Online Certificate Programs

Upon completing high school, many graduates may feel compelled to seek a college degree. Although higher education does indeed provide high school graduates with additional career and financial opportunities across their lifespan, the reality is that four-year degree programs may not be feasible (due to cost) or practical (given the student’s skills and strengths). With this in mind, students seeking to obtain the benefits of advanced education without the challenges of completing a four-year degree may choose a certificate or certification program.

Certification programs are commonly provided in vocational careers and trades (think welding or HVAC) and provide students with a cost effective alternative for obtaining a higher paying career. Certification programs typically take several weeks to 12 months to complete, cost significantly less than a college education and enable the certificate holder to enter the workforce upon completion of the program. Certification programs typically provide the student with skills training in a particular trade or vocation with limited requirements for academic or liberal arts courses. Certification programs are typically provided by vocational schools, trade schools and community colleges. In some instances, universities that provide a full range of undergraduate and graduate programs will also provide certification training for students interested in these programs.

Benefits of a Certificate Program

In terms of the benefits of certification programs, the financial benefits for the graduate are often the most substantial. Students seeking certification in a particular trade or vocation will spend considerably less on their education than if they enroll in a two- or four-year degree program. Because certification programs focus on the skills and training needed by the student, money is not wasted on general academic courses that may have not real value for the student upon graduation. Cost savings from certificate programs are accentuated by increased earning potential for the graduate. Most certificate programs are provided in high demand fields in which a number of jobs exist. As such, the completion of a certification program will not only increase the job and career opportunities available to the graduate, these programs will also make it possible for the graduate to earn significantly more than a high school graduate. Students pursing certification will also have a number of choices for career development. As a result, students will be able to select certificate programs based on their desire to enter a particular profession. This will lead to increased job and life satisfaction over the long-term. Certification programs can also be useful for individuals seeking to change careers.

Types of Online Certificate Programs

Types of certification programs available for students vary based on the specific trade or vocation in which certification is sought. An individual seeking employment as a home health aide will need to acquire a different certification than an individual seeking employment as an electrical technician. Professional certification indicates to an employer that a job candidate is able to competently complete a task or job. More broadly, professional certifications may be classified by the length of time for which certification is provided. In some instances, professional certification is provided once and is considered to be in place over the individual’s lifetime. Education received and tests taken to obtain this certification are not required in the future. In other instances, certification is only provided for a limited amount of time. These types of certifications require re-certification after a certain number of months or years. Re-certification is often required in vocations and trades that change as a result of improved technology or changes in government regulations. Additionally, re-certification in a specific vocation or trade may be required to ensure that the professional retains vital skills that are essential to successful practice. Individuals seeking certification in their field will need to consider whether their certification is lifetime or limited. Knowing the difference will ensure that re-certification is acquired if needed.

Possible Careers

Certificate programs are typically provided in a host of vocational and technical careers. Because these types of careers require some technical knowledge along with hands-on experience, certification is a viable option for skill development. Examples of certification programs can be seen in trade professions including: plumbers, electricians and auto mechanics. Certifications can also be sought in more technical areas such as pharmacy technician, computer programming and medical assisting. Certification provides the professional with a number of career opportunities to enter into well paying professions that are typically in demand. Demand for healthcare professionals in all disciplines is expected to increase by more than 30 percent over the course of the next 10 years. Career options for most certificate holders will include entry-level jobs. However, because of the level of hands-on experience required in these types of jobs, acquisition of work experience will enable the professional to advance in his or her career. Advancement may require the need for additional training, education or certification. In many instances, employers will pay for employees to obtain this training while they continue working. Career advancement into mid-level positions will increase earnings and provide the professional with the opportunity to increase overall job and career satisfaction.

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