Benefits of a Graduate Certificate

How Online Graduate Certificate Programs Can Benefit You

At a time when every credential counts in the marketplace, perhaps it's time to consider why graduate certificate programs should be of interest to you.

The simplest reason might well be the certificate itself, another qualification to list on your resume. But what you'll gain, without too much a commitment in time or cost, is the real reason for consideration.

Fastest-growing Post-secondary Credential

Certificates are the fastest-growing post-secondary credential in the U.S., with a 46% increase over a five-year period, according the Institute for College Access and Success. What's driving this growth?

The desire for further education tops the list, followed by increased specialization and earning power. A Washington Post article notes that about 3% of the U.S. workforce has graduate certificates, which translates to a rise in earnings for that population. However, the bump in pay varied by gender, with an average 25% increase for men and 13% for women. That said, the differentiator may well be based on more than just gender, since the pay skews higher in fields with a more technical orientation.

Are Graduate Certificates Worth It?

While a graduate certificate doesn't replace a graduate degree in the marketplace, online graduate certificate programs very often foster the transition into a full-fledged master's degree program. Those who felt particularly challenged at the undergraduate level may feel the need for additional education to reach career goals, yet may be unsure they're up to the work required in a master's program - or have the tenacity to see it through. In some cases, there's an uncertainty over what type of graduate degree to pursue, and the certificate programs allow students to explore options while building their resume. For others, a graduate certificate allows for further specialization after earning a master's degree.

A graduate certificate requires just half the courses of the average master's degree program and provides a strong gateway into graduate studies. With five courses for completion, a graduate certificate program whets a student's appetite for specialization in a field and can easily roll into a master's program. Online graduate certificate programs make it that much easier, with the flexibility to fit around the busy lives of working adults, who are oftentimes juggling jobs, family and other personal responsibilities. When a certificate program brings a student halfway through a master's degree, it's easy to see why many opt to move into a degree program. The end is already in sight, and a student knows what it took to get there.

While many students do pursue a graduate certificate prior to committing to a master's program, SNHU graduate academic advisor Ami Cleary-Trombley says that others choose to pursue a graduate certificate in tandem with the master's program. Some choose certificate programs totally unrelated to their master's simply to have knowledge of another field. When it comes to graduate certificates, it's not a case of either/or. Whether the certificate leads into a master's program, supplements a master's previously earned or is an additional way to specialize beyond a bachelor's degree, the combination packs a powerful punch in the marketplace.

It's important to understand that online graduate certificate programs are not the same as certification. For instance, SNHU's popular human resource management graduate certificate enables students to gain vital leadership skills to effectively manage a workforce from an organizational perspective, but it does not prepare HR professionals for SHRM certification. Coursework in the accounting graduate certificate program does count, however, toward the 150 credit hours required by many states to sit for the CPA exam.

Jobs You Can Get with a Certificate

Graduate certificates demonstrate a solid commitment to an area of specialization and provide the latest in knowledge and skills in a particular area - perfect for those who have been in a specific field for some length of time or career changers. The dyslexia studies and language-based learning disabilities online graduate certificate at SNHU was created in a groundbreaking partnership with Landmark School, a pioneer in the field of educating students with language-based learning disabilities. The skills and knowledge earned in this certificate strengthens existing educators' abilities to empower all students to achieve academic and social success.

According to Cleary-Trombley, many of her sport management graduate students also pursue an athletic administration online graduate certificate. This extra qualification suits those who wish to work at the high school or college level and adds some extra oomph to their resumes.

The project management online graduate certificate appeals to students across many industries, providing insight and skills to successfully lead a project through its entire life cycle - from initiation and planning to execution, monitoring and completion. SNHU is a Registered Education Provider (R.E.P.) of the Project Management Institute (PMI®), and graduates of this program meet the educational requirement needed to take the PMP® exam. Those with an interest in taking the PMP® exam must take the QSO 645 Project Management for PMP® Certification course in order to satisfy the educational requirement needed to take the PMP exam.

As roles in all fields expand and evolve, the need for continued education to stay abreast of the latest information, trends and tools is particularly important. Online graduate certificate programs provide options for continued professional growth and offer opportunities to gain knowledge in emerging fields, too. Whether there's a need to stay current in an existing role or forge a path in a new field, an online graduate certificate is a way to hyper-focus on a particular subject area and build critical resume credentials.

Pamme Boutselis is a writer and content director in higher education. Follow her on Twitter @pammeb or connect on LinkedIn.

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