Six months to $60,000: Isn't it time you got that promotion?

It used to be that a first college degree could sustain your career for a lifetime. In today's fast-paced economy, however, it might take a dose of targeted training to keep your career alive and kicking. Certification courses specialize in efficient applied education designed to help mid-career workers break through the entry-level-salary ceiling.

The following eight career paths take you from stuck to $60,000 a year in six months or less.

2009 annual median salaries are from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) unless otherwise noted.

Health care & social services

Transform your entry-level health or social services job into a high-earning professional career with specialized certification. Health care and social services certifications build your knowledge of specialized procedures, technologies, and changing regulations.

1. Dental hygienist

Earnings: $67,860

Dental assistants with an associate degree can qualify for an accredited dental hygiene certification program. Certification as a hygienist brings a salary raise and access to one of the fastest-growing occupations in the country. Dental assistants have the potential to nearly double their earning power with a hygienist certificate; the average salary stood at $34,000 for assistants in 2009, compared to nearly $69,000 for hygienists. Meanwhile, dental hygienists can also look forward to 36 percent estimated job growth between 2008 and 2018.

2. MRI technologist

Earnings: $65,000 (, 2010)

Medical and radiologic technicians (RTs) can take the next step in their careers with specialized training in MRI technology. An associate degree in radiologic technology or RT licensure qualifies you for the certificate in Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). Designed for mid-career technicians, this program is available via online education and in accelerated six-month program formats. The salary boost makes the half-year investment worthwhile; while radiologic technicians earned $54,180 in 2009, MRI technicians registered $65,000 salaries the following year.

3. Occupational health and safety technicians

Earnings: $64,200

Recharge a health, social service, or human resources career with a certificate in occupational health and safety. An associate or bachelor's degree can gain you entry into an online occupational health and safety certification program. Certification covers ergonomics, workplace safety hazards, environmental toxicology, and risk management. Upon graduation, you'll be eligible to apply for a professional credential and start work as a technician or OSHA regulator.


Mid-career certification is part of the standard trajectory in the rapidly evolving world of information technology.

4. Network or database administrator

Earnings: $70,930 (network); $74,290 (database)

Network and database administrators keep an organization's data communications network humming. Up-to-date expertise in today's network or database technologies is critical to performing well as an administrator. Vendor-specific and broad-based IT certificate programs can keep you competitive in this high-demand career. Certificates are widely available through online education, and can take days, weeks, or months to complete. The reward is access to a hot job market for qualified IT professionals, growing at a rate of 30 percent between 2008 and 2018.

5. Technical writer

Earnings: $65,610

Leverage your writing skills in a high-paying specialty area: technical communication. Technical writers produce documentation for software or technical equipment, working closely with engineers and other subject matter experts. A certificate in technical writing builds on your existing writing skills and college degree with targeted instruction in communicating technical information to a non-specialist audience.

6. Web designer

Earnings: $77,010

Artists and creative types don't need to miss out on booming technology opportunities. Digital design careers can take visual artists from an uncertain future to a stable income. Build the technical skills to complement your artistic talent through a Web design certification. If you've already completed an associate degree in digital design, develop your skills with a certificate in user-centered design or another high-demand specialty.


    Business rewards expertise and experience. Develop your credentials and you'll have the opportunity to achieve success in the workplace.

    7. Technical manager

    Earnings: $66,720

    The move from administrator to manager comes with new responsibility and a higher pay scale. Make this quantum leap with a certificate in project management. Available as either an IT or business administration program, the program manager curriculum exposes you to the skills you'll need to manage a project team: budget planning, leadership, as well as resource and time management. IT administrators can earn the PMP (Project Management Professional) certification.

    8. HR manager

    Earnings: $105,510

    Human resources managers can earn over twice as much as HR specialists, who command incomes in the $50,000-range. A certificate in HR management may not be all it takes to advance into management. In addition, you'll need to build work experience and demonstrate your capabilities. Certificate programs help you develop the skills to achieve results and eventually, secure that management promotion.

    A few key months in the classroom may be all it takes to revive a your career and set you on the path to higher earnings. Many certification programs make it easy for working professionals to get a degree online, so you can take the next step in your career without losing your footing in your current job.


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