What is a Graduate Certificate?

As you contemplate options for furthering your career, you may be considering the possibility of earning a graduate certificate. This type of certificate is given to students who complete a certain number of credit hours at the master’s level. Usually the work reflects between 3-6 courses, or 12-18 credit hours.

Graduate certificates are offered in many fields and usually focus on a narrow or specific area of study that can help you to get ahead in your profession or to pursue a new area of specialization within a field in which you’re already trained. Just as one example, someone with a degree in education might decide to get a graduate level certificate in teaching English as a second language.

Why You Might Want to Earn Graduate Certificates

Since these certificates are awarded at the graduate level, you will need to have a bachelor’s degree already. That likely means you have already entered a field or profession and are looking for ways to further your education and skills. In some cases, you may find that your specific job requires a license and that a certificate program can help you prepare for that process. In other cases, you may simply find that gaining a certificate is a way to learn new skills that will help you move into new sub-area or specialty area of your field.

Other Advantages

In some of these cases, people move on to get a full master’s degree, but sometimes it’s not desirable or necessary to spend that much money or time. One of the main advantages you’ll find cited for getting a certificate instead of a full degree is that the certificate process is generally shorter and less expensive. It may be important to bear in mind that a full master’s degree will probably help you earn more in your field in the long run, but a certificate can still be a good step in the right direction. It may be the best step if you are on a tight budget or are hoping to make a move within your field by learning a new set of skills. Sometimes it can also be a way to explore a new field altogether without overly investing before you’re sure that’s the new career path you want to take.

Graduate certificates can help to set you apart within your field or to show an employer that you’re serious about sticking with a given profession and want to move ahead. If you’re not sure about whether or not it’s the best option for you, you might want to talk to someone who has gotten the particular certificate you’re considering. It could also be a good idea to compare a certificate program to a master’s level degree in the same area. In some cases, the degree may not take much longer than the certificate program, in which case you might be justified in pursuing the former. Whatever you decide, working toward a graduate certificate is definitely one way in which you can learn new skills and gain recognition within a given profession.