Quick Career Education Programs

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See career options with quick education requirements.

By Chelsea Lin   

Want to reap big rewards? You'll need to work hard.

Parents often tell that to their children.

What parents may forget to tell their kids, though, is that you don't necessarily have to spend four years sweating over books in an expensive university library to reach your goals.

In fact, depending on your career aspirations and your schedule, it's actually possible to prepare to pursue a new career in one year.

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If you're ready to put in the work, consider one of these fast career prep programs.

1. Paralegal Certificate

While the most common way to prepare for paralegal positions is through a program that leads to an associate's degree, a paralegal certificate program is a great option if you already have a bachelor's degree. Bonus: Many certificate programs only take a few months to complete. Of course, this is dependent on your schedule, course load, and program.

About the program: In this type of program, you will likely study legal research and the legal application of computers. Many certificate programs also require on-the-job preparation in the form of internships as part of the curriculum, according to the Department of Labor.

About the career: Paralegals spend most of their time helping lawyers prepare for closings, hearings, trials, and corporate meetings; prepare written documents; research as needed; and draft contracts, mortgages, and the like. Think of paralegals as assistants to lawyers. While they perform many of the same duties, they cannot practice law.

Average wage of paralegals: $50,080*

Want to Pursue a Paralegal Career? Find Certificate Programs Now!

2. Pharmacy Technician Certificate

While it's possible to score a pharmacy technician position with simply a high school diploma, consider completing a pharmacy technician certificate program or comparable preparation, which can take between six months and two years depending on your course load and schedule. Either way, you will likely get hands-on preparation after hire.

About the program: These programs generally include a mix of classroom and lab work. Classes usually cover terminology, pharmaceutical calculations, recordkeeping, and pharmacy law and ethics.

About the career: Pharmacy techs help pharmacists with customer care, prescriptions, admin duties and particularly filling customer orders (counting pills and labeling bottles).

Average wage of pharmacy technicians: $28,940*

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3. Medical Assisting Certificate

Traditional med school can take upwards of 10 years to complete after high school. That's a serious undertaking and a large financial commitment. A certificate in medical assisting, however, can take as little as one to two years - on average, and depending on your course load.

About the program : In this program, you might study basic human anatomy, medical terminology, medical front office procedures, and submission of medical claims, insurance policies and procedures. Like pharmacy techs, these positions usually include on-the-job preparation, according to the Department of Labor.

About the career: Medical assisting tasks vary, but may include updating and filing patients' records, scheduling appointments, answering phones, handling billing, and patient care, according to the Department of Labor.

Average wage of medical assistants: $29,450*

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4. Information Technology (IT) Certificate

A certificate in IT and information systems can take anywhere from a few months to one year to complete - on average and depending on your course load - and could prepare you to pursue a variety of computer-related careers.

About the program: Students need strong skills in problem solving, analytics and customer service going into the program, since a large part of any entry-level position in this field is trouble-shooting. This type of program might cover a variety of topics, including everything from computer security to networking, programming to web development, and database management to security administration.

About the career: With this type of vocational education, it's possible to land an entry-level position in computer support, where you will likely be asked to provide assistance and advice to individuals or companies with computer issues.

Average wage of computer support positions: $47,360*

Find IT Certificate Programs Online or Near You

5. Dental Assisting Certificate

Generally, certificate programs in dental assisting take approximately one year to complete, and many also include actual experience in the form of an externship in a dentist's office.

About the program: A dental assisting program could teach you about the clinical, laboratory, and administrative aspects of the position. Think everything from figuring out how to process radiographs to taking vital signs to completing insurance claim forms, and more.

About the career: Consider this career if you want to be the dentist's second pair of hands. Duties generally include basic administrative work, but focus on chair-side assistance and patient care.

Average wage of dental assistants: $34,000*

Find Dental Assisting Schools Near You!

*All wage information represents May 2009 figures and is from the U.S. Department of Labor.

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