Certificate Programs

What Is a Certificate Program?

Certificate programs are offered at career training schools, community colleges, career colleges and online schools and allow students to learn specific career skills in order to obtain a job or specialize in their careers.

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Certificate Programs Time Requirements

Most certificate programs can be completed within a year, but the length of time for each program depends on the type of program, and whether you're completing it in an online school setting or at a campus school. Some programs may be so specialized, only a few weeks or months of training are required.

In order to be eligible to apply for some certificate programs, you may need to prove competency in specific skills, either through an exam or another degree program, so when you are calculating the time requirements for your certificate program, you may need to factor in additional time to either prove your skill level in this area or take the required training to prepare for the certificate program.

Is a certificate program right for you?

Here are some of the reasons students seek certificate programs:

  • To learn a trade.
    For a number of careers, a certificate program is far more desirable than a bachelors degree or associates degree.
  • To specialize within a field.
    Professionals who have an advanced degree in fields such as psychology or nursing may need to pursue a certificate program to expand their knowledge base or gain expertise in an area in their field.
  • To switch careers.
    A certificate program can be a helpful step when you'd like to change your career field.
  • As a back-up plan.
    If you find that you aren't able to support yourself in your current career, a certificate program gives you tangible skills that you can translate into a paying job.
  • To become a more desirable job candidate.
    In this challenging career market, you may find yourself up against hundreds of other candidates when seeking certain jobs. A certificate program helps your resume stand out from the rest.
  • To earn college credit.
    Some certificate programs give you the ability to earn college credits or even an associates degree. If you're unsure of your academic or professional career goals, a certificate of completion gets you on your way.

What types of students pursue certificate programs?

Since certificate programs can both prepare you for a new career or supplement your existing career, people seek out these programs at various points throughout their lives. As a result, students enrolled in certificate programs vary in age and experience, from students right out of high school to professionals with advanced degrees and years of professional training.

Should you pursue your certificate program at an online school?

An online school provides you with increased flexibility when completing your certificate program. Because online degrees allow you a greater ability to schedule your coursework and communicate with professors and other students online, you may find an online certificate program a more viable option if you plan to work while you study.

Online programs are also a helpful option if there are no community colleges or career training schools in your area that offer certificate programs in your areas of study.

How do I narrow down my choice of schools that offer certificate programs?

When choosing a certificate program, you'll want to explore the areas of study offered by each school and, if you think you're interested in pursing an online certificate program, whether the school offers online classes or classroom classes only.

Because costs can vary by school and certificate program, factor in school costs when making your decision about which school is best for you. You may be eligible for student loans when completing your certificate program; contact the school to find out what the possibilities are.