An Introduction to Graduate Certificate Programs

Students currently researching different ways to help transform their undergraduate degree program may run across different types of degree and certification options during and throughout their search. The method that you choose for advancing your education and your career can vary depending on how confident you are at what you want to pursue professionally.

Choosing a graduate degree program that is not totally suitable for your desires or your personality can result in investments that do not pay off completely in the end. If you are undecided about which direction you would like to go in your career, you should consider online graduate certificate programs to help guide you along the way. Online graduate certificate programs are shorter collegiate programs that can provide you with knowledge and experience within a specialized field after your bachelor's program.

The average graduate certificate program can take anywhere from 2-4 semesters to complete and consist of courses that are directly related to the field you choose. These can be great options for bachelor's graduates interested in adding some specialized studies to their resume or even for students that are not totally sure what type of masters program they would like to pursue.

Why You Should Choose Graduate Certificate Programs

Students can seek out online graduate certificate programs for a wide variety of reasons. As an example, a graduate of a Bachelors in Nursing (BSN) program might choose a graduate certificate program in geriatric nursing in order to learn more about the aging population and the specialized care needed in this field. Professionals that have graduated from a business program may also choose a specialized certification program in financial management in order to qualify for open jobs within their current organization.

Aside from the career-related benefits associated with these online programs, students can also use online graduate certificate programs as a method for trying out different areas within their degree field before committing to a higher level degree program. Some fields such as psychology or counseling offer many diverse concentration options at the masters level, making your research into the different specializations vital to your success in the field. This shorter investment can also add to your resume without having to sacrifice years to masters programs that you are not totally dedicated to.

Graduate Certificate Programs Vs. The Master of Arts

One of the most common questions associated with the online graduate certificate program is regarding its benefits compared to a Master of Arts (MA). Students are interested in learning about which program can be more beneficial to their needs, which can be subjective to what they require and what they desire. As you read through some of the comparisons below, you should be thinking about the direction you would like to take with your career and which would be the better option of getting you there.

The online graduate certificate program can consist of a much shorter duration than masters-level programs. Some online schools offer certificate programs ranging from 2-4 semesters long, which is 1 year or less for those enrolled. The course work that you can take during these programs also consists of concepts specific to the specialization, rather than any additional or loosely-related courses that can be found in masters-level programs.

The Master of Arts is a degree program that should require a higher investment from students enrolled. These programs may require that students commit anywhere from 1-3 years to their studies, as well as the possibility of internship or practicum requirements. Course work in these programs may include courses that are related to the subject or field, rather than just specific and field-practical courses. In addition to what you have read above, online graduate certificate programs can also be a cheaper resource for students with promotion on their mind. Since most colleges charge tuition by the credit hour, a much shorter program can translate to lesser costs along the way.

One thing to consider prior to choosing your program is your intended outcome. Do you have a specific job in mind that you are preparing for? You are encouraged to read more about what your particular career requires in terms of education prior to submitting your application.

Common Fields for Certification

Depending on what type of bachelors program you have already completed, you might find that there is a wide variety of different online graduate certificate programs available for you to choose from. Our team of educational experts wanted to help you learn more about what these programs look like, as well as provide you with some examples of certificate programs current in the field. Below this section, take a look at some of the most popular fields for online graduate certificate programs and the specific certificates you can earn in each.

Psychology and Counseling

The diverse field of psychology can lead to student interest in many different specialized areas. Students that have graduated with an undergraduate degree in counseling or psychology can find online graduate certificate programs in clinical mental health counseling, school psychology, career counseling, and even sports psychology.

View Psychology and Counseling Degrees.

Business

Business is another field that can lead graduates down diverse paths during their career. Specialized certificate programs focusing on finance, management, marketing, and communication can be great resources for current business professionals interested in influencing other areas during their career.

View Business Degrees.

Healthcare

Whether you have a Bachelors in Nursing or Healthcare Administration, there are several different areas to consider for your online graduate certificate program. Some of the most popular certificate options are those in nursing informatics, nursing leadership, healthcare finance, and research.

View Nursing Degrees.

Public Affairs and Public Health

In the public domain, professionals could possibly benefit from learning more about specific sectors in need of guidance and support. Specialization options in these areas include those focusing on communication, public policy, epidemiology, biostatistics, and community education.

View Public Administration Degrees.

Information Technology

Fields concerned with technology and computer information systems can be an incredible place to indulge in an online graduate certificate program. There are numerous specialized fields and aspects to consider, including technology support, computer programming, software development, and hardware development.

View Information Technology (IT) Degrees.

Benefits of Graduate Certificate Programs

As you can see in the section above, each of these fields can be broken down into many different sub-fields that can positively influence different areas of society. The majority of bachelors programs can prepare you for working in entry-level positions within your field, but fall short when provide you with skills that can help you to obtain specialized positions. The benefits to choosing one of these specialized areas to complement your degree can go well beyond just qualifying for higher paying positions in your current job. These specializations can contribute to your knowledge of your field and even potentially be credited to you when engaging in master’s programs in your future. Take a look at some of the added benefits of choosing to complete an online graduate certificate program in the list provided by our team below.

Specialized/Focused Skills

Online graduate certificate programs can allow you to explore what your field has to offer within specific areas. After reading some of the specific fields in the last section, it is easy to see how choosing a sub-field can totally change the trajectory of your career. Some graduates may choose to pursue these programs in an effort to escape the monotony of their career and find new elements that interest them within their field.

Extended Resume

The addition of graduate certificate to your undergraduate degree can be a great improvement to your resume. Whether you are comfortable in your current position or considering a new job search, having these skills and further knowledge in your field can be a positive change to a resume within minimum qualifications.

Getting the Job

Businesses and organization seeking project managers, IT specialists, or even group-specific professionals may be more likely to seek out professionals that have specialized degrees or certifications with their search area. If you have ever reviewed open job listings within your field, you may have noticed that most employers ask you to list any certifications that you have received in addition to your education. Providing information in this section can communicate your dedication to your field and your willingness to learn more about your specialization specifically.

Fields Online Graduate Certificates Influence the Most

Even though most graduates could benefit from having higher knowledge in specialized areas, there are professional fields in which online graduate certificate programs have a greater influence. Certificate programs in business can be exceptionally beneficial to bachelors-graduates interested in finding new ways to exercise their skills in the field. Organizations hiring recent graduates commonly seek out professionals that have certifications in accounting, project management, and even organizational management. Nursing is another field in which certificate programs can have a higher influence. Nursing professionals often have a wide variety of responsibilities, ranging from patient care to computer information technology support. One popular certificate option for current nurses is within nursing informatics. Hospitals all over the country may be seeking out nurses that have skills relevant to information technology, data management, and system support.