Graduate Certificate Programs – How helpful are they


Graduate Certificate Programs are short-term educational programs that help students who take these courses gain a certain level of proficiency in the chosen skill. These certifications are attested by a third party proving a person’s knowledge and level of proficiency in a certain skill or a profession. The organizations that attest these certifications are usually professional societies or Universities or sometimes private agencies. Some of these certifications have a time limit. This means an individual who takes these courses should renew their certification after a certain time. This helps to make sure that the individual is up-to-date on the latest advancements in the profession.

Most of these certifications are endorsed by professional associations, trade organizations and private vendors to ensure industry standards. Certifications are common in almost all fields like aviation, healthcare, business, real estate, finance, construction, environmental engineering, and technology.

Before we get to the Graduate Certificate programs, there are few other certifications that are also helpful for graduates. There are four types of certifications.

  • Corporate
  • Product specific
  • Profession Specific and
  • Professional certificates given by Universities.
  1. Corporate: These are the certificates given internally in an organization to prove that the individual went through a certain training program. These certificates are not valid outside that organization.
    Example: 1) The initial training is given in a customer service organization to an individual to prove that the person went through a certain training to ensure the company policies are followed on the call or contact. 2) Certificates were given to personnel for sales training internally in a sales company.
  2. Product Specific: Product specific certificate is very common in the IT industry. These certificates are usually valid in all the organizations that use the same product.
    Example: Product specific training given in industries like AWS (Amazon Web Services), CCNA (Cisco Certified Network Associate)
  3. Profession Specific: These certifications are usually profession-wide certifications. That means personnel given a certificate is certified to work throughout the profession wherever it is practiced. That means it is accepted by all the organizations.
    Example: A medical certificate and Certified Public Accountant (CPA)

Graduate Certification Programs

These certifications are usually given by universities to qualified individuals that have demonstrated certain proficiency in a field of education. Or to put in simple words, these certificates are given to an individual that has completed an educational program. These educational programs have a set curriculum focused on a subject or a skill. This also requires the individual to attend classes. Graduate certificate programs are available through online classes, on campus, and as summer classes as well. These certificates are available for an individual who manages complete Continuing Education Credits (CEC) or Continuing Education Units (CEU). If interested, these credits can be applied to the master’s degree in some cases. However, the individual must be enrolled in the master’s program to do so. The graduate certificate programs are available in almost all the universities through an option called Continuing Education. These programs are available throughout the year including summer. Most but not all the classes have a flexible schedule.                                                                                      Example: Professional Certificate in Accounting (PCA), Professional Certificate in Financial Planning (PCFP), Professional certificate in Graphic Design (PCGD), Professional Certificate in Marketing (PCM), Profession certificate in Paralegal Studies (PCPS), Professional Certificate in Store Management (PCSM) and Professional Certificate in Technical Communication (PCTC) etc.

Some of the universities that offer these Graduate Certificate programs are:

Some universities have a rigorous curriculum for some of their Certificate programs called “Advanced Professional Certificates.”

Advanced professional Certificate: These are usually given to professionals to better their job performance and to enhance their marketability. This certificate proves that the individual has proven his or her subject matter expertise through a course set forth by the faculty of a university or a committee. The advanced professional certificate programs are also available in most of the universities in the United States. These certificates are also graduate certificates.

Some of the universities that offer these certificates are:

Time taken to complete Graduate Certificate Programs

Graduate certificate programs typically take less time to complete compared to a full-time master’s program. It usually takes around 200-300 hours. However, it is not the same with all the courses and all the universities. Some of the universities have options to complete programs in as less time as 5-6 sessions for a course.  Example: Baruch College in New York has the option to complete an accounting course in Accounting with QuickBooks that could be completed in 5 sessions. There are some other courses that take at least six months to complete from the same university.

So, the time taken to complete a program is subjected to change depending on the course and the university. Regardless, graduate certification programs typically take less time to complete compared to a full-time master’s degree which takes around 2 years in most cases.

Cost for a Graduate Certificate Program

Graduate Certificate Programs can not only be complete in a short time, but they are also very economical. In some of the universities, they cost as low as $600.       Example: Baruch Accounting with QuickBooks from college costs only $645.00 and certificate program in accounting from Penn State University online costs $930.00. There are certain programs that cost a few thousand dollars, Accounting certificate from Harvard University could cost around $11,000.00 to complete.



About David

After completing his undergraduate, David wanted to get a Master's degree. Looking at cost of getting a 2 year degree, David decided there should be some financial aid and scholarship available to help out students like him. He has since then been researching on Graduate program scholarships and how to help future students like him secure a financial aid and make the education affordable.

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