The Best Paid College Certificate Programs

Graphic design certificates can land you a job as a graphic designer.
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Some say certificate programs may be the new master’s degrees. In less than a year, people looking to change careers can master a new skill in a discipline outside their chosen industry. While promising, certificates still don’t have the earning potential of other degrees. In 2012, those holding master’s degrees earned roughly $67,600 a year, reports the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Certificate holders, on the other hand, earned closer to $37,804. But this figure shouldn’t dissuade you, as some certificate programs are much more lucrative.

Court Reporters

One of the higher-paid certificate programs is for court reporting. In just six months, you can walk away with a certificate in one or more transcription methods, such as digital recording or steno mask devices that record testimonies for real-time text transcription. As of 2012, court reporters earned an average of $53,010 a year, with the top 10 percent making more than $90,530 annually.

Graphic Designers

Most employers seek candidates with a bachelor’s degree in graphic design, but post-baccalaureate certificate programs are available for anyone with a bachelor's in another field. The BLS explains that these certificates should help you meet the hiring qualifications for most employers. In 2012, graphic designers averaged $48,730 a year, with the top 10 percent of earners making more than $77,490.


As with graphic designers, paralegal certificate programs are available for anyone already holding a bachelor’s degree. Depending on the institution, you’re looking at a three-month to one-year time commitment -- time well spent, when you look at the earnings, as the average paralegal earned $50,220 a year in 2012. The top 10 percent of earners made more than $75,410 annually.

Massage Therapists

Regulations vary by location, but most states require massage therapists complete a 500-hour certificate program to practice. According to the BLS, earnings for massage therapists averaged $40,350 a year in 2012. The top 10 percent made more than $70,140 annually.


Though voluntary, a certificate program in automotive service technology is the best training option for an entry-level position as a mechanic, notes the BLS. Programs can last anywhere from six months to one year, a relatively small time commitment when compared to the earning potential. As of 2012, auto mechanics averaged $39,060 a year, with the top 10 percent making more than $60,070 annually.

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