Can’t Afford a College Degree? Consider Certification and a New Job

A book keeper works in his office in this retro 1960s photo.
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If you’re itching for a career change, certification could be your introduction to a new opportunity — a side job, a tryout job or even a path to longer-term goals.

Getting certified in a skill or occupation can be a great way to make a career shift without a huge investment in training or education. A certification can complement your current career and diversify your skills in the workforce. And adding a certification to your resume or LinkedIn page can give you extra cred.

It gets even better. Certifications can be acquired in fields such as healthcare and green energy, which have some of the fastest-growing jobs right now. Other common professions with certifications: construction, real estate and finance.

What Is Certification?

When you are certified in a skill or profession, a third party has validated your abilities in a particular area. Certifications are different from licenses, which are typically awarded by a government agency.

There are many kinds of certifications offered by many third parties.

Professional certifications can be awarded by institutions such as trade organizations, professional groups and educational institutions. Once you’ve fulfilled their requirements, they give their seal of approval to your knowledge of a product or a skill.

Private vendors might award certifications to people who are trained to use their products or technologies. There are corporate certifications, too, awarded internally to develop staff members. If you’re working for an employer offering this opportunity, it could be a good place to start.

Certifications can encompass a wide range of requirements — fees, too. So do your research to find out if the commitment level is a fit for you. And some are short-term, meaning you’ll need to brush up your skills to be recertified after a period of time.

Four Certified Career Shifts

Read on for four great career shifts you can make with a certification. For a little bit of additional training they might give you a whole new outlook on life.

1. Notary Public

Have you ever needed to sign an official document and get a person to notarize it? Did you wonder how they got that esteemed position and what it entails?

Turns out it doesn’t require any specific education. You just have to be 18 or older and not be a convicted felon. You’ll have to take a notary class and, in some states, an exam to be fully trained. Sure, there are a few other hoops to jump through, but when you’re done you could make as much as $75 to $200 per signing.

Here’s more about how to become a notary.

2. Bookkeeper

If you have any capacity with numbers, then bookkeeping might be a job for you. You can earn as much as $69 an hour. So why not try?

You should be good at numbers, but you also need to be good with people. Bookkeepers don’t work in silos and also need to think on the spot.

Do you need to be a CPA? The answer to that question is no. There are plenty of work-from-home jobs for bookkeepers, too.

You can check out a virtual course through

3. Virtual Assistant

Think about the number of small tasks that businesses need on a day-to-day basis and people working freelance gigs who could use some extra help.

Then think about all the possibilities for helping them from your home: proofreading, transcription, research, social media and website updates, to name a few. Virtual assistants might handle travel arrangements, perform customer service tasks or help someone manage their flood of emails.

You could be that person.

Enter the virtual assistant, an independent person who performs recurring administrative tasks for businesses or individuals. Work-from-home virtual assistant gigs can pay as much as $60 an hour, especially if they involve skilled tasks such as graphic design and bookkeeping.

And that’s where certification comes in. While certification isn’t required for these jobs, it can make a difference in what you can charge and how quickly you’ll get snapped up.

Do some research on job sites and you’ll get a sense of the skill sets people are looking for when they post virtual assistant openings. Often, these skill areas can be learned or developed through certification courses, many of them online.

For instance, recently listed marketing among the 10 most in-demand certifications. Facebook, Google Analytics, Hootsuite and more offer certifications in social media and marketing analytics, and some of it is even free.

4. Entry-Level Healthcare Work

Jobs in the healthcare industry are expected to grow by 15% through 2029, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Many, especially the entry-level medical jobs, require only a certification, some of them paying $40,000 a year or more.

Consider becoming a medical assistant, a dialysis technician or an ultrasound technician — all of these require some sort of certification but not extensive medical and scientific training and schooling.

Writer Elizabeth Djinis is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder, often writing about selling goods online through social platforms. Her work has appeared in Teen Vogue, Smithsonian Magazine and the Tampa Bay Times.