Why Get a Certificate?
There are many benefits to completing a certificate program. If you are starting your job search, completing a certificate program will boost your skills and abilities, and will make you look more impressive in the job market.
If you already have a career, you still might complete a certificate program to hone a particular skill. For example, there are a number of IT certificate programs that help people develop skills and knowledge bases that are necessary in the IT industry. There are also certificates in management, such as project management certificates.
Keep in mind, however, that certificates are not the same as professional licenses and certification. Licenses are required for particular jobs, such as teaching and cosmetology. Certifications show that a person has gained skills in a particular field. For example, there are a number of accounting certifications that can help an accountant move up in his or her career. These certifications typically require an exam. Sometimes you can take a certificate program to help you prepare for a licensure or certification.
How to Find the Right Certificate Program for You
Ask your contacts. If you are interested in starting on a particular career path, ask people in that field what kinds of degrees and certificates people in that field usually have. Set up informational interviews to ask these contacts what certificates you might get to help your career. If one of your contacts completed a certificate program, get their feedback on the school and the program.
Talk to your current employer. If you are looking for a certificate program to help boost your career, talk to your employer. He or she might have some suggestions for certificates that could enhance your resume and even lead to a promotion. Also check into whether or not your company offers to pay (or partially refund) a certificate program if it’s related to your current job.
Check local schools. Most certificate programs are issued by schools (although some are issued by companies and other organizations). Once you know what kind of certificate you want, check your local colleges, community colleges, and vocational-technical schools to see what programs they offer. In-state and community colleges often have the least expensive certificate programs.
Find an accredited school. Make sure the school you select is accredited by the US Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education. For-profit schools are not always accredited, and they sometimes lack rigorous academics and/or useful career services. Just because a school produces a lot of advertisements (in print, online, or on billboards) does not mean it is the right school for you.
Find a program that works with your schedule. Look into what each program costs, how long it takes to complete the program, and what the program offers (i.e., on-the-job training, courses, exams, etc.). Select a program that fits your schedule. For example, if you want to continue to work full time while completing the program, make sure the program’s schedule is flexible.
If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. If you find a certificate program that seems too easy, too inexpensive, or too quick to complete, it likely is. Do some research to make sure the program is accredited.
Talk to alumni. Another way to avoid bad certificate programs is to talk to alumni. Most schools should be willing to put you in touch with alumni who can answer your questions about the program. Ask those alumni what the program was like, and whether or not it helped them find a job.