Should You Consider a Certificate Program?

Certificate programs are an efficient way to expand your knowledge without committing to the time and cost of an additional degree. They can be completed for fun, or as part of a career development strategy.

David G. Moore Jr. (Ph.D.), curriculum and assessments faculty in NCU’s School of Business and Technology Management is a self-described collector of diplomas and certificates. Moore holds undergraduate certificates in culinary arts and bartending, plus commercial and workplace Spanish. This is in addition to Project Management Professional (PMP) and Certified Software Development Professional (CSDP) certificates.

Although he has completed certificates for personal knowledge, Moore is a staunch believer that certificate programs allow students to revise their career path without completing a second or third degree.  In fact, according to US News & World Report, “for some… a certificate or just a few courses are enough to get a promotion – and a raise.”

“Let's say a student has an undergraduate degree in computer science and has been working in software development for several years," says Moore. "If they decide they want to move into a managerial role, a certificate in project management would be perfect for them.  It augments their existing technical skills with the necessary project management skills to start seeking a more supervisory position.”

While some, like Moore collect certificates for fun, for others they become part of a licensing requirement.

Shannyn Stern, vice president and controller at Northcentral University is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). In order to maintain her certification, Stern is required to complete a minimum of 40 hours of continuing professional education each year. Enrolling in a certificate program allows Stern to fulfill her annual professional education hours while at the same time adding a new certificate to her resume.

Although educators are not required to complete professional development courses, it is an expectation that they will do so. Taking coursework to gain endorsements on top of their teaching certificate is a way for teachers to ensure continued professional growth.

NCU’s Assistant Dean of the School of Education, Karen Ferguson (Ph.D.) asserts that “academic certificates demonstrate content mastery, a dedication to lifelong learning and professional development.  Certificates… demonstrate to school leadership that [teachers] are dedicated to continuous improvement and learning.”

With the demand for fast and convenient education solutions rising, countless 100 percent online certificate programs are now available in almost any professional field out there. In fact, Drexel University offers an online graduate certificate in creativity and innovation!

*Originally published in Higher Degrees Fall 2013.

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