Do you feel like you’re not earning as much as you’re worth? It might be time to consider increasing your education and skills to make that extra pay you deserve.
But if you want to avoid taking out expensive student loans for graduate school or another degree, where can you find the support you need to boost those skills?
The good news is, opportunities to learn more are all around you – and you don’t have to pony up the big bucks to access them. I discovered the secret to furthering my education for cheap after I had already received a master’s degree, and was balancing my student loan debt to try to make my finances work. When I realized that my new career alone wasn’t going to be enough to cover all of my necessary expenses for some time I was faced with a new dilemma: would I have to go back to school, with new loans, just to raise my salary?
That’s when I started looking around online to see what other options are out there. I knew of sites like SkillShare, where I could learn new skills and find topics of interest beyond my area of expertise. But I also wanted something more, a tangible way of showing my employers that I increased my skills, and as such, deserved higher pay. And that’s when I discovered online certificate programs that pay well once you complete them.
These six certification programs are available at low – or no – cost, and the programs can be done on a timeline that works for your schedule. If you’re serious about improving your knowledge, and your salary, get started with one of these programs today.
Computer Science Programs
If you’re looking for a high-paying position, finding work in STEM industries will net you some of the highest salaries around, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). But it is jobs dealing with computers that often find the most job stability combined with high pay. To qualify for these positions, you’ll need to have a passion for and training in concepts from coding to systems management. These online certificate programs that pay well focus on training related to computer sciences.
You can choose from four different certification tracks:
- Front-end development
- Back-end development
- Data visualization
- All three in one
Keep in mind that these courses are in-depth and each requires 400 hours of work before completion. However, because you can work on your own schedule, you can figure out a method where you keep up with your studies while still living your life.
How does freeCodeCamp keep costs down? As a nonprofit, they survive on donations from happy graduates, and they’ll help you keep learning to hone your skills through experience coding for other nonprofits – a win for everyone.
Codeacademy offers free courses about the basics of coding and web development and will prepare you to work as a computer programmer. But if you’re really looking to boost your salary quickly, you’ll want to enroll in their Pro Intensive courses that grant certifications and allow you to finish with a portfolio of completed projects. Pro courses typically cost $199 for two-month programs that you can finish on your own time. Expect to put about 10 hours a week into each class, but you’ll have the verifiable expertise to show to your current or prospective employers and a portfolio to prove it.
At Udacity, you have the opportunity to study topics like data science, artificial intelligence, programming, and more. With their Nanodegree Programs, you’ll pay more for access to courses that are created in tandem with leading businesses in the field from around the world, so you know you’ll be gaining real, applicable skills. A Nanodegree will cost you around $800, but you’ll have a foot in the door with major tech companies and a certificate.
Udacity also offers a generous scholarship program if the costs are currently prohibitive.
According to the BLS, the median annual pay for a bookkeeper is nearly $40,000. When you take a free course at LearnToBeABookkeeper, you can turn that information into a certificate by completing the Uniform Bookkeeper Certification Exam through the National Bookkeepers Association. The exam costs $100 if you’re a member, and $150 for non-members, which means you’ll save thousands of dollars on expensive schools while still getting the right training to launch a successful business.
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to take a class at Yale? I did, so I audited a free architecture course offered through Coursera taught by a Yale professor. Learn from professors from top institutions around the world on subjects from child-rearing to computer science to the arts. You can find free courses to audit or enroll in a course with a certificate program to earn proof of your completion.
Take your learning a step further with Coursera’s Online Professional Certificate Programs, where you’ll take a number of courses over a period of 5-10 months that set you up for success in your chosen area. You’ll receive certificates issued directly from the teaching institution, and with costs starting at $777, you’ll spend far less than you would in graduate school, and even earn some credits should you decide to further your education in the future.
Like Coursera, with edX, you can take courses offered by some of the world’s best universities in different subject areas. Take classes for free, or enroll in certificate-granting programs for around $200. Study business, computer technology, or other topics and receive a certificate from the institution itself. You’ll have completed the same work as students at the school, and you’ll receive credit for it.
What Worked For Me?
In my quest for low-cost certification programs that can help you get a great job I learned quite a bit about the material at hand but also how to better organize and prioritize my schedule on a regular basis. Whether you’re hoping to increase your salary or just continue your education, these techniques not only apply to most workplaces, but they were instrumental when I decided to start my own business.
1. Scheduling time for classes is a necessity. And I don’t mean do it mentally; you must actually make a recurring time slot for your weekly coursework in your calendar. Keep in mind that most classes follow a similar format, in which you watch a video or listen to a lecture and complete regular tests and assignments. Make sure you leave time for any readings, studying, or projects that you’ll need to complete.
2. You’re not getting a degree, but you should still take certificate programs as seriously as you would if you were at an institution. The first online class I took was audited, so I popped in and out when I was interested and didn’t take most tests. But when you’re getting an online certificate, you’ll need to complete all assignments that will typically be graded or reviewed by an actual person. Study when you can, and make sure any assignments are completed professionally.
3. Organization is vital for keeping class materials handy. For most online certification programs that can help you get a great job, your materials will be provided digitally, and most are accessible directly from the course’s website. That being said, you may want to take readings with you for waiting rooms or commutes, which means you can find yourself with stacks of materials and notes that can quickly get out of control. I used a binder with sections for my notes, any readings I had printed out, I also printed completed assignments, so I had a physical record of what I accomplished.
4. Make sure you can commit to the full course schedule. At one point I signed up – and paid for – a live class without realizing it. That meant I had to physically login at a given time each week to see lectures and participate in discussions. It wasn’t a problem until I ran into several times when I couldn’t “attend” the class, which meant my money wasn’t going to good use.
If you’re serious about improving your knowledge and getting the salary that you deserve, try one or two of these courses and get a head start. You’ll skip the cost of graduate school while still receiving proof that you completed a regulated course that is up to your employer’s standards.