Are you a working adult who wants to advance in your career? If part of what’s holding you back is a lack of current credentials, good news! There is a multitude of short-term training and credentials available that can help propel your career forward.
Short-term credentials include certifications, professional licenses, college-based certificates, and online learning badges. Most of these may be earned in a short time – from a week or two, up to a year. Many are low-cost as well.
These credentials may be earned through short-term training programs based at community colleges, private for-profit colleges, coding boot camps, truck driving schools, non-profit medical career training programs, and more. But one of the major questions for workers navigating these options is: how to differentiate between these types of credentials and determine which will give me a solid return on my investment?
This challenge is one that state agencies and training programs are also grappling with: how do they help students and employers sort out this fast-growing variety of credential options? In most states, there are no clear, reliable quality standards for career credentials applied consistently across systems. So for now, arming yourself with a set of questions and some persistence will help you make your best determination.
A good place to start is to explore:
- Will a program or credential prepare you for an in-demand career – one in which you can readily find a job in your location?
- Will a program or credential likely lead to a higher salary or advancement in your field?
- How quickly can you earn the credential? Can you afford the time off work that it takes to train or earn the credential?
Keep in mind that you may be able to obtain credentials through an employer. Many employers are experiencing a “human body shortage”; in other words, they need workers and are often willing to invest in training their current workforce and even new hires. Many employers are dropping non-essential requirements from their hiring process and are willing to train new hires to meet their workforce needs.
But if you’re ready to start exploring options, there are a number of questions to ask that can help you assess the value of a program or school. For a college or other learning center, ask to speak with a counselor, registrar, or admissions representative. For a credential, look for an applicant representative/customer service contact.
Here are some questions to investigate:
- What are the in-demand credentials that will help me get hired in my field?
- How will this credential or training program help me advance in my career?
- What are the high demand occupations in our area?
- What are credential options that require just 2- 3 weeks to earn?
- What kinds of jobs and wages are graduates – or “completers” – getting once they finish a program?
- How will this training or short-term credential stack and build toward a longer-term credential, like an associate’s or bachelor’s degree?
- Which careers further down the path could I be working toward by earning this credential?
- What supports do you offer to adult students to help ensure they can complete training, such as childcare, transportation, rent assistance, food assistance, mental health services, or other?
- What would happen if I need to leave for FT work partway through the program, or if for some reason, I need to pause my participation for a time?
- What local employers serve on your advisory board or provide input to this program? How do you ensure that your program reflects the current skill needs of employers?
- Are there any commitments by employers to hire graduates of this credential program?
For more information about other types of training and credentials, check out CareerOneStop’s Find Training.