where conflict resolution skills might come in handy, such as managers or team leaders.
To date, the non-profit Toastmasters International has worked with over 358,000 members to teach public speaking, communication, and leadership skills. These teachings are dispersed through a worldwide network of 16,800 clubs in 143 countries. Clubs generally meet for one hour once a week to practice their speaking skills. Joining is simple and budget friendly.
Toastmasters also offers Pathways, a multi-language online learning program that helps participants grow their skills in everything from interview preparation to online meeting management, leadership development, project management, and conflict resolution.
Who it's for: Any professional who works with other people. So pretty much everyone!
If you spend time working with other people, whether in an office or as a sales or other outward-facing professional, then you know conflict is a natural part of just about every workplace. That means conflict resolution skills can go a long way toward distinguishing you as an effective team player and leader.
That's what you'll develop in a mediation course: the ability to recognize potential conflicts before they become major issues, guide constructive conversations, and alleviate workplace tensions. Mediation courses can take several forms, including online courses from the likes of Colorado State University, Northwestern, Herzing College, and Coursera.
When it comes to useful certifications, this list is just the tip of the iceberg. There are also tons of role-specific certifications for everything from human resources professionals to help desk employees, marketers, and so on.
The bottom line? No matter your industry or level of expertise, there is likely a legitimate certification program for you. Taking advantage of these opportunities can be a great way to grow your skills, stay up to date with trends in your industry, and engage in the art of lifelong learning.