Grad Certificate Schools
Have you ever played Trivial Pursuit? There are specific categories covering a wide range of topics. When you play on a team you might pick someone who is an expert in sports and another person who can answer all the literature questions. If they prove themselves to be a genuine expert in that one particular area then you could award them a graduate certificate.
Of course it would be meaningless, but that might help you understand the concept of a graduate certificate. These are like mini diplomas that are awarded for a short, concentrated programs on just one particular aspect of a larger field of study.
Graduate Certificate Program Structure
Before you can get yourself a grad certificate you will have to have earned a Bachelor's degree. The average grad certificate is awarded after you have successfully completed 3 to 12 courses with total amount of 9 to 21 credits. For most students this will take just one year or two semesters.
Graduate certificate programs aren't offered at every college. However, the universities that do offer them cover all the bases of major fields of study including accounting, finance, business, psychology, healthcare management, multimedia technology, biotechnology and international studies.
Keep in mind that you could have a Bachelor's degree in design, but want a graduate degree in accounting. That won't be a problem. There is no penalty for switching majors!
Reasons for Obtaining a Graduate Certificate
Earning a graduate certificate comes with many bonuses. You'll be able to show off that diploma to beef up your resume and maybe land a better gig. You'll also get to apply all that academic work towards the bigger master's or doctoral degrees. This comes down to an issue of course planning.
For instance, if you know in advance that you're getting a master's degree in education you could focus on a graduate certificate in early childhood development. That can then help supplement your Master's in Education Administration.
Many students also seek out a graduate certificate to immediately help them on their career path. Suppose you earned that Bachelor's Degree in Information Technology. Now you want to focus of an individual area of computer programming language. You could work on that certificate at night school while plugging away at your job. A year later with certificate in hand you might find it easy to get a promotion or transfer to an even bigger job with bigger pay.
A graduate certificate also helps you refocus on your chosen profession. Suppose you are working as a guidance counselor but feel the need to learn more about drug addiction in teens. There's a graduate certificate program for that! It's also a great way to catch up on the latest research and date while adding to your overall resume.
Grad certificates are also a practical way to explore other career options. Suppose you're working as an accountant at a major corporation, but you've recently become interested in marketing. Enrolling in a marketing graduate certificate program can provide you with a baseline of information about that career. You might discover that at the end of one semester this might not be for you. No harm, no foul. On the other hand, taking a grad certificate course could be the inspiration you've been looking for to make a career switch.
Grad Certificate School Opportunities
Because graduate certificates are in concentrated areas of study, you will have to be more selective with the college or university of your choice. As mentioned, there are many schools that offer certificate programs as part of their night school curriculum.
Another popular option for earning a graduate certificate is through distance or online learning. You'll discover that there are traditional "brick and mortar" universities which offer many online courses. There are also a growing number of exclusive online institutes who are offering the same program. The question then becomes one of accreditation. You don't want to invest time and money into courses only to find out your graduate certificate isn't worth the paper it's printed on.
To avoid that, check out the accreditation of the school you're thinking about applying to. There are several accreditation organizations that make it their business to insure that schools are living up to high standards of education. There is where you can do some old fashioned "compare and contrast." If Harvard and "Online U" have both been accredited by the same organization then it's a safe bet that "Online U" has achieved some level of excellence. If an online entity doesn't have accreditation, click away as fast as you can!