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icon3A post-secondary certificate represents the completion of designated training in a specialized field. Although certificates are generally offered by career schools, community colleges, and some universities, earning a certificate does not equate to completing a degree program. The training at the core of a post-secondary certificate focuses primarily on developing a specific set of professional skills, and does not typically require core courses of general study.

These Schools offer Certificate Degree


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Berkeley Collegelearn-more-button1


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Baker Universitylearn-more-button1


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Argosy Universitylearn-more-button1


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Abilene Christian Universitylearn-more-button1


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Cardinal Stritch University learn-more-button1


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Ashland Universitylearn-more-button1


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Earning a post-secondary certificate usually requires less time than earning an Associate’s degree, and is an excellent option of study when seeking an entry-level position in certain trades or lines of work. The most popular certificate training fields include business and management, technology, education, healthcare, and legal studies.

Certificate programs can consist of anywhere between 4 to 8 courses, and are typically completed within 3 months to a year. Undergraduate certificate programs usually do not require more than a high school diploma to enroll. Graduate certificate programs may require the individual to earn their Bachelor’s degree, have previous experience, and/or provide test scores before enrolling.

When enrolling in an online certification program, individuals experience the benefit of greater flexibility than what is offered by an on-campus program. However, valuable similarities remain intact, from precise career focuses to thorough skill mastery. This article explores the different aspects of becoming a post-secondary certificate holder, from the various types of potential certificate seekers, to how the certificate can be used toward establishing a successful career.

When Does a Certificate Pay Off?

By 2018, 63 percent of jobs in the U.S. will require applicants to have post-secondary training/education in order to be considered for employment, according to a study done by Georgetown University. Researchers have reported that over 10 percent of Americans have some sort of a certificate serving as their highest level of education.

Certificates: An Introduction

Researchers from Georgetown have reported that an impressive 1 million plus certificates are awarded each year, making these highly popular programs the country’s second most common form of post-secondary education. Over 95 percent of certificate programs are offered by community colleges. Healthcare, cosmetology, and office management are among the most popular certification training fields.

When to Earn a Certificate

For those who know which career they would like to pursue and are ready to receive training to get there in a short amount of time, earning an undergraduate certificate is an excellent place to begin. From these highly-specialized programs, workers gain more extensive training so that they can better excel in their profession. Possessing the training received through post-secondary certificate programs helps to prepare job applicants who are looking to start their career at a point beyond typical entry-level.

Certification programs in the fields of healthcare, business management, and technology are also gaining in popularity for their ability to cultivate the skills necessary for healthcare administration, project management, and computer engineering positions.

The table below lists the different types of undergraduate and post-graduate certification programs:

CERTIFICATE NAME DESCRIPTION
Dental Assisting Certificate Consists of 44 classroom and laboratory hours of work in oral health, dental science, side-by-side assisting, radiology, knowledge on controlling infections, and other operations that take place within the office.
Automotive Technology Certificate Consists of 32 hours of training dealing with automotive engines, braking and electrical systems, mechanical suspension, diagnostics, welding, and more.
Certificate in Property Management A 19-credit program delivering education on how to successfully manage and market different properties ranging from residential property, to offices, to industrial sites, and more.
Medical Billing and Coding Certification (hospital and physician-based) An 18-credit program for the certification in handling pricing for receiving diagnoses and for receiving medical treatments, and a look into the principles set forward in the CPT, HCPCS, and ICD-9-CM manuals.
Network & Communications Management Certificate A 21-hour advanced class exploring network security and design, wireless set-ups, applications, communications law, and IP related work.
Principles of Criminal Investigation Theories and techniques involving the detection and preservation of evidence, both physical and forensic, with laboratory sessions and an Introduction to Criminology prerequisite.
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 Offers 38-hours of advanced training in pharmacology and all-age primary care, geared toward post-master nursing students.

Transfers to a Degree Program

For possible program participants who want to eventually enroll in a degree program, working towards an Associate’s degree is an ideal pathway for advancement. When earning a degree alongside or immediately following a certificate training program, the individual should make sure to meet with advisors from their current school as well as advisors from their preferred school to ensure proper continuity between their studies.

Some benefits of advancing to an Associate’s degree include gaining access to an education in general core studies as well as focused training on a particular field of study. Colleges that do accept transfers are more likely to accept transferred credits for core courses than from the specialized course of study.

For certificate holders who are post-graduate, the credits that they’ve earned are typically viewed as experience in their profession, and are considered an indication of career goal achievement. Professionals in the business, healthcare, and technology fields who have a Master’s degree may also choose to earn a certificate as a way to develop more specialized skills.

Online Certificate Programs

For students who are looking for an education system that allows for a more flexible learning schedule and distance-learning interactions, online colleges and universities are a good place to search for an online education. While online undergraduate and post-graduate programs can be accelerated, (as they are, for the most part, self-paced,) students should not be caught off guard with the fact that online schooling can be strenuous and technically challenging with the coursework requirements.

Some online certificates sought after by undergraduate level career seekers require laboratory and/or internship hours. Programs such as these are usually very good at collaborating with a student’s local educational vicinities to arrange opportunities to complete these hours close to the student’s home. Online post-graduate certificate seekers may have the chance at tuition reimbursement by coordinating their professional roles with their studies.

Online certificate programs utilize emailing systems, chat rooms, discussion boards, and browsing to incorporate itself into the busy life of a student in a seamless manner. Skype and conference calling also help students to maintain a healthy class schedule. Depending upon the school, a computer may be offered to students looking to pursue the online learning option. If guidance is needing for technical support, there is staff readily available to help navigate through the Internet’s systems and workings.

Online Education Q&A

Do I need to be a computer whiz to study online?

Students are expected to know their way around computers for logging on, surfing the internet, sending and receiving email and attachments. Those with access to high-speed connections will have a more comfortable experience in viewing/receiving multimedia presentations and participating in live discussions.

Are online instructors as qualified as those who teach on campus?

Often the faculty members who teach in online certificate programs also teach in the campus-based programs in the same field. In addition to completing training in online instruction, faculty members frequently are currently employed in the professions that they’re teaching.

Will I be isolated as an online student?

Not only is class participation recommended for online students, it’s required. Peers and instructors are in daily contact via email, chat rooms or real-time video conferences. Collaborative assignments foster student interactions where email, telephone or chat room contacts occur on a scheduled and impromptu basis throughout the length of the program and beyond.

Are there special study skills necessary for successful online students?

Students who thrive in the online classroom respect the academic quality of their courses, dedicate themselves to a regular schedule to keep pace, and use online tools to communicate when they need help or clarification. There’s no substitute for self-discipline.

Will I ever have to go to campus?

In most cases, students can receive academic and financial aid counseling, complete their class registrations, and perform all required tests and assignments fully online. There are some majors that require laboratory or internship hours. In those cases, online colleges and schools offering certificates may require night or weekend campus workshops or make arrangements for students to complete labs/internships in the community where they live.

College Accreditation

Accreditation requires the earning and maintaining of a set standard of educational quality. It is voluntary, but can significantly help a school’s students and alumni in landing their preferred job if decent accreditation has been granted to the institution. Schools that offer post-graduate certificates have likely been granted accreditation for their specialized training departments and degree programs.

To become an accredited college can take up to a few years. The process includes a self-assessment by the college followed by a campus visit from agencies qualified to grant academic accreditation. To offer financial assistance, a school must be approved through the Department of Education and/or the Council of Higher Education Accreditation.

There are seven regional agencies for accreditation that evaluate two-year schools through The Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges. Special granting can be applied to individual programs. For example, American National Standards Institute Certificate Accreditation Program deals more with programs of a technical certification. Schools offering online programs often look for, and are granted, accreditation from the National Distance Learning Association, which specializes in the quality of teaching via online methods.

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