What is a College Certificate Program?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 03 April 2020
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A college certificate program is a career-focused educational program that provides people with training and skills in an accelerated program of study. Once a person has completed the certificate, she is eligible for employment in her chosen field. College certificate programs are a way of fast-tracking certification so that a person can get out of school and into the workplace more quickly. Certificate programs are offered in a number of subjects at numerous educational institutions.

Community colleges, technical schools, and regular four-year colleges can all offer college certificate programs. Such programs have an intensive curriculum that can be completed in as short a period as a year. Rather than completing prerequisites and taking a broad spectrum of classes for a well rounded general education, students focus on taking courses key to their area of interest so that they can qualify to work professionally. Once students have completed the course requirement, they are issued certificates of completion.

Common subjects at a college certificate program include business, accounting, paralegal education, and administration. The programs offered vary and information is usually available from a college guidance or admissions office. This information includes lists of course requirements to obtain a certificate and estimates of how long it takes to complete the college certificate program. Some colleges offer features like night classes and intensives for students who need more flexibility in their schedules. Financial assistance, including grants, loans, and scholarships, is usually available to people in college certificate programs.


The advantage of completing a college certificate program is that it provides someone with the skills needed to enter a career directly. Disadvantages can include devaluation of certificates in some industries, where degrees may be preferred, along with a lack of diversity in education that can be a problem later. For example, people who don't take English classes might not have the writing skills they need to succeed in their careers in the long term.

People exploring careers, whether they are thinking of changing jobs or just entering the job market for the first time, may want to consider a college certificate program among the options they can use to prepare for a new career. It can be helpful to look at job listings in the area of interest to see what kinds of requirements are standard in the industry. It may also be useful to ask people currently working in the industry if they have advice about training and certification.


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