It’s commonly accepted that a post-baccalaureate education can do a lot to help your career. So much so, in fact, that many education advocates are pushing for universal post-baccalaureate education. But that doesn’t necessarily have to mean master’s and doctorate degrees for everyone. There’s another option — graduate certificates.
[Earn your graduate certificate online in one of many exciting fields.]
Graduate certificates are popular, especially among older workers, because they cost much less than a full master’s degree and take a lot less time to earn. Employers value graduate certificates, especially in emerging fields like homeland security or cybersecurity. They’re a great way to expand your skill set and stay current, even if you already have a bachelors or master’s degree, and the potential increase in earnings they could bring is nothing to sneer at, either.
More People Than You Think Are Earning Graduate Certificates
Though graduate certificates may not be as widely discussed as master’s degrees, they’re gaining in popularity. These days, 22 percent of all college degrees are graduate certificates. For one in 10 American workers, a graduate certificate is their highest credential. One-third of people with graduate certificates also have an associate, bachelors, or master’s degree.
People often go back to school for a graduate certificate mid-career. About a third of people who enter graduate certificate programs are over age 30. Certificates are a popular and efficient way to get the extra training you need to advance in your field or even break into a new field. These seven to 15-course programs only take about a year to earn on average, compared to about two years for a master’s degree.
And because they take less time and are typically offered through extension schools and continuing education programs, they’re a lot cheaper than master’s degrees, too. A graduate certificate can cost as little as $5,000, while a master’s degree in the same field can cost tens of thousands. If you’re earning the credential at the behest of your employer, there’s a good chance you can get the company to pay your tuition costs.
Graduate Certificates Are Valuable in the Workforce
It’s a common misconception that employers aren’t impressed by graduate certificates. But a worker with a graduate certificate earns about 20 percent more on average than one with just a high school diploma. The more technical your field, the higher your potential earnings increase. A graduate certificate in a technical field could boost your pay by as much as 25 percent, while a certificate in a less technical, lower-paying field boosts pay by about 13 percent.
Of course, just as with other degrees, the value of your graduate certificate depends largely on the field of study you choose. Certificates in fields like computing, project management, cybersecurity, homeland security, refrigeration, and heating and air conditioning attract the biggest salaries. Health care certificates are among the least valuable, and certificates in fields like interior design, women’s studies, public relations, grant proposal writing, or arts management may help you get a job, but they probably won’t translate into a bigger paycheck.
Certificate Holders Are More Likely to Complete Advanced Degrees
Graduate certificate holders who don’t yet have a higher degree are more likely to earn one after successfully completing a degree program. Twenty percent of certificate holders eventually get an associate’s degree in their field and 13 percent go on to earn a bachelor’s degree.
Public institutions give out 51 percent of graduate certificates, and many universities have programs that allow students in certificate programs to roll their credits over into a master’s program in the field, if they so choose. That’s a great option if you think you might like to get a master’s degree but aren’t sure if you want to commit to the coursework; a graduate certificate is a great way to test-drive an advanced degree program.
Are you in the market for a credential that can help you move forward in your career and stay competitive? Consider a graduate certificate. This credential is becoming increasingly popular among a dynamic work force that wants to keep its skill set sharp with a minimal investment of time and money. The right certificate can impress employers, give you an edge over the competition, and even add significantly to your paycheck.
Marjorie McAtee is a freelance writer whose work has appeared on numerous websites including BakPakGuide.com, Listosaur.com, Slogr.com, and SanDiegoFreePress.org. She is a graduate of Hollins University and is currently working toward a Master of Arts in Professional Writing and Editing at West Virginia University. Her literary work has appeared in publications including Amarillo Bay, Flashquake, Center: A Journal of the Literary Arts, and The Blotter.