What Is a Graduate Certificate?
Do you need additional education to advance in your career, but don't have the time? Have you always wanted to earn a graduate degree, but life keeps getting in the way? Ever consider a graduate certificate?
Graduate Certificate Definition
You will find that colleges and universities offer graduate certificates. They address a focus area of a particular discipline(s) and are composed of at least four graduate-level courses. Certificate programs may include required courses and electives. They may be part of a degree program or offered independently. The number of credits needed to complete the certificate is determined by the institution, generally ranging from nine to 21 credit hours.
Graduate certificates may be offered in any discipline. To enroll in a graduate certificate, you generally need a bachelor's degree and acceptance into graduate school. You don't need to be seeking a graduate degree. In addition, you must typically meet a specific grade in each course in order to graduate.
Reasons to Earn One
You may choose to earn a graduate certificate to meet continuing education requirements for certification or licensure, maximize career prospects, learn new skills or keep-to-date in your field. You may not have time for a graduate degree and decide to earn a certificate instead. Generally, credits earned in a certificate program can be transferred to a master's degree later. In addition, earning a graduate certificate adds to your credentials in the particular field. Graduate certificates can be taken for professional development or personal reasons.
Comparison to a Graduate Degree
Graduate certificate programs are shorter and more specifically focused. A master's degree generally takes two years to complete. Just as with graduate degrees, you usually need to complete a graduate certificate within a specific time frame, generally between three and five years.
Because graduate certificate programs are shorter than graduate degree programs, they tend to be less expensive. You gain experience in graduate-level coursework, so if you decide to pursue a graduate degree, you will have some familiarity with graduate school. Graduate certificate programs also provide a quicker way to change careers than graduate degree programs.