What is a Certificate Program?

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  • Written By: Diane Goettel
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 30 August 2018
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A certificate program is a set period of education that results in a certificate of completion rather than a degree. In general, these programs either prepare students to complete a specific task or educate them about one particular aspect of their field. A massage therapist, for example, may complete one in order to become educated about and be licensed to practice reflexology in addition to massage. On the other hand, a licensed therapist with a bachelor’s or even a master’s degree in psychology may decide to complete a certificate program in Addiction Studies or Institutional Research. This training would supplement the therapist’s education and prepare her to work in another arena within her profession.

Because these programs either replace or supplement degree programs, many people find them useful throughout their careers. Individuals often find professional success by regularly updating their knowledge base. Furthermore, many courses are now available online, both through traditional schools and online-only institutions.


While a certificate program can supplement an individual's present career, it can also help him or her to begin a new one. If, for example, a person has worked in technology for a number of years and is looking to move into the medical field, there are a number of programs available that will help him or her to begin a new career. Furthermore, it can provide the individual with additional skills to fall back on in the event that his or her present career does not work out as expected. Many freelance artists and individuals who own small businesses, for example, have developed special skills that they can rely on in the event that their art or business does not perform as well as they had hoped.

It is important to note that while, in some industries, a certificate program can take the place of a degree, this is not true across the board. Before registering for a course, people should be sure to speak with the program administrators about how they plan to use the certificate. Additionally, someone who plans to complete a program to supplement his or her present career should talk to his or her employer about those plans. It's important for the individual to make sure that the certificate will be recognized by the employer before investing time and money in the venture.


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Post 2

There are also graduate and advanced certificate programs. Undergraduate certificate programs often have few requirements for enrollment beyond having a high school diploma or GED. Graduate level certificate programs are usually reserved for those who have a Bachelor’s degree or better. Graduate professors teach advanced certificate programs, giving more complex and comprehensive insight on a topic.

Post 1

Many colleges offer certificate degree programs. These certificate programs are suitable for degree seeking students who want to specialize in a certain area. They are also good for those who need to fill an educational gap when changing careers (as the article stated).

Most certificate programs are less rigorous than a minor is, and sometimes more focused than a minor. For example, an engineering major may want to pursue a certificate in Geographic Information Systems (GIS).

GIS certification proves proficiency in capturing, analyzing, and managing geographical scientific data, and can mean the difference between a project manager and a general engineer. A GIS certificate would focus much more on the technology of used to gather geographic information than say a minor in geography would.

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