Ever graduate with about $100,000 in debt and realize, at the worst possible moment, that your field pays next to nothing? Or maybe you’ve worked at the same job for 30 years but the economy has left you suddenly unemployed with no new skills to be able to compete in a cutthroat job market. You’re not alone! Living in America is a constant dystopian fight to work a job at a livable wage and have a happy, fulfilling personal life.
With all this on your plate, it can be temping to pay for yet another piece of paper that proves you’re employable.
I’m talking about certifications–things you can learn to do without having to enroll in a 2- or 4-year degree program (or, God forbid, go to grad school).
But like any degree, not every certification is cost-effective. Some certifications take longer than others, cost more, and don’t yield a median wage that seems worth it. So, for your convenience and peace of mind, I narrowed down the top five most cost-effective jobs that you can become qualified for in less than two years.
#1: Uber driver
Median hourly wage: 20.29
Overall training time: A 13-minute video
Work hours needed to pay off certification: <1
If you’ve already got a car and a license, becoming an Uber driver will cost you next to nothing. To work with Uber, they ask you for things that you either already own or come at no extra cost; you need a smartphone (so you can use the app), valid plates and registration, and experience driving in-state for at least a year, among other things. They also put you through a background check to ensure passengers’ safety. The only entry-level cost that Uber requires is a $20 mechanical inspection, which you will make back in less than an hour of work.
Boston has the sixth highest amount of Uber drivers of any city in the nation, and that demand likely isn’t going to go down. There are, of course, downsides–you’ll be racking up some serious extra mileage to your own car, and your taxes will be paid out of pocket, rather than taken from your paycheck. And someone will probably puke on your floor at some point. But the pros are obvious: it’s quick to get into, it’s easy money, and you can do it on nights and weekends.
Side note–if you’re thinking of going out and becoming a driver just to hop on the Uber bandwagon (as I have considered doing before), don’t. The cost of driver’s ed and a car and insurance is gonna amount to well over 50 grand and at that point you may as well just go to state school.
#2: Childcare worker
Median hourly wage: $12.74
Overall training time: About 7 hours
Work hours needed to pay off certification: 3.85
By childcare worker I mean babysitter. But I knew if I opened with that, you’d stop reading.
Middle school girls had this market cornered, but since so many college graduates and laid-off workers are now penniless and desperate, and with the advent of pick-and-choose babysitter databases like Care.com, the industry has been infiltrated by grown-ups. Don’t write it off too soon.
Many of the job listings on Care.com require that babysitters do minor clean-up, prepare meals, and have a car. So the responsibilities aren’t terribly weighty (other than, you know, having a child’s safety in your hands). Childcare classes typically cost anywhere between $35-$85, since the site that hosts them (i.e. YMCA, hospital, school, etc.) is allowed to dictate the price. And you’ll probably be studying with a bunch of 13-year-olds, but, hey. Don’t let pride get in the way of some sweet, sweet under-the-table pay.
Median hourly wage: $12.25
Overall training time: 4 hours
Work hours needed to pay off certification: 23.59
Boston is America’s 10th top-paying city for bartenders, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And we rank 9th on the list of cities with the highest employment level for bartenders, which means there’s opportunity abound. Boston and Cambridge also boast a vast array of places you can go to take bartending classes, most notably the Harvard Bartending Course.
For just four hours and $150 you too can sate the masses and listen to folks piss and moan about their jobs and spouses. Or you can opt for the ~deluxe~ package, which is nine hours and $289, and offers you the very pretentious and only marginally cooler title of mixologist. Plus, you’ll be able to tell everyone you passed the Bar at Harvard. Out of context, it’s very impressive.
Other places (well, place) in Boston to train to become a bartender: Drink Master Bartending School ($345 for 20 hours).
Median hourly wage: $18.46
Overall training time: About 155 hours
Work hours needed to pay off certification: 43.18
Overall this one is fairly cost-effective in terms of dollars and cents, but there are other non-monetary prices you pay to enter this field. I’m sure you don’t need to be reminded of the potential psychological impact of taking people’s lives into your hands, but I’m going to remind you anyway. It can mess you up.
But listen, if it’s your thing, you should consider becoming an EMT. There’s plenty of places to get your certification around town, the pay is decent, and the demand for qualified workers is high–Boston is the fifth highest employer for EMTs nationwide.
Cheaper than med school.
#5: Yoga instructor
Median hourly wage: $24.73
Overall training time: 200 hours
Work hours needed to pay off certification: 101.1
200 hours is the standard amount of time needed to get certified in Yoga Instruction. There’s intricate programs you can sign up for that require more training and, at times, posh retreats. But if you’re sticking to the basics, it’s gonna set you back about 8 weekends and $2,500. There’s non-monetary payoffs to becoming a yoga instructor, too: you get to help people, your personal health and wellness will improve, and you’ll and a really, really good hook for your online dating app bio.
Median hourly wages for the Boston-Cambridge-Quincy area are available on the Bureau of Labor Statistics website. Estimates for work hours needed to pay off certification were determined by dividing the average cost of classes by a profession’s median hourly wage.