(DegreeAdvisers.com) – Certificate programs can seem like an attractive option for post-secondary education, especially if you’re short on time and money. All you have to do to complete these shorter-form courses is study for a few weeks and pass a final exam. The result is a fancy certificate proving you know your stuff.
But are they actually worth taking, or should you stick it out and go for a degree instead? The answer to that depends on what you hope to achieve.
Here’s what you need to know to decide.
Undergraduate vs. Graduate
Most certificate programs fall under one of two categories. First, you have your undergraduate programs. These are available to almost anyone who wants to learn or expand their knowledge. You don’t have to be in college or university to enroll.
Some undergraduate certificate programs fully equip you to begin your career after completion. Others are intended to allow you to upgrade your skills, either before, during or after university. For example, someone currently studying to become a web developer might opt to complete a certificate program in graphic design.
Graduate certificate programs, on the other hand, are specifically intended for post-graduate students — individuals who already hold a degree. They are in many ways a form of continuing education, but they often also allow students to specialize after graduation. A nursing student, for example, might complete a certificate in gerontology before going to work at a nursing home.
Certificate programs might not be full degrees, but that doesn’t mean they don’t carry some seriously exciting benefits. Here are a few of the most compelling to get you started:
- They’re faster. Some certificate programs make it easy to switch industries or start a new career quickly and effectively. This can be an ideal way to adapt to labor market changes, especially if your current role becomes obsolete.
- They’re cheaper. The average certificate program is thousands of dollars cheaper than a full college degree. This higher level of affordability can make education more accessible, especially if you don’t qualify for student aid for some reason.
- They look great on a resume. Certificates add to your credentials; each one you complete is proof that you’re knowledgeable in your field. Listing these programs on your resume is a fantastic way to show employers just how valuable you are.
- They might increase your pay. According to Villanova University, there is a correlation between certificate completion and higher salary rates. The ratio isn’t quite as high as it is for those with a full degree, but it’s better than nothing at all.
Newton’s Third Law states that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction, and that’s also true for certificate programs. Thrilling benefits aside, there are a few drawbacks you should consider before you enroll:
- They’re limited.The short nature of most certificate programs means there just isn’t a whole lot of time to study adjacent academics. This will limit how much you’re able to do after completion, especially compared to a full degree.
- Employers don’t always respect them. Unlike university degrees, certificate programs don’t enjoy universal recognition in the United States just yet. Employers may or may not accept them as proof of skill, which could interfere with your ability to secure work.
- Student aid might not be an option. While scholarships, grants and loans for degree programs are fairly easy to secure, US News warns that they aren’t quite as easy to get for certificate programs. This is especially true if you enroll online.
Certificate programs can be incredibly beneficial to students who want to skill up quickly or add onto existing knowledge. It’s true that they don’t provide the same level of education as a full degree, but they’re still more than worth exploring if you’re on a tight budget or don’t have much time. Think of them as a stepping stone to a full career.
~Here’s to Your Success!
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