The following is a guest post by Tiffany Rowe. Tiffany is a Marketing Administrator at Seek Visibility, where she assists clients in contributing resourceful content throughout the web.
Maybe you want to get ahead in your career, but don’t have the time or money to get a graduate degree. Or maybe you already have a graduate degree (or two!), but still want to add to your skills. These days, it’s important to keep learning and developing as a professional to stay relevant in a quickly-changing world.
Graduate certificates offer a means to that end. A graduate certificate is an educational credential that can give you a quick-and-dirty specialization in a narrow aspect of your field. It’s appropriate for any working professional who has a bachelor’s degree or even one or more master’s degrees in a field. It can even be useful for a professional who has no degree, but several years of work experience. These credentials are growing more popular, because you can earn them at a fraction of the cost of a master’s degree, and in about half as much time. Best of all, you can earn one online.
Skip the Master’s Degree
Enrolling in a master’s program is a big commitment – for many, it involves taking a couple of years out of the work force to go back to school full-time. Even if you decide to earn your master’s degree online while continuing to work, you could be in for five or six years of late nights and early mornings as you juggle academic and other responsibilities.
While a master’s degree offers you a broad base of knowledge in a field, a graduate degree is more specialized. A master’s degree requires students to earn between 36 to 54 credits, but graduate degrees typically require only about 12 to 15 credits, or three to seven classes. That means you can earn a graduate degree in about a year of part-time study, making them popular among working professionals and students already working toward a graduate degree who want to add a specialization. People earn graduate certificates at all points in their careers, with one-third of students earning the credential after age 30.
What a Graduate Certificate Can Do for You
Professionals often get graduate certificates as a means of fulfilling national or state licensing requirements, or to add a specialization in a field in which they already work. In many fields, a graduate certificate may not be enough to help you break into the field if you don’t have prior experience or education in that field, but that doesn’t hold true across the board. For example, a graduate certificate may be sufficient to jump start a career change to an IT-related field or a field that doesn’t require a lot of specialized training, like technical writing. While a graduate certificate alone won’t be enough to get you into a highly-specialized field like medicine, engineering, or law, it could be a better option than a master’s degree for some fields, especially media and arts-related fields in which a master’s degree doesn’t necessarily come with the promise of a higher salary.
Many people use a graduate certificate as a way to burnish credentials they already hold. Let’s say you already possess a master’s degree in your field, but want to update your knowledge or add a specialization to make yourself more competitive on the job market. You can earn a graduate degree in a narrow aspect of your field, such as technical writing, homeland security, global sustainability, cyber security, or social media marketing. As a special education teacher, for example, you could earn an autism certificate to add working with students on the autism spectrum to your repertoire of skills.
Save Your Money
Graduate certificates are a fast way to upgrade your skills and become more appealing to employers, but they’re also a lot cheaper than a master’s degree. For example, a graduate certificate in business administration from UCLA Extension costs about $5,000 – compare that to $90,000 for a full MBA from the same school. And since you can earn a graduate certificate online, you can complete the coursework on your own schedule while you continue to work your full-time job.
Graduate certificates are an increasingly popular choice for working adults and trained professionals who want a fast, cheap way to update their skills. Whether you’re looking to enhance your academic credentials without coughing up for a master’s degree, or you already have a graduate degree but just need to add a specialization in one area of focus, a graduate certificate could be how you stay relevant in today’s fast-changing job market.