Are you looking for the shortest possible post-bachelor’s degree study program with the lowest cost and the best rewards possible? If you are, then you should look into graduate certificate programs!
Also known as graduate diplomas, graduate certificates are the most affordable academic credential and the shortest course of study. Furthermore, individuals who earn graduate certificates can earn an average of 13% to 25% more than those who don’t have them.
Keep in mind that graduate certificates aren’t the same as master’s degrees! These are considered non-degree programs consisting of short courses, typically from three to twelve in number, which can be completed in 12-18 months of study. Most programs require a bachelor’s degree for admission, among other requirements.
Graduate certificate programs are designed to equip students with subject-specific knowledge and skills. The specialized training involved in these programs indicates mastery of specific subjects, such as Latin studies or business communication. Frequently, students choose a program based on their previous education, current job, and future aspirations.
Like all courses, graduate certificate programs are demanding in terms of a rigorous curriculum, grade requirements, training time, and the costs involved. Interested individuals must then give careful thought toward enrollment in these programs.
Individuals who pursue these programs until their completion can look forward to numerous benefits from earning a graduate certificate. These benefits include beefing up your resume, preparing for a master’s degree, and acquiring knowledge and skills relevant to your career, even meeting licensing requirements. These programs can also be stepping stones toward a career change without undergoing a longer course of study.
Top Graduate Certificate Programs Offered by Universities and Colleges
Here are our best-picked graduate certificate programs that are beneficial to your career! These programs comprise a small sampling of the wide range of universities and colleges’ programs across the United States, but they make excellent choices, regardless of the industry you’re in. Check with the universities offering these featured Grad Certificate programs for their admission requirements, learning outcomes, and coursework.
Interested? We’re giving you a convenient way of exploring the country’s highly regarded Graduate Certificate Programs; use these quick links:
- American Literature and Culture
- Digital Storytelling and Multiplatform Strategy
- Literary Translation
- Digital Humanities and Media Studies
- Digital Content Management
- Learning Design and Technology
- Math Leadership
- E-Learning Leadership
- Dyslexia Specialist
- Autism Spectrum Disorder
- Global Environmental Policy
- Sustainable Natural Resources
- Sustainable Cities and Communities
- Walkable Urban Real Estate Development
Arts, Literature & Media
At Harvard University’s American Literature and Culture program, students enhance their understanding of poetry, film, and literature, among other American narrative art forms, through a study of genres, authors, and historical periods. With their improved critical analysis and narrative interpretation ability, they can authoritatively discuss American literature and culture yet still be open to new interpretations and ideas. Students also learn how American literature and culture were formed and continue to be formed in contemporary times.
The graduate certificate program emphasizes liberal arts, which means students can translate their learnings in many work settings. The curriculum includes in-depth discussions about the 20th-century American novel, Civil War literature, and Hollywood influence.
University of California – Los Angeles offers this popular program for content creators, social media ambassadors, digital marketers, and media executives. Students learn the basics of journalism, including the production and distribution of content, and discover new methods of researching and writing content through digital technologies.
They will learn the fundamentals of interviewing people and reporting content, crafting a compelling narrative, and reaching out to the audience. Their lessons also include in-depth discussions about the technical knowledge and skills necessary to develop and distribute content, such as audios, videos, and photos.
Students have a vital tool toward starting or promoting a career in journalism, digital communication, or marketing with a digital storytelling certificate. With the combined power of traditional and digital media, their specialized knowledge can be put to good use.
At the University of Connecticut’s Literary Translation program, students become the next generation of scholars equipped with specialist skills in translating literature from several genres and languages. They gain a broader understanding of the principles and practices of translation that, in turn, can open doors of opportunities in language-focused careers. Their translation background combined with their intercultural training makes them attractive to employers in the education, international relations, and hospitality industries.
This is a suitable program for individuals who want to work on cultural documents, including literature and other scholarly works. Such work allows them to be critical and creative at the same time while also being part of the transmission of knowledge between cultures. The certificate can also be used as a stepping stone toward a master’s and doctoral degree.
Students at the University of Connecticut’s Digital Humanities and Media Studies program are provided with the specialist knowledge and skills in research regarding digital humanities and media studies. Their lessons include data visualization, digital and multimedia storytelling, geo-spatial mapping and inquiries, and network analysis in media, including its theory, philosophy, and aesthetics. They have the opportunity to create their plan, too, although there are non-negotiable coursework requirements.
The course also enables students to understand how humanists can effectively use digital innovations and develop new questions resulting in the new research. Students will become more familiar with coding languages and the tools used in mining, clustering, and visualizing humanities-related data.
Students develop, implement and evaluate digital content across a wide range of platforms and companies of all sizes and types, from established corporations to fledgling startups. This Emerson College’s 16-credit program is designed for professionals who want to stay on top of digital content management in a world characterized by fast technological obsolescence and fleeting attention spans. As a result, they can stay competitive and relevant in their chosen industry, perhaps even create their own digital media empire.
The coursework includes lessons on testing content and measuring audience response, developing effective content for multiple platforms, and determining metadata levels. The curriculum’s design allows students to apply for post-graduate certificate studies, such as a Master of Arts in Publishing and Writing; the credits earned from this program are transferable.
Business Management, Marketing, and Finance
Professionals enrolled in this LSU Online program become effective communicators after completion, thanks to the intensive lessons on written and verbal communication skills. The lessons have a cross-cultural focus and a must considering the multicultural nature of industries, including multinational corporations and new startups. Students are also provided with the tools and techniques necessary for compelling presentations and pitches.
The key learning outcomes include creating effective business communications, such as reports, proposals, and presentations; applying key communication methods including conflict management; and mastering the art of public speaking, including content creation, projection, and delivery. The curriculum requires passing four core courses, such as Public Speaking: Personal & Professional and Strategic Communication, and one elective like Mastering PowerPoint or Winning and Managing Grants.
Individuals seeking business, international development, or finance career advancement will find this Cornell University’s Business Economics certificate valuable. As students, they will learn resource allocation, cost-benefit analysis, and economics of financial markets and integrate business concepts and economic principles in the decision-making process. They will also have a deeper appreciation for the interplay between business, commerce, trade, government, currency markets, labor markets, and loan markets.
Indeed, the coursework provides business analysts and consultants with the tools and techniques essential for enhanced competitiveness in the ever-evolving society. The program lasts for 2.5 months, has an instructor-led model and with classes conducted 100% online; the effort required is between three and five hours per week.
Students gain the knowledge and skills to overcome the challenges of entrepreneurship, from cultivating entrepreneurial ideas to solving tricky issues inside and outside the enterprise. This Stanford University-led program emphasizes a practical business approach combined with an advanced understanding of organizational behavior, marketing, and accounting, among other aspects of entrepreneurship.
Case studies are used to emphasize the theoretical concepts learned in the classroom, too. Students must also engage in hands-on projects that encourage group thinking and teamwork and provide experiential learning. Business experts are also on hand to teach students best practices in entrepreneurship, many of which can transform startups or expand established businesses’ scope. These include product management, social responsibility, and growth hacking.
Professionals with a career in finance will benefit from this 12-credit program at the George Washington University School of Business, emphasizing gaining an advanced understanding of the three principal business functions. These are obtaining capital, investing capital in operations and assets, and distributing profits to shareholders – indeed, the program opens your eyes to the capital cycle. Students learn about capital management, from raising it to determining its use and distributing its earnings and about the subtleties of financial planning.
The required coursework includes finance, financial decision-making, investment analysis, and portfolio management; these are the nine required credits. The elective courses include financial management, financial statement analysis, securities regulation, and financial scandals; students choose only one course. Applicants must have taken financial accounting to be considered for enrollment.
The emergence of new digital technologies has resulted in changes to marketing theory and practice. These changes primarily affected how businesses gather, access, and analyze and store information that, in turn, also affected their understanding of market forces, including consumer behaviors. This is where MIT Sloan School of Management’s graduate certificate program in digital marketing analytics comes in!
Students become skilled digital marketing analysts upon their completion of the program requirements. As such, they have the expert knowledge and skills to deliver optimal return on investment on their employers’ or clients’ marketing spend. They can also provide insightful advice about customer patterns and service, which underlines many business decisions.
The coursework includes digital marketing, marketing management, and integrated marketing communications. There are also courses on social network analysis and web analytics.
Students enrolled in the investment management program of Boston University are typically professionals whose interests lie in risk management, investment research, and portfolio management. Here, they learn advanced knowledge of investment management, including valuation, strategies, and risk resulting in their increased employability in finance-related careers involving financial assets.
The coursework includes in-depth studies of the overall investment process, including security selection, asset allocation, and portfolio construction. Students must have a fundamental understanding of equity, debt, and derivative securities to understand the lessons, many of which are already on the master’s degree level. The lessons include the capital asset pricing model (CAPM) concept, the calculation of yields, accrued interest, bond prices, company valuation using financial ratio analysis, multistage dividend discount models, and other measurements.
The Scheller College of Business – Georgia Institute of Technology offers the Management of Technology certificate program, which non-MBA and MBA students can enroll. Graduates say that the certificate enhanced their employment prospects and their overall job capacity and performance.
Students develop their capacity to make effective and efficient management decisions and the ability to work well with peers across disciplines including business, science, and engineering. Their newfound abilities will be useful in their position as global marketplace players and their leadership of businesses. Their multidisciplinary perspective also enables them to overcome the rigorous challenges that both small and large entities deal with daily.
Professionals in the fields of construction management, program management, and portfolio management find Penn State’s Project Management program right up their alley. The career advancement opportunities after completing this 12-credit program are impressive, not to mention that these credits are transferable to the 30-credit Master of Project Management degree.
Students learn the advanced skills necessary toward planning, implementing, and monitoring projects up to closing them. The coursework includes a 3-credit required course (Project Management) and three 9-credit courses with choices like Cost and Value Management, Planning and Resource Management, and Interpersonal and Group Behavior. Students practice their leadership skills, including communication, motivation, and accountability in every step of the project management process.
This Project Managenent graduate certificate program puts the spotlight on the effects of project management on business strategy and success. Students learn best practices in change management and innovation, too.
Fordham University’s Real Estate Investment program is a 15-credit program open for individuals with a bachelor’s or a master’s degree, even a doctoral degree. Real estate developers, brokers, and attorneys, commercial real estate lenders, professionals in the construction industry, and others who want to become specialists in real estate investments are welcome to apply. The 12 credits come from four required courses, including Real Estate Finance, while the three credits are from two elective courses like Data Analytics and Technology.
Students gain insights into various real estate investment opportunities, become familiar with their analysis and valuation, and raise capital for these investments through debt and equity financing. They are also provided with hands-on experience in creating financial models, measuring economic returns, and analyzing cash flows.
The Wharton School – University of Pennsylvania offers its Strategic Management program for professionals who want to gain specialist skills in this area. Students learn about making more meaningful contributions to their respective organizations, particularly in staying competitive through effective and efficient strategies for the global workplace.
Their coursework includes Connected Strategy, Connected Strategy Capstone, and Business Strategy from Wharton: Competitive Advantage. The program consists of six-week courses delivered 100% online.
At the end of the program, students have become skilled professionals in analyzing the economic, social, and political factors that affect their organizations’ success; the assessments of their companies’ strengths and weakness; and the evaluation of their organizational and market structure. Their training will promote their career advancement because of their valuable contributions.
The University of Maryland Global Campus’ Learning Design and Technology program requires 18 credits for completion, of which six credits can be transferred from previous education. All of its courses are offered online, while the tuition fee follows standard graduate tuition rates.
Students learn about instructional design, application, and technology necessary to create, implement, and evaluate learning programs on digital platforms. These are skills considered vital in developing and enhancing a career in education, whether in the K-12 area or higher education, and careers in corporate training and museums, among other related careers. Students also learn about communication, project planning, content creation for digital platforms, and the relevant technology, including content management systems, website development, and web programming.
The Math Leadership program offered by the University of Maine – Farmington consists of four courses designed for educators who want to be math leaders, such as math interventionists or math coaches. The courses are Understanding and Implementing Maine’s State Standards; The Mathematics Content for Standards-Based Instruction; Effective Instructional Practices for Teaching Maine’s State Standards; and Mathematics Leadership K-12. These are taken in sequential order as a succeeding course builds on the knowledge built on its preceding course.
Students develop their practical and pedagogical content knowledge as a math teacher and their teacher leadership skills, particularly in facilitating professional development. They can also design, implement, and evaluate curricula and their related courses; create and execute programs designed to resolve academic situations, and facilitate capacity building programs in schools.
Drexel University’s E-Learning Leadership program is an 18-credit, 100% online program that takes as little as two years to complete; the university adopts a quarterly academic calendar. Unlike other programs, students are eligible for financial aid, and international students are welcome to apply.
Students gain a comprehensive understanding of distance and online learning theories and practices that, in turn, enables them to address the opportunities offered by emerging technologies for an enriched learning experience. They can also identify pedagogical strategies that address the most pressing issues in distance learning unique to their environments. Their mastery of e-learning leadership principles and practices opens up employment, consultancy, and leadership positions in the public and private sectors.
The University of Florida College of Education’s Dyslexia Specialist program welcomes teachers and other professionals to learn about the best practices in working with children with dyslexia and other reading disorders. The program requires completing 15 credit hours with all classes delivered fully online, and the admissions requirements include a bachelor’s degree and official transcripts.
Students must have prior experiences and basic skills in teaching reading to children, too. Their coursework includes the conduct and interpretation of literacy assessment tests, the implementation of intervention methods, and the foundation of dyslexia and literacy development. These methods are applied in the K-12 setting.
The University of Dakota highlights the importance of a deeper understanding of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) through this graduate certificate program. This is a 100% online program open to applicants with at least a bachelor’s degree, among other admissions requirements, and it requires 12 credit hours to complete; the estimated completion time is one year. Professionals working with people with ASD are welcome to apply.
Graduates gain professional insights into ASD to work in various settings from homes and schools to public and private institutions, including hospitals and human service agencies. As students, they learned effective intervention methods in dealing with individuals with ASD, among other pervasive developmental disorders, and their families or caregivers.
Penn State’s School of Internal Affairs is at the forefront of global studies through its International Relations program. Students must earn 12 credits, including six credits of core courses, three credits in 500 or 800 level courses, and three SIA elective credits or extra core courses. These include Global Cultures and Leadership; Colloquium on Current Policy Challenges; and Actors, Institutions, and Legal Frameworks in International Affairs.
Students follow rigorous academic standards, including a 3.0 GPA on all courses. They gain a meaningful understanding of historical and contemporary conflicts, both at the national and international levels; the political systems and institutions at the regional and international levels, including their impact on diplomacy, governance, and society; and American foreign policy, international political economy, and geopolitics.
Scientists, engineers, and military personnel are among the common applicants to Stanford School of Engineering’s International Security program. This isn’t surprising as students gain valuable insight into the international security landscape, the policies, practices, and treaties that shape complex security systems, and the national and international factors and players instrumental in the use of force in conflicts. The courses can be completed within one to two years, but the university allows three years, maximum, to complete the program.
Applicants must have a bachelor’s degree with at least a 3.0 GPA. Students must also receive a 3.0 grade (B) in each course to be considered for graduation. Graduates have a competitive edge in finding work as employees or consultants in multinational corporations, international organizations, and government agencies.
Princeton University’s Latin American Studies program is only open to any of its currently enrolled students in a doctoral program in social sciences, natural sciences, humanities, math, or engineering. Furthermore, students currently enrolled in its Master’s in Public Affairs program can also enroll, but they must submit a Latin American studies-related paper.
Students work closely with faculty members, take seminars and write dissertations on a wide range of Latin American studies-related topics. Completing the program results in a formal credential in Latin American studies that can be listed on the students’ curriculum vitae; however, the certificate isn’t reflected on the students’ official academic transcripts.
Harvard University’s Nuclear Deterrence program involves four courses, namely, History of the Cold War, Nuclear Weapons and International Security, Origins and Evolution of Deterrence Theory (all required), and an international security elective. Students typically take an average of 1.5 years to complete it, but they are allowed up to three years to complete requirements.
The program was developed with the United States Air Force, and it’s designed for students to gain an intensive appreciation of the contemporary issues of international security, particularly nuclear deterrence, control, and non-proliferation. Students also learn about nuclear arms types, including their effects; examples include ICBMs and ballistic missiles launched from submarines.
Washington State University offers an exceptional bioinformatics program where graduate students in computer science, engineering, and agriculture are welcome to apply. Students acquire a top-notch interdisciplinary education in bioinformatics, including computer science, genomics, and molecular biology, while learning in a rich academic environment. They must be currently enrolled, either part-time or full-time, in one of WSU’s degree-granting programs; post-graduate professionals may ask the certificate administrators to enroll in the program.
The program requires the completion of 12 credits, among other graduation requirements. Students learn the latest bioinformatics technologies and tools; enhance their computer science and programming, and develop their competency in various programming languages.
Students at Harvard University’s Biotechnology Management program must complete four courses for graduation purposes. While it can be completed in 1.5 years, students may complete it in three years – and considering the current $11,600 tuition, finishing ahead of time makes sense.
The program enables students to build their knowledge about the latest developments in life sciences, including tissue engineering, monoclonal antibodies, and targeted drug delivery. Students also gain basic yet useful business skills necessary for biotechnology management success with lessons on project management, finance, and entrepreneurship. The coursework includes a biotechnology course, a management course, an elective, and an application of knowledge and skills course.
Stanford University’s Epidemiology and Clinical Research program is under Stanford’s School of Medicine’s supervision, particularly its world-renowned Epidemiology and Population Health Department. Data scientists, clinical investigators, and administrators of clinical trials are typical students, although any individual interested in scientific research methodologies is welcome. Students must complete three compulsory courses and one elective course.
Here, students learn about statistical analysis as used in the medical industry, the design of epidemiologic studies; clinical research theory, clinical trials, and phases; and the fundamentals of statistical inference and probability. They will also make professional critiques of published papers, research manuscripts, and clinical trial protocols.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is where graduate students can find some of the world’s best Biotechnology and Life Sciences programs that open doors of opportunities for its graduates and expose them to innovation ideals. The typical students include engineers, biochemists, biologists, and microbiologists with at least a bachelor’s degree and three years of professional experience.
The program equips its students with an expanded knowledge of biotechnology from its fundamentals to the new technologies and trends influencing its direction. Students are provided with hands-on experiential learning opportunities, including working with MIT faculty and leaders of the industry, earning continuing education units, and becoming a member of the exclusive MIT LinkedIn group.
Social Sciences & Cultural Studies
The University of Nevada – Las Vegas wants to attract its graduate students to its Social Justice Studies program through exceptional instruction. Professionals who hold a bachelor’s degree at the minimum and have two years of full-time work experience can also apply for admission. Take note that the program is designed and the Transformative Standards for Social Justice, Peace, and Environmental Education lines.
Students build their knowledge of justice theories, including related topics like affirmative action, human rights and income distribution, and economic systems, social justice issues, and societal structures that affect society. The 18-credit program requires applicants to submit their curriculum vitae and a personal statement.
Students at the University of Maryland’s Intercultural Leadership program engage in in-person and online classes to learn about intercultural competence. The program consists of four online courses alongside a compulsory on-site residency, which translates to 13 credits; the combination of online and on-site courses allows for maximum flexibility while still providing students with the benefits of hands-on experiences.
Graduates are equipped with an increased ability to apply practical intercultural leadership strategies and, thus, influence affirmative action and diversity in their organizations. Their skills allow them active and effective engagement in promoting better intercultural interactions through the appropriate actions and behaviors.
The University of South Florida offers a relevant American Culture and Society program that integrates an interdisciplinary approach to interpreting arts and culture in the United States. Students learn to critically analyze arts and culture concerning historical issues and contemporary social values and complete the academic requirements for compulsory and elective courses. Courses include Cultural Era, a required course, and American Lives, Theories and Methods of Cultural Studies, and Enduring Questions in American Culture, which are elective courses.
This is a 12-credit hour program that must be completed within three years. Applicants must have a bachelor’s degree with a 3.0 minimum GPA and an acceptable GRE score; submit official transcripts, official resume, and letter of interest; and submit an academic writing sample. International applicants are welcome to apply, too.
Sustainability and the Environment
The American University’s Global Environment Policy is open to applicants with at least a bachelor’s degree or equivalent; other application requirements include official transcripts and a statement of purpose. This is a 15-credit hour program where at least nine credit hours are for 600-level or above courses and with at least a C grade in all courses. The maximum transferable credit is three credit hours, and the program must be completed within four years.
Students are encouraged to engage in lessons that tackle pressing international issues, including population growth, resource scarcity, and climate change. The courses are designed to imbue students with a deeper appreciation of the solutions, including policies and projects necessary in resolving the contemporary environmental challenges across the world.
Oregon State University offers an outstanding Sustainable Natural Resources program in line with its thrust to be among the world’s best research institutions for natural resources expertise. Students complete 18 credits in this online certificate program open to individuals interested in solving complicated sustainability issues. Together with instructors and other professionals, they will design viable solutions that address these issues from the local to the international levels.
Courses include Independent Project in Natural Resource Sustainability, Economics of Sustainable Natural Resource Management, and Ecological Principles of Sustainable Natural Resources. The credit and knowledge earned in this program can be applied toward the 45-credit online Master of Natural Resources program, too.
Yet another excellent graduate certificate program from Harvard University is the Sustainable Cities and Communities program! Students are required to complete four courses, all of which can be completed online, within three years, maximum.
The program enables students to build their knowledge and skills to design, develop, and maintain sustainable cities and communities. The courses include sustainable practices in infrastructure, transport, housing, and effective resource management. Students will also understand the contemporary ways in which human needs in urban and rural communities are being addressed and identify opportunities for creative solutions to old issues.
George Washington University’s Walkable Urban Real Estate Development program is a relevant course of study considering that the real estate industry’s future lies in it! For example, Washington, D.C. is among the walkable urban areas in the United States, and the university intends to promote its knowledge to a wider audience.
The 12-credit program, which includes Urban and Environmental Economics and Special Topics (Walkable Urban Development, Strategy, and Place Management), enables students to be future leaders in this emerging industry. Students acquire the skills to create and manage mixed-use walkable places in urban areas.
Northwestern University strives to be at the forefront of artificial intelligence, and its graduate certificate program on the topic is clear proof. Students must have mastery of probability and statistics, calculus and linear algebra, among other prerequisite subjects, and substantial experience in programming languages (Python, Java, and C++).
The curriculum includes Natural Language Processing, Artificial Intelligence, Deep Learning, Software Robotics, and Knowledge Engineering. Graduates can then demonstrate competency in machine learning, deep learning, natural language processing, and automated robotics use systems.
On the other hand, students of the front-end web development program achieve mastery of foundational languages and front-end website development. They also learn to create interactive and responsive websites and learn to code, drawing, and creating animated web graphics.
For individuals interested in an excellent cybersecurity program, their best bet is Stanford University’s cybersecurity program. Web developers, information security managers, and computer network architects are among its typical students. Here, they learn about computer systems security principles and practices, such as the prevention and protection against cyberattacks.
The courses include Introduction to Computer Networking, Computer and Network Security, Cryptocurrencies and Blockchain Technologies, and Introduction to Cryptography. These are designed to equip students with skills in digital forensics, privacy policies, and system penetrations.
Indiana State University’s Data Science program was created to help students gain new skills in cloud computing, data analysis, and data mining, among other relevant topics. With 100% online classes, students have the flexibility of creating their own study time. The certificate can be earned in two to four semesters, depending on the student’s preference.
The 12-credit-hour program encompasses computational techniques and machine learning that, in turn, aid students to gain mastery of data investigation, data computation, and data visualization.
Check out Stanford University’s Mining Massive Data Sets program if you’re a data miner who wants to improve your skills in dealing with massive amounts of raw data. The program is also open to software engineers, predictive modelers, statisticians, and market research and analytics professionals.
Keep in mind that it’s a selective program, and even applicants who meet the requirements aren’t guaranteed admission on the first try. Applicants must know basic computer science principles and possess the skills necessary to write non-trivial computer programs, aside from possessing a bachelor’s degree with a 3.0 GPA or better. Familiarity with data structures, linear algebra, algorithms, and artificial intelligence, database systems, and computer systems are a must.
What is a graduate certificate equivalent to?
A graduate certificate is above an associate degree and a bachelor’s degree on the progressive scale of tertiary qualifications, but it’s below a master’s degree and a doctoral degree. Keep in mind that it’s a post-baccalaureate qualification with most, if not all, graduate certificate programs requiring applicants to possess at least a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution.
In a way, a graduate certificate and a master’s degree are similar. Both are designed to provide their holders with highly specific knowledge and skills in a certain study course.
But there are distinct differences between a graduate certificate and a master’s degree that must be pointed at. A master’s degree is usually a full-time commitment for two years, sometimes more depending on the program. A graduate certificate typically requires less time spent on study, between one year to two years but it can possibly take longer depending on the program and the student’s schedule.
The number of credits and courses also differ between a master’s degree and a graduate certificate. With the latter, 18 credits are the typical limit, while the latter can have as high as 45 credits.
Between the two programs, which is the better choice? When you think about it, there’s no better choice since it will boil down to your personal needs and professional goals.
An excellent rule of thumb is to look at the marketplace demand for whatever graduate certificate or master’s degree you’re planning on pursuing. You must also remember that there’s more need for more education to gain a competitive edge where there’s less demand. In many cases, there’s room for both a master’s degree and a graduate certificate.
Examples of fields where a graduate certificate makes more sense, both in job opportunities and monetary advancement, are public relations, journalism, arts, and media. In business, finance, and economics, a master’s degree makes more sense, but it doesn’t mean to say that a relevant graduate certificate will not boost your chances. In the end, you must consider the unique factors in your industry and profession and your unique place in them.
And then there’s the distinction between a graduate certificate and a certification. On the one hand, accredited schools are awarded a graduate certificate to students who have completed the requirements in the specific course of study. On the other hand, a certification is a formal credential demonstrating a certain level of knowledge and skill necessary for performance in a specific occupation.
While a graduate certificate doesn’t have an expiry period, certification is akin to a license in that it’s limited by time, and it must be periodically renewed to be considered valid.
Is a graduate certificate worth anything?
Yes, of course, it is! Graduate certificates are among the most popular post-secondary formal credentials in the United States, with about 3% of the workforce possessing a graduate certificate (2012). According to a Statista study, the number of graduate certificate recipients increased from 25,602 in 2000 to 56,048 in 2014, an impressive increase, indeed, and proof that Americans acknowledge the value of graduate certificates.
The benefits of getting a graduate certificate cannot be denied! The most attractive of these benefits include:
In a Forbes article, professionals with graduate certificates may earn between 13% and 25% more in their jobs. Such an increase can change your financial situation – and you spent less time on finishing a graduate certificate program than you did in a master’s degree program, too! You can then enjoy a quicker return on investment, especially as many graduate certificate programs take only one to one-and-a-half years to complete.
Better job security
In our constantly evolving society, an advanced education means being updated on the latest technologies and, thus, distinguishing yourself from the competition. With employers seeking prospective employees with the best potential for productivity, a graduate certificate can prove such potential. Once employed, you will be able to meet your employer’s expectations, perhaps even propel it toward greater heights with your advanced knowledge and skills.
A graduate certificate can also be a gateway toward a master’s degree! Many graduate certificate programs even allow a transfer of credits from a graduate certificate program to a master’s degree program. But not all master’s degree programs allow it, so be sure to ask the admissions officer first.
Do you “graduate” with a graduate certificate?
Yes, in a way, you will graduate from a graduate certificate program after you have complied with its requirements, from the number of courses taken to the minimum grades for each course. But most, if not all, schools don’t include graduate certificate recipients in their commencement or graduation ceremony.
How much do graduate certificates cost?
The tuition for Graduate Certificate programs can go as low as $5,000 and as high as $11,000 in prestigious private institutions like Harvard University and Stanford University. In most cases, the stated tuition apply to the entire program but be sure to ask first for possible other charges.
There’s also the trend that graduate certificate programs typically have higher tuition fees than undergraduate certificates. The discrepancy can be attributed to the professors with advanced degrees who teach in graduate certificate programs. After all, these programs are designed to equip students with a set of highly specific, advanced knowledge and skills in a particular area! It makes sense that the professors deliver on the promise by being notable experts in their fields and, as such, they command higher salaries.
We also want to point out that most schools offering graduate certificate programs exclude students from in-school financial aid programs, including scholarships and grants and state and federal aid. But it doesn’t automatically mean that you will pay all of your tuition fees! You can check with your employers, for example, about possible subsidies for your studies.