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Whether or not you attend college, professional certifications are credentials that you can earn to help boost your career. Though some certifications require you to have a four-year degree, others are offered either by private companies or as alternative training for trade careers. By earning a professional certificate, you can make yourself eligible for new, better, or higher-paying jobs.
Becoming a certified public accountant, or CPA, is a process that requires years of intense study and examinations, but can result in great benefits. CPAs are licensed by the state in which they practice, which generally requires additional work after completing a four-year degree. In California, for example, those attempting to earn a CPA license must have at least one year of general accounting experience, in addition to passing an ethics course and passing a CPA examination. After becoming a CPA, you are able to fulfill an entirely different professional role, taking on new tasks entrusted only to CPAs, and earning more money.
You may earn a professional certificate in a variety of computer programs. These certifications are typically offered outside of traditional education systems like colleges, and are usually offered by the company that created the program. For example, Apple offers a variety of certification programs in its software. You can become certified in anything from operating systems to film editing programs. These certifications are earned by taking exams issued by the company, and can distinguish you as an expert in certain technologies. If these technologies are of particular significance to your field--for example, as graphic design programs may be to visual artists--then holding a professional certificate can set you apart from the pack and can lead to greater earning potential.
Certain occupations in the medical field require certification, as opposed to a medical degree. For example, X-Ray technicians are only qualified to practice radiology after completing a one-year program. This program teaches skills like radiographic positioning and diagnostic imaging research, skills that are vital to properly administering X-Rays. Other certification options in the medical field include certification as a physical therapy (PT) aide. PT aides become certified in associate's degree programs, and while certification is not a requirement for becoming a PT aide, it can successfully prepare and train you for the demands of the career.
Tom Ryan is a freelance writer, editor and English tutor. He graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in English writing, and has also worked as an arts and entertainment reporter with "The Pitt News" and a public relations and advertising copywriter with the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.