In some fields -- medicine and teaching, for example -- certifications and accreditations are the "entrance ticket" to the profession. In others, certifications may not be mandatory but can significantly improve chances of landing a job, moving up, getting a raise or taking on new responsibilities.
The vast majority of professional certificate programs are for people who are already working in a particular field and are not for people with limited work experience or who are just out of high school.
Here are eight in-demand professional certificate programs. Some are industry-specific, while others can help ignite careers in a variety of fields.
1. Professional project management. Project managers can be found in just about any company or industry that has projects, from information technology to construction to government. While PMP certification, administered by the Project Management Institute, is now an expectation for project managers, it has become a bragging right for anyone who might have managerial duties.
2. Foreign language. In many occupations, especially customer service, knowing more than one language can provide a significant career boost. Proving you're proficient in those languages is easier with a certificate of foreign languages. There are many tests and certificates offered through community colleges or distance learning programs.
3. Corporate training. Corporate training is an in-demand business-management specialty that can be lucrative. If you're in management or human resources and want to specialize, move up the company ladder or just want to extend your knowledge and skills, the Certified Professional Trainer degree offered by the American Training and Seminar Association can give you a boost.
4. Desktop support administration. IT support specialists have a variety of certifications that can expand their portfolio of skills. The Windows operating system, however, is ubiquitous, and even if you're working in a general support position, having a Microsoft Windows 7 Enterprise Desktop Support Administrator certification can be a big plus. The certification provides the knowledge to install, maintain and manage the Windows 7 desktop operating system.
5. Personal fitness training. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, this booming career field is experiencing faster than average job growth. In theory, anyone who understands fitness could be a fitness trainer, but having a certificate -- or two or three -- will prove to employers and clients that you know what you're doing. Certification programs are offered by the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America, National Academy of Sports Medicine and American Fitness Professionals & Associates, among others.
6. Professional sales. You're unlikely to find a college degree in sales, but a variety of certificate programs can give you the skills and experience to prepare for a career selling goods and services. Many of these programs are industry-specific; there are nearly as many professional sales certificates as there are professions, but the National Association of Sales Professionals is a place for sales generalists to get started.
7. Web design and development. Nearly every business has an online presence. Professionals who design, develop and maintain company websites have many opportunities. For people who don't want to specialize as Web designers or developers, but may occasionally pitch in to help with Web-related tasks, there are many certificate programs. Some even qualify for government financial aid.
8. Certified clinical medical assistant. If you have general skills and experience but don't have the time or money to get a bachelor's or associate degree in a health-care field, there are certificate programs that can provide a boost to your career. A certified clinical medical assistant understands clinical and laboratory procedures, as well as many administrative roles. For those with an administrative background, CCMA programs can be door openers for working in doctor's offices, clinics and hospitals.
Larry Buhl researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues for CareerBuilder.com. Follow @CareerBuilder on Twitter.
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