By Amanda Riggs
Team Manager, Academic Advising at American Public University
At the time of this publication, APU offers 95 certificate options (52 for undergraduate students and 43 for graduates) and 23 minors. With so many options available, it can be challenging to narrow down your selection.
When you are deciding whether or not it would be advantageous to add a certificate or a minor to your degree, there are many factors to consider. To begin this discussion, let’s go over some of the specifics.
- Undergraduate students pursuing an associate degree can add an undergraduate certificate to their program. However, this may add to the total length of a degree program and may not always be covered by certain types of funding.
- Students pursuing a bachelor’s degree are able to add a minor or an undergraduate certificate, or both, to their program. However, this may add to the total length of a degree program and may not always be covered by certain types of funding.
- Graduate students pursuing a master’s degree can add a graduate certificate to their program. Adding a graduate certificate will always increase the total length of a master’s program and may not be covered by certain types of funding. Minors cannot be added to any graduate degree.
- If the course requirements of a minor or certificate overlap significantly with the student’s degree program, the academic advisor will be unable to add that credential.
Next, it is important to consider what type of program you are in, as well as what your personal and professional goals are now and in the future. Ask yourself:
- Is your degree technical?
- Are certificates or minors respected in your area of study?
- Will a certificate or minor decrease your potential for future transfer credit?
- Have you spoken with your Academic Advising Team?
It often seem as though a minor is the better fit for an undergraduate program since they seem to be more common than certificates in academia. A certificate may be a wise choice if you are preparing to do something specific, such as receive a promotion, or obtain a certain skill set. If you are pursuing a technical degree, a certificate may be the better option. A stand alone certificate program is also a great choice if you are looking to begin your college career but are not quite ready to tackle a full associate or bachelor’s degree as an undergraduate student.
It is important to note that APU certificates are not equivalent to industry certifications. Although in some circumstances our certificate programs may fulfill a prerequisite or deal with a portion of the material covered in a non-APU affiliated certification exam, we do not offer, endorse, or provide eligibility to take certification tests.
On the other hand, if receiving a degree quickly is your highest priority, then the addition of a minor to your bachelor’s program might be a more practical option. All of our minors are 18 credit hours, while some of our certificate programs require more coursework (the undergraduate certificate in United Nations requires 24 credit hours, for example).
A minor is also a shrewd choice if you are hoping to study an area of interest, not necessarily an area of practicality or need. Minors allow you to learn about a generalized area of study, such as history, English, or religion, while certificates relate to specific topics like infant and toddler care, IT Infrastructure Security, and Weapons of Mass Destruction Preparedness.
Lastly, when selecting a certificate or minor, you should be aware that your new coursework will be required as electives for your program. If you do not have enough elective room to accommodate your minor or certificate, then your total program length will need to extend. As with any change to your program, it is best to speak with your Academic Advising Team about what is best for your specific situation. There may be other circumstances that will be important for you to discuss with an advisor prior to making this choice. We look forward to hearing from you!