In today’s challenging job market, having specialized skills is a hot commodity. If you want to switch careers, get a promotion, or break into a competitive industry, certificate programs are a good idea.
In fact, professional certifications are the second most common awards in the education system. That’s because they’re significantly cheaper than graduate degrees. But they’re also a prestigious credential that can boost your salary by as much as 25 percent, according to The Washington Post.
However, paying for certification programs isn’t always easy. But we’ve got you covered. Here are five different ways you can pay for your credentials without wiping out your savings or running up credit card debt.
1. Employer funds
One of the best places to get financial assistance for certificate programs is through your current employer. Many companies offer tuition or education reimbursement for continuing education. That’s especially true if the program you’re looking at can help you improve or expand your skills for your current role.
For example, if you’re a programmer and want to learn Ruby On Rails to create web applications, that’s a big benefit to your boss. Even if your employer doesn’t have a formal tuition reimbursement program in place, they could be willing to cover your costs if you can make a good case.
Consider preparing a proposal for your manager that outlines what you intend to learn. Be sure to include what the cost is and how it will benefit your work and the company’s bottom line.
2. Federal financial aid
The government offers student loans and grants for some continuing education programs. Federal loans tend to have lower interest rates and repayment terms than private loans. This makes them an excellent choice for funding.
To get federal assistance, the first step is to complete the Free Application For Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Even if you graduated from college years ago, the FAFSA is essential for gaining access to financial aid for certificate programs.
Once you fill out the FAFSA, look for programs that are eligible for federal financial aid. One excellent resource is the National Center For Education Statistics’ College Navigator. You can search for certification programs in your field and find out what loans or grants you’re eligible for.
3. Payment plans
Another option to consider is a payment plan directly through your program’s school. Many boot camps and certificate programs offer flexible payment options.
For example, Bloc is one of the most well-respected computer and design coding boot camps out there. They offer payment plans that fit your individual needs. You just have to contact them and share your budget with a student advisor, and they’ll come up with a plan that works for you.
While you’ll still need to come up with the money yourself, payment plans can help you manage your budget. Rather than coming up with the money all at once, you can pay your tuition in installments so you don’t have to wipe out your savings account.
4. Personal loans
If federal student loans aren’t an option and if your employer won’t cover the cost of certificate programs, a personal loan could help. Personal loans tend to have lower interest rates than credit cards and set repayment terms, so you can save money in interest charges.
Lenders like Pave offer loans designed specifically for continued education. You can choose a two- or three-year repayment term. Pave is also one of the few lenders that allow you to take out a loan for both full- and part-time courses.
Since scholarships do not have to be repaid, they’re a valuable way to pay for school without racking up debt. Some schools, such as Bloc and the FlatIron School, offer scholarships to help offset the tuition cost. But there are also thousands of other scholarships you could be eligible for that can help you pay for your education.
FastWeb and Scholarships.com are two useful resources that can connect adult learners with scholarship opportunities nationwide. You can find and apply for as many scholarships as you wish, as there is no limit to how many you can receive.
Paying for school
Certificate programs can be a great way to advance your career with an affordable credential. Paying for continuing education programs can be complicated, but there are options that can reduce the financial burden.
For more information, check out the best certificate programs to change your career.
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