12 Red Hot Career Options Requiring Only a Certificate or Associate’s Degree

Tuesday, Jan. 11th 2011 5:04 PM

Perhaps you saw the NACE Job Outlook 2011 featuring the list of the top majors for the Class of 2011. But for students who struggle with mathematics and the hard sciences, the list of four-year degrees featuring accounting, finance, electrical and mechanical engineering and computer science was no doubt overwhelming.

But looking deeper, two critical elements of that report should give young people heart. First, NACE is characterizing the job market for 2011 graduates as “good,” a full shelf above last year’s “fair” rating.

Perhaps more importantly for students, when it comes to job growth opportunities moving forward, there are a number of fast-growing career fields that allow entry into the workforce with no more than a certificate or an associate’s degree. Here are ten fields that are expected to grow significantly over the next five years.

1. Gaming Book Writers and Runners

The growth of the regulated gambling industry is providing a whole new field of work where the only required education tends to be a high school diploma. That said, students who have taken basic business courses and received customer service training will have the best chance of securing jobs in the industry.

The industry still employs only a small number of individuals and work is confined to those regions where facilities have been or are about to be built. But growth expectations stand at 28% over the next five years with median pay at just a shade under $21,000 a year ($400+ week).

2. Gaming Surveillance Officers

As states struggle with revenues, there will continue to be cutbacks in public law enforcement personnel. Those cutbacks mean that firms with a need for onsite security will be hiring private security personnel.

The aforementioned gaming industry is one such business that will require onsite personnel. To enter this field students generally need only earn a basic certificate from a local community college.

Specific industry training is then conducted. With median pay topping $30,000 a year, this field offers a unique career option that would also include high tech video surveillance to check on any cheaters, either those gambling or even employees of the firm.

3. Pharmacy Technicians

As the health care profession continues to look towards greater efficiencies, one area where the work is likely to shift is within the delivery of prescription medications. Pharmacy technicians are expected to assume many of the clerical duties currently handled by licensed pharmacists.

Formal programs are available at local community colleges, vocational schools, hospitals, and through the military. Ranging from 6 months to 2 years and including classroom and laboratory work, these programs cover medical and pharmaceutical terminology, proper record keeping, and pharmacy law and ethics. Most of these training programs include internships, in which students gain hands-on experience in actual pharmacies.

Expectations have job growth at more than 30% through 2016 with median pay for 2006 at $26,510 ($12 – $13.00 per hour).

4. Dental Assistants

Offering median pay of nearly $600 weekly ($30,000+ a year), the dental assistant field is expected to grow by nearly 30% over the next five years. Once upon a time, students could enter the field directly after high school and receive on the job training.

Today however, students are expected to complete a one- or two-year certificate or a diploma program first. As with all programs, greater employment options are available for those completing the longer-term certificate option.

5. Dental Hygienists

If the dental field is of interest, students may want to consider the higher paying dental hygienist option. Also expected to grow by more than 30%, the dental hygienist field offers a chance for higher pay in return for greater care responsibilities.

In most states, dental hygienists must earn a degree from dental hygiene school and secure state license to practice. Most dental hygiene programs offer an associate’s degree, though some also offer a certificate option while others offer a bachelor’s degree. In return for that schooling, hygienists can expect to earn significantly more per hour than those serving simply as dental assistants.

6. Skin Care Specialists

Given a projected job growth of nearly 35%, the skin care specialist field represents one of the fastest growing sectors available. Some high schools currently offer skin care programs as part of their vocational schools but many candidates go on to a post-secondary vocational school to receive their training.

Median pay for 2006 approached $30,000 annually ($600 weekly) making this a potentially strong paying option for those interested. Currently, estheticians are the skin care specialists that can expect to see the most job growth.

7. Manicurists and Pedicurists

One shelf below in terms of pay we find manicurists and pedicurists. However, an expected growth rate of nearly 28% makes this an up and coming career option.

Current median wages top $400 per week for a position that does require certification. Personal appearance workers generally need to graduate from a state-licensed cosmetology school and then pass a license exam.

8. Medical Assistants

Openings in the medical assistant field will grow by more than a third over the next five years. The field also offers a median pay of $26,000 yearly ($500.00+ weekly) and will generally come with a decent benefit package that includes sick time, health insurance options, and participation in a retirement plan.

To gain entry to the field, students can enter either a one-year certificate or two-year associate’s degree program with the latter offering better options for both securing initial employment and greater pay. In addition to the initial training, medical assistants also receive on-the-job training specific to their responsibilities from their employer.

9. Veterinary Technologists and Technicians

In America, we love our pets and those animals are in need of care. As with the health care field, the veterinary field is in need of technicians to help support the work of the primary care giver, in this case the vet.

VTs can expect to earn $13.00 an hour in a field that will grow some 40% over the next five years. One method for entering the field is to complete a two-year associate’s degree veterinary technician program from an accredited community college. If you love animals, this field can give solid employment options.

10. Personal and Home Care Aides

With more than 750,000 new openings expected over the next five years, the home care aide field will be one of the easiest to find initial employment. Most states require no formal training for these positions with median pay of $9.00 per hour.

A high school diploma is generally the only requirement to be hired but employees will immediately receive formal, on-the-job training. PCAs focus on performing housekeeping and routine services for those individuals who need support to remain in their homes. Most often, these individuals work with the elderly or those patients who are well enough to leave the hospital but not yet able to care completely for themselves.

11. Home Health Aides

As with home care aides, the personal and home care aide field will also produce more than 750,000 new jobs over the next five years. It is also a field where only a high school diploma is required but students looking to enter the field will receive extensive on the job training and work towards earning various certifications.

With median pay of about $10.00 per hour, home health aides generally provide some medical support as well as personal care for patients. The key when entering the field is to do your homework. Full time employment at certain companies will carry additional benefits for workers including health insurance while other contractors will insist only on at will, hourly employees.

12. Physical Therapy Assistants

With growth rates at 32+% and median pay topping $40,000 yearly ($800+ weekly), a career as a physical therapy assistant represents one of those win-win career options: excellent pay along with the chance to help people.

PTAs must complete an accredited 2-year program featuring an academic study component along with hands-on clinical experience. After completing the program, a PTA generally must pass a licensing test to be accredited by the American Physical Therapy Association.

Our thanks to Boston.com for providing the data as part of their “The year 2016: The 30 fastest-growing jobs.”

Posted by Thomas | in Advice, Career Planning | 7 Comments »

7 comments on "12 Red Hot Career Options Requiring Only a Certificate or Associate’s Degree"

  • I noticed that a lot of the career options on this list are in the medical field, which is interesting since a lot of people who would like to work in the medical profession are intimidated sicne they automatically assume that it requires years and years of tough training and high tuition.

    For anyone considering a Medical Technician career, like medical assistant, dental assistant, dental hygienist, it´s worth looking at this site below. It’s a pretty comprehensive guide to medical trianing schools all over the US and in every area of interest.


    Thanks for the article!

  • I would like info on physical therapy assistant associate degree.

  • I love Home Care Assisting, It is the most gratifying work I have ever done. God loves me and you forever true. Tender love and care to all. Love PMT to the TLC XOXO

  • i want to get ino a medical field with a 6 or nine month certificate

  • A 2-year program is called an ASSOCIATE’S DEGREE.

  • Ignore that. I misread the article.

  • i want to get ino a medical field in psychology with a 6 or nine month certificate

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