By Dr. Robert Gordon
Program Director, Reverse Logistics Management at American Public University
Many people today are considering certificate education rather than a degree. Similarly, many financial aid organizations now recognize a university’s certificate program as an acceptable goal worthy of funding.
However, some students still wonder whether certificates are worth the effort. After all, going into debt for a certificate is not a good idea unless there was a possibility of greater earning potential in the future.
But an academic certificate program is well worth the investment. If you are considering the certificate route, make sure you find a certificate that meets your future career goals.
Certificates May Lead to Greater Opportunities and Better Pay
An academic certificate program offers a level of accomplishment that translates into more opportunities and more pay. Also, a certificate program is faster to complete than a traditional degree, yet it still displays a high level of academic accomplishment.
When you review different certificate programs, keep in mind that they are more diverse than academic degrees. Certificates can be earned in multiple areas of knowledge that might not be recognized in a single degree.
For example, a certificate in leadership and logistics offers an education in two different academic fields. Students will gain a solid foundation about leaders, the leadership process and motivation as they explore the basic principles of business logistics without having to earn a dual degree.
Certificates Offer Many Benefits
Certificates are more flexible than a degree. For instance, you can certainly earn a master’s degree in homeland security. But if you already have an MBA, it might make more sense to get a graduate certificate or endorsement in homeland security. By earning a certificate, you build upon the education you already have, rather than start over with a new degree.
Certificates cover many different areas of knowledge, such as programming, social media or project management. There are even certificates for becoming a webmaster or growing your proficiency in Oracle Database.
In fact, there are far more certificate programs available than academic degrees because not all certificates earn academic credit. Be sure to evaluate whether or not your certificate has academic credit before you start your program.
Although some certificates might not result in a student becoming a renowned expert, earning the certificate shows a level of proficiency beyond a typical practitioner in the field.
Certificates with Academic Credit May Contribute to a Degree
The advantage of a certificate that offers academic credit is that the credits apply toward a future degree. For example, if a certificate program requires 18 academic credits and some master’s programs require 36 credits, you could be halfway toward a master’s if you went to go in that direction.
However, if your certificate program does not carry academic credit, a university may or may not accept it for transfer credit. Consequently, you may have to take those classes again to earn your master’s degree.
Certificates Offer Value to Employers
A common misconception about certificates is that they are not as valued by employers as academic degrees. The reality is that certificates carry a level of importance based upon the organization endorsing them.
Certificates earned at an accredited academic institution or endorsed by an industry association with millions of members worldwide would likely have widespread acceptance. Certificates from small, private institutions with only a few thousand members would probably be less esteemed by employers.
Find the Certificate that Fits You
In the end, you need to find a certificate program that is a good fit for what you hope to accomplish. If you just want to learn a new skill, look at earning your certificate online where classwork is mostly self-guided.
If you want a certificate with a value that would be recognized by employers, then seriously consider a certificate program that carries academic credit. Those credits can be used toward a future degree and the certificate offers increased credibility because it is associated with an accredited institution.
About the Author
Dr. Robert Lee Gordon is the program director for the Reverse Logistics Management department at American Public University. Robert has more than 25 years of professional experience in supply chain management and human resources. He earned his Doctorate of Management and Organizational Leadership and his Masters of Business Administration from the University of Phoenix as well as earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in History from UCLA.