The High School Student's Guide to Pursuing a Career Certificate


Last Updated: February 24th, 2020

Graduate with certificate and phone

Guest Post by Haley Brase

After high school, it’s all downhill — well, kind of. Adulthood comes more quickly than you think, with its accompanying freedoms and responsibilities. Soon you'll be doing your own grocery shopping, cooking your own meals, and paying your own car insurance bills. To be able to afford the adult life, however, you have to learn to work like an adult. Becoming certified in something you’re interested in can help you find a career you love. 

It might seem like an extra hoop to jump through, but having a certificate can really make you stand out to prospective employers. So let’s take a look at what certifications are, how to choose the best ones for you, where to get them, and what kind of jobs require them.

What do you want to be when you grow up? 

Look, we know it’s hard when you’re about to graduate and everyone keeps asking the same question: “What are you thinking about doing for work?” It’s daunting, scary, and downright not cool to be an adult sometimes. 

If you’re unsure about what field you want to go into, think about how you’re doing in high school:

  • Do you have a favorite subject?
  • In which subjects do you excel? 
  • Who do you admire? 

Based on your answers, you can get a good idea if you would be successful in a career related to that subject. For example, if you enjoy English class, you could be a teacher, author, journalist, etc. If you enjoy history, you could be a museum curator. If you enjoy math, check out engineering or astrophysics. 

And don’t forget to go on college visits or search through college programs to learn more about potential careers. If you want to find a job right after high school, start to think about what jobs are available in your area to narrow down what certifications would be essential in that field. It’s never too early to get your foot in the door — so start knocking!

Why should I get certifications for a job?

Being certified shows you have certain qualifications for a specific job you may be applying for. When you apply for jobs, hiring managers will notice certifications on your resume. It shows your future boss that you’re driven, take initiative, and have the skills to complete what is expected for that job. 

Whether you go to college or decide to search for jobs right after high school, there are certifications you can obtain before you graduate high school that will positively affect your future. 

While some jobs do not require certain certifications, you should still get certified just in case a particular job posting rolls around that you like. Certifications will make your application stand out when compared to other applicants who don’t have those certifications. 

You want to be noticed when applying for jobs — it’s good to stick out in this case. You are more likely to be brought in for an initial interview with specific credentials.

Plus, if you are hired for a company that requires a certain certification, you would have already completed the process. So it wouldn’t be an additional task for you to accomplish at your new job and they wouldn’t have to worry about you receiving additional training.

What certifications should I get in high school? 

When deciding on certifications, think about your future plans: 

  • What do I want to do after graduation?
  • What are my interests?
  • What do I already have experience in?
  • Do I know what field of work I want to be in?
  • If so, are there required certifications?
  • Where can I get certified? 

If you know what you’re going to study in college or what field of work you’re going to start immediately, look up what certifications are required or offered for that job. For example, if you are going into the medical field (nurse, doctor, EMT), you should get CPR certified.

Plus, if your goal is to make a lot of money (a pretty good goal, if you ask me), certifications can help you get the dream job you want. Certifications enhance your knowledge, skills, and most importantly, your marketability, which makes you more interesting to employers.

Where and how do I get certified? 

So now that you’ve decided to get some certifications under your belt, where do you go? You have a few options. 


If you are working in the field you’re interested in during high school, ask your employer about certifications that relate to the job. Your employer can explain what certifications would benefit you most, since they have years of experience in that field. You might even be considered for a promotion for taking the initiative to get certified in something. For example, if you're working in retail, you might ask your manager about retail-specific certifications or training required to be considered for a managerial role. 

You could also contact a staffing agency to learn about what certifications they notice most jobs require. You could potentially find a job while talking to an agent too — it’s a win-win situation! 

Local schools including community colleges or universities 

Your own high school may offer certain certifications, but you can also check local colleges to see what classes they have to offer. Online universities sometimes offer certifications as well, so be sure to check with them since that would mean no commuting.

If you’re interested in working in education, meeting with a local teacher or professor could help you learn what certifications they earned to give you an idea of what certifications you should be looking for to thrive in that field.


Based on your own research, you can find certification classes to enroll online. Consider reading reviews for career certification companies. Peers, teachers or college professors could suggest valid websites also.

What jobs require certifications? 

Whether you want to be a doctor, a massage therapist, or even a firefighter, there are plenty of jobs that require certification. Here’s a list of just a few examples of well-paying jobs that require certifications:

  • EMT
  • Funeral director
  • Brickmason
  • Personal trainer
  • Medical coder
  • Firefighter
  • Air traffic controller
  • Automobile service station manager
  • Real estate broker
  • Margin department supervisor

While you may be overwhelmed with new adult responsibilities that will start after graduating high school, you can make your future easier by becoming certified in something that will apply to your future goals or career before you graduate. 

Haley Brase is a writer for She lives in Iowa with her boyfriend and loves to work with flowers when she can.

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