A graduate certificate program addresses a focus area of a particular academic discipline. It consists of between 9-21 credits depending upon the program and college or university offering it. Like your undergraduate degree, a graduate certificate program can consist of core classes and electives, although some programs only focus on the core classes. Due to the condensed nature of the program, many universities do require you to earn a certain grade in each course, and not just pass, in order to graduate.
What You Need to Have in Order to Enroll
Generally, you first need to have earned your bachelor’s degree, and you also need to apply to the specific graduate college for admission into a graduate certificate program. However, your bachelor’s degree does not always need to directly correspond with the graduate certificate program you are seeking. For example, you could have a Bachelor of Arts in History (your major), and pursue a graduate certificate in Education. The graduate college will make the determination of whether or not you qualify for the program based on your academic history and credentials.
Reasons to Earn a Graduate Certificate
Graduate certificate programs are great ways to meet a continuing education requirement for your profession. This includes licensing requirements for some careers, as well as staying up-to-date on the latest advances in a particular discipline or industry. Graduate certificates can also help you learn new skills and subject matter fairly quickly, thus allowing you change career paths in less time than it takes to earn a degree. The best part of a graduate certificate program is its flexibility—namely that should you choose to end up pursuing a master’s degree at some point in the future, in many cases the hours you earned for you graduate certificate will transfer toward that degree.
Graduate Certificate Versus Master’s Degree
A graduate certificate program is shorter and thus, less expensive than a master’s degree program. While being more specific in some cases, it also goes less in depth into a particular, specialized field of study than a master’s degree does. A graduate certificate program will help you gain experience in graduate-level coursework, so if you do decide to pursue a graduate degree one day, you will have some familiarity with graduate school.