A graduate certificate, sometimes referred to as a diploma, or postgraduate certificate, is a short term higher education program. Most graduate certificate programs consist of three to twelve courses and may take about one year or less of full-time study to complete.
written by Rana Waxman
Graduate Certificate Programs may provide a valuable academic credential in all fields of study. Many are available in subjects as diverse as ESL, business administration, IT and taxation. One of the potential benefits to a graduate certificate is that it may help you develop new skills and build expertise in a single professional area. These focused abilities might be used for several objectives. You could update your professional profile, advance your career, expand your knowledge base, explore new fields or prepare for a graduate degree.
To be eligible for a postgraduate certificate, you must already have a bachelors degree. Most certificate programs of this nature offer open admissions, which lets students bypass the work and wait time of a full application. Requirements for professional graduate certificates can run a bit differently. Applicants may need to have earned a masters degree in a field related to the certificate. They may also have to furnish transcripts, resume, essay, and letter(s) of recommendation. Programs vary.
A graduate certificate is not to be confused with a certification. Graduate certificates may be awarded by schools when the student has completed their course of study. A certification or license may be awarded by a state board or other agency, dependent on their rules and procedures. Per the BLS, “Certifications and licenses are credentials that demonstrate a level of skill or knowledge needed to perform a specific type of occupation. Both terms refer to time-limited credentials that need to be renewed periodically.”i Whether your certificate leads to eligibility for certification should be determined by your due diligence.
There are certainly distinctions between a graduate certificate and a masters degree. For one, a graduate certificate is not a degree, although it is a stand-alone professional award. To the credit of a masters degree, there are several occupations where it is required for entry or advancement.ii However a graduate certificates may help you meet other objectives, in a feasibly shorter and perhaps, more cost-effective manner.
Graduate certificate programs may delve into current research, trends, and best practices. Whether in biotechnology, cybersecurity or psychology, a graduate certificate may help keep your skills and knowledge on point, and your resume fresh.
Students in some graduate certificate programs may be able to transfer their earned credits towards a full degree. If you aren’t quite ready to commit the time and money to a full masters program, this might be a great way to meet other graduate students, build a portfolio of work, or just take the courses that are relevant to you today. All the while, keeping the door open to continued education. Just take note that you must check carefully with prospective grad schools if you want to use your certificate as the foundation for a masters degree in the future.
Perhaps you want to launch a new career in a field not related to your degree. Graduate certificate programs are often career-oriented programs that may provide industry-specific skills. Also, many certificate programs let students customize their course of study through electives. This could be a great way to carve out a new niche or refine your current skill set. For instance, you may have a humanities background but want to branch out into science and technology.
Some graduate certificate programs may help prepare students to take state licensure exams or, meet board certification requirements in their career field. For instance, an Autism Certificate program might provide the know-how to pursue Board Certification in Behavior Analysis (BCBA).
Graduate endorsements are programs designed for teachers and counselors who wish to change their career niche or enhance their ability to deal with diverse groups in schools. Students may earn graduate endorsements without the need to enroll in a master's degree program. Post-master's endorsements require a master's degree as a prerequisite.
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Whether you are interested in a general category such as business or a narrower focus such as studio art, you may be in for a surprise. Graduate Certificate programs are available in a range of disciplines and sub-disciplines. We suggest you use the menu to select a category, and have also listed out some options below. Think about what your personal and professional goals are. Things like – what do you want to learn? Do you want to prepare for an MBA? Are you short credits for a state certification exam? Then look for a graduate certificate that mirrors your answers. Below are a few general examples of what you might find available.
Business graduate certificate programs span analytics, human resources, integrated marketing and sport management to name a few. These more specific programs might help you build skills for a current or future work environment. By contrast, a graduate certificate in business administration is designed for students with non-business bachelor degrees. As a more general program, it may help to build essential business management skills. Coursework might delve into areas such as financial accounting, law and economics.
Finance graduate certificate programs might help prepare students to take the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) exam. Usually, this type of program is designed for students who have earned a bachelors degree and want to develop a firm grasp of financial planning practice. Coursework is likely to explore essential concepts, tools and techniques in finance. Also, it might cover investments, capital, trusts and other industry relevant topics.
As a broad category, graduate certificates in criminal justice and legal programs cover intelligence, homeland security, paralegal, national security affairs and social justice. Just to name a few. Many of these are post-baccalaureate certificates. They may be designed for national security professionals and others who wish to enhance skills and potentially position themselves for advancement.
Some education graduate certificate programs are designed for those who want to fulfill regional accreditation standards to be able to teach a specific subject. Biology to community college students, for instance. Others may be suitable for individuals who have a bachelor’s degree and wish to obtain teaching certification. Also, look for English as a Second Language certificates, another of many more choices.
Graduate Certificates in Fine Arts and Design might be the perfect way to enhance or refine your artistic talents in music, or brush up on professional skills. Museum conservation and technology or digital curation, for example. Some programs feature experiential learning and field research in addition to coursework.
Whether you want to learn the specifics of elder care, bioethics or food safety, healthcare certificates might help orient a career path. Nursing certificates are a great example. Some of these are designed for Registered Nurses who hold a master’s degree in nursing that has prepared them for practice in another advanced role or nursing specialty. A certificate might provide the theory and practice skills to branch out into another area such as Family Nurse Practitioner.
A graduate certificate in Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) may provide practical knowledge of all aspects of the discipline. Coursework is likely to cover advertising, social media, PR strategy and beyond. Usually, students tailor their certificate with elective courses. This could be anything from video production to digital storytelling.
A graduate certificate in liberal arts and humanities might delve into history, applied Shakespeare or east-west psychology. As a broad category, these programs might appeal to lifelong learners as much as to current professionals who want to become familiar with a specific topic. A graduate certificate in Peace Studies is a case in point. Students might take courses that provide a solid grasp of conflict resolution, civil rights and social justice. As a result, they may acquire specific intervention methods based on current research.
Graduate Certificates in STEM fields cover territory such as statistics, biotechnology, data analysis and engineering management. Some programs might prepare current educators to fulfill regional certification requirements to teach a specific subject, such as math, to early college students. Other programs may be designed for professionals, such as engineers, who want to expand their skill set with recent industry input.
Graduate certificates in public affairs and social sciences may appeal to current counselors, educators and other professionals who want to broaden expertise. Some of the areas covered in this category are psychology, counseling, coaching, public administration and health communication.
Some postgraduate psychology certificate programs are designed for students who either have their masters degree or higher, or are concurrently pursuing an M.A. in Psychology. Others, such as some of the Behavior Analysis Graduate Certificates may prepare students with the course work, but not necessarily the supervised practice, required to be eligible for the BCBA exam.
Some graduate certificates in religious studies are designed to fine tune ministry leadership skills. Coursework might cover communication, strategy, and conflict management.
With the fast pace of technology itself, graduate IT certificate programs may present students with new trends, applications and techniques to stay abreast of the times. Perhaps you want to earn a computer architecture certificate to explore design methodology, and hardware systems design and modeling. Or, maybe you seek a scientific base in spatial data modeling, analysis and visualization. Try a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) certificate. Technology certificates also cover topics such as library and information science, computer science, and systems security.
Many graduate certificate programs are offered by regionally accredited grad schools. Accreditation speaks to quality – faculty, curricula, student services and financial stability. To determine whether graduate certificates are eligible for financial aid, you should check with your provider.
There are three different formats you may come across when you search for graduate certificate programs – online, on-campus and hybrid.
Whatever your preference, filter by program type. Or, fast-forward and search for graduate schools by location.
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Check the menu to filter by subject, program type or location. A list of paid programs for you to choose from is generated. From there, all you do is request info. Some programs may have multiple start dates and the next one may be fast-approaching. You can also view the graduate certificate programs below.
[i] bls.gov/cps/certifications-and-licenses-faqs.htm | [ii] bls.gov/careeroutlook/2015/article/should-i-get-a-masters-degree.htm#occupations-that-typically-require-a-master-s-degree-at-the-entry-level