A post-secondary certificate is a non-degree program offered by community colleges, four-year colleges, and career schools. It represents completion of a specialized training program that focuses on the development of professional skills. Because certificate requirements do not include the core general education courses that make up an associate curriculum, they are quicker to complete than two-year degrees.
It makes sense to pursue a certificate that is offered at an undergraduate and post-graduate advanced level when they’re required for entry to a career or advancements within the profession. The major certificate disciplines include business and management, technology, education, healthcare, and legal studies.
Programs may contain 4-8 courses that can be completed between three months to a year. Students typically need only a high school diploma to enroll in an undergraduate level certificate program. Graduate certificate programs have their own class entry requirements, which can include a completed bachelor’s degree and/or graduate test scores, professional experience, or a combination of elements. Online certificate programs contain the same career focus and specialized skill components as on-campus ones, but they add exceptional class flexibility and accelerated programs. This guide is outlines the benefits of earning a certificate, the kinds of programs available, and how accreditation plays a role in establishing and maintaining the value of a certificate in the workplace.
When Does a Certificate Pay Off?
A study by Georgetown University projected that some 63 percent of all jobs in America by 2018 will require applicants to have completed some form of post-secondary education or career training. More than 10 percent of Americans reported a certificate as their top level of education, Georgetown researchers said.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that the 2013 median weekly earnings of students who completed post-secondary education programs surpassed take home pay of high school graduates by at least $75 a week. In their study, Georgetown researchers found that persons with undergraduate certificates earned roughly the same pay as workers who completed associate degrees. Based on the BLS findings, a certificate holder would earn $6, 500 more per year than a worker with just a high school diploma. The study found that women with technology certifications earn more a year than 64 percent of all women employees.
Certificates: An Introduction
Georgetown researchers found that over 1 million certificates are awarded annually, making these specialized programs the second-most common post-secondary educations in the nation. Public community colleges and for-profit schools offer more than 95 percent of all certificate programs. The most popular certificate fields, according to the Georgetown study, are healthcare, office management, and cosmetology. A certificate program can be completed in less than three months to upwards of a year.
When to Earn a Certificate
Undergraduate certificate programs offer exceptional options for students who wish to train for a new career and enter the workplace in as little as a year. Post-graduate certificate programs are gaining popularity among professionals who need additional career training to receive promotions or apply for mid-level positions in their fields.
Post-graduate certifications in healthcare, business management and technology have also gained in popularity for benchmarking professional skills in project management, Six Sigma, human resources, healthcare administration, or computer engineering. The following table shows the variety of undergraduate and post-graduate certification programs:
|Dental Assisting Certificate||A comprehensive 44-hour certification program that includes classroom and laboratory (internship) practice. Courses include oral health, dental science, chair-side ethics and assisting, radiology, infection control, office operations and management.|
|Automotive Technology Certificate||Students must complete 32 hours of training in engines, braking systems, suspension/steering, electrical systems, diagnostics, and welding.|
|Certificate in Property Management||In this 19-credit program, students learn fundamental skills and techniques for management and marketing of residential, office, retail and industrial properties.|
|Medical Billing and Coding Certification (hospital and physician-based)||An 18-credit online program leading to a certification in the principles of medical coding set forward in the commonly accepted CPT, HCPCS and ICD-9-CM manuals.|
|Network & Communications Management Certificate||Students earn a post-secondary certificate through 21 hours of advanced education in networking security, applications, wireless, communications law, IP/VOIP telephony, and network design.|
|Principles of Criminal Investigation||Examination of techniques and theories in the detecting, preserving and presentation of physical and forensic evidence. Includes laboratory sections. Prerequisite: Introduction to Criminology.|
|CPA Preparation||Post-secondary 30-hour program in specialty fields required for the CPA examination including ethics, international accounting, information systems, and taxation.|
|Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) Certificate||Post-master nursing students undertake 38 hours of advanced coursework in areas including advanced pharmacology, primary care across the entire age spectrum, and an integrative practicum.|