high-paying certifications
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High-paying certifications — do they exist?

A certificate, in general, can propel your career forward. It gives your CV an extra boost and helps set you apart from other professionals in your field. 

Recruiters often look for individuals who have credentials that confirm their expertise.

Taking a certification gives the impression that you are well-equipped with the relevant skills and knowledge to excel in your position.

But without returning to uni to get a full advanced degree, like a master’s or PhD, can you get by with just a certificate to land you roles with five-figure salaries?

The data tells us it’s possible. For example, Project Management Professional (PMP) certification recipients report median salaries that are 26% higher than those who are not PMP certified.

Indeed.com also reported that those with a cloud computing certification average over US$150,000 to US$160,000 per year compared to cloud computing professionals without a cert who only earn over US$100,000 a year.

Certificate vs diploma vs degree: What are the differences?

high paying certifications

Some major differences between a certificate, a diploma and a degree are the length of the programme, the cost and the curriculum. Source: Toru Yamanaka/AFP

Whatever your time constraint, work commitments and fields of interest, there are certificate and diploma programmes available for you to enrol in.

But first, it’s important to know the differences between a certificate, a diploma or a degree in order to choose the one that’s most suitable for you.

A diploma programme focuses on one subject, explores it and is commonly practice-based.

A degree programme is more far-reaching, dives deeper into a subject and often more likely to be theory-based. 

The differences, however, go deeper still.

1. Length of programme 

One of the biggest differences between a certificate, degree and diploma is the time it takes to complete each. 

Unlike a degree, both certificates and diplomas generally take a shorter duration to complete and are both done while working toward a degree.

In some cases, certificates and diplomas can be standalone options, making them faster to complete than a degree. 

Despite the similarities, a certificate requires less time to complete and can be completed in a matter of months.

A diploma, on the other hand, is also known as a vocational course which takes an average of two years to finish as it takes a more thorough approach to the curriculum. 

A degree, as most know, can take anywhere between two to six years to complete. How long it takes to complete depends on your degree level. For instance, a bachelor’s degree takes an average of four years whereas a PhD takes up to six years.

2. Cost

The cost of the programmes varies according to the field or subject you choose to study. Choosing the shorter programme can mean lesser overall costs too. 

Take for instance the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign’s eight-week online digital marketing graduate certificate.

It is a specialisation certificate comprising a set of four graduate-level courses for US$3,840. There are,  however, plenty of free highest paying certifications online such as Google Garage

As for degrees, there are three main study levels to consider: undergraduate, postgraduate and doctorate degrees. The level of study also affects the cost of your programmes. 

The average cost of an undergraduate programme in engineering, for example, is between US$40,000 to US$90,000 per year. A postgraduate degree in the same discipline can cost up to US$80,000 a year. 

3. Programme requirements 

Another significant difference is the admission and programme requirements. Admission requirements for diploma programmes are less strict than degree programmes.

Some only require a high school diploma or equivalent. 

There is a more extensive application process to enrol in a degree programme.

Students might be expected to meet certain requirements such as prerequisites, test scores and letters of recommendations. 

4. Curriculum

Classes for certificate courses often relate directly to the job, while a degree programme consists of a variety of classes with the aim of helping students become experts in their fields. 

For example, a certificate on Excel skills trains you in just that. A degree in data science will also include Excel training but also calculus, probability, statistics, programming, AI and more.

Though diploma courses only focus on a specific vocational skill, they can be more in-depth than a certificate.

Diploma courses are considered vocational programmes so they offer students a more hands-on and practical approach to learning. 

5. Career prospects 

Some jobs only require a certificate or a diploma whereas some may require a degree. 

High-paying certifications are often seen as an extra credential that proves your ability or skill such as designing websites or understanding data analytics.

If you’re looking to earn a promotion or change careers, a certificate is for you.

Students looking to venture into careers that are more hands-on such as healthcare or hairstyling should consider a diploma. 

If you want a career as an accountant, however, a certificate or diploma will not be enough. You’ll need a full degree.

3 reasons to take high-paying certifications

highest paying certifications

Taking a certification shows employers you take your professional development seriously. Source: Octavio Jones/Getty Images North America/Getty Images via AFP

High-paying certifications will boost your CV and show employers that you take your professional development seriously through continued learning.

Here are three more reasons they’re worth it:

1. Gain a competitive advantage

As mentioned, obtaining one of the highest-paying certifications will set you apart from other professionals in your field.

It’s also a valuable step for career advancement and to help you qualify for promotions or to get recruiters to approach you for new job opportunities.

2. Higher earning potential  

It’s no surprise that earning a certification related to your field can increase your earning potential.

According to Associations Now, a 2016 survey showed that 76% out of 400,000 people across the globe who earned a cert enjoyed a salary increase or a promotion.

To paint a picture, a quality control inspector who passes the certified welding inspector (CWI) exam can earn up to US$81,400.

Monster reports that those without certification only earn US$58,000 per year.

3. Credibility

Apart from standing out in a competitive job market, taking high-paying certifications are a great way to show your competence to employers.

For those who are self-employed, having some of the highest-paying certifications are a good way to prove to clients that you’re reliable, trustworthy and equipped with relevant skills to get the job done.

highest paying certifications

Taking a high-paying certificationscertification can help you win a raise. Source: Octavio Jones/Getty Images North America/Getty Images via AFP

15 high-paying certifications to boost your earnings

Best high-paying certifications: Business development 

  1. Certified Business Development Professional (CBDP)
  2. Certified Business Development Manager (CBDM)
  3. Certified Business Development Executive (CBDE)

Best high-paying certifications: Programming

  1. PCEP Certified Entry-Level Python Programmer certification 
  2. Microsoft Certified: Azure Developer Associate
  3. Adobe Experience Cloud certification

Best high-paying certifications: Digital marketing 

  1. HubSpot Digital Marketing Certification Course
  2. Google Analytics Certification
  3. Digital Marketing Pro Certification from the Digital Marketing Institute

Best high-paying certifications: Data analytics

  1. Microsoft Data Analyst Associate Certification
  2. IBM Data Science Professional Certificate
  3. Amazon AWS Certified Big Data

Best high-paying certifications: Translators or interpreters

  1. United Nations Translation Accreditation
  2. American Translators Association Certification (ATA)
  3. Certified Deaf Interpreter (CDI)

Frequently asked questions about high-paying certificates 

  1. Which certificate is best for getting a job?

This will depend on the field you’re planning to enter. While certifications show employers you have the skills you need for a position, some jobs still require a degree.

It’s best to first decide on your career path and then work your way toward getting a certification.

2. What certifications are highest in demand?

According to Simplilearn, below are some of the highest-paying certifications that lead to in-demand jobs:

  • Full Stack Web Development
  • Data Analytics
  • Cloud Computing
  • DevOps
  • Digital Marketing

3. Which online certificate has the most value?

An online certificate can save you both money and time.

While some online certifications require a fee, there are also some free certifications that hold just as much value.

Below are some examples:

4. Which Google certificate is most worth it?

Google career certificates are designed to help people learn the basics to start a career in IT support, UX design, computer programming, data analytics, project management, or digital marketing and eCommerce.

The programme includes six certificates:

  • Google IT Support Professional Certificate
  • Google UX Design Professional Certificate
  • Google IT Automation Professional Certificate
  • Google Data Analytics Professional Certificate
  • Google Project Management Professional Certificate
  • Google Digital Marketing & eCommerce Professional Certificate

Again, what’s considered worth it depends on your career goals and your aim of taking a certification.

5. Is Udemy enough to get a job?

There haven’t been any statistics on this but the general consensus is that it won’t necessarily land you a job in most companies.

Udemy courses can, however, add value to your resume and increase your knowledge about your field.