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Certificate vs Degree

Graduate Certificate versus a Masters Degree

Graduate certificates have become an integral part of professional education. They are no longer the impoverished alternative to a graduate degree; in today's economy graduate certificates play an important niche role for people who are looking for specific skill sets to boost their career opportunities and job capabilities. They are not, however, a substitute for a master's degree. Which course you choose to take really depends on your goals and your current career/educational status.

The Master's Degree on the Resume

A master's degree is most important when you are applying for that first job in your chosen profession. The difference between a BA or BA and a master's degree is obvious to an employer; the master's implies explicit study and training at a high level for your field. A bachelor's degree, particularly in the humanities, implies a compelling interest in the subject but not necessarily the job-oriented training.

Psychology is a good example; it is one of the most popular undergraduate degrees. However a job working in some sort of counseling or psychological evaluation field is going to require a master's degree - in many cases, a master's degree plus a state-issued credential. A certificate in counseling does not convey that level of expertise, nor does it meet the academic requirements for a counseling license.

The Graduate Certificate on the Resume

A graduate certificate is something best suited for individuals who have developed some sort of career track. Most graduate certificates are three to nine courses in duration and do not meet the benchmark for professional training. What they do provide however, is an educational boost for someone for whom the certificate provides important additional credentials.

Graduate certificate programs are professional education programs; that is why in many instances employers will pay for certain of their staff members to go back to school for one. For people who are mid-career professionals, completing a certificate program can mean a lot if you are looking for work in the same field where you have experience and with the certificate, additional training. A certificate on the resume of someone with experience - in project management, for instance - means that the applicant has some initiative and personal interest in improving job skills.

A Master's Degree is Your Career Engine

In the world of resumes and interviews, a graduate certificate on top of a baccalaureate isn't going to gain you a lot of additional recognition. Employers generally are looking for new hires that are qualified for eventual promotion. Public health is a good example. While a graduate certificate may supply all of the technical information on a particular professional skill it will not provide the study hours devoted to leadership or management. Those are skills that we generally learn on the job, but they are also an important part of the education being presented by an applicant for an executive - even a junior executive position.

A Graduate Certificate Provides Fuel

While a graduate certificate may not be the best entry-level credential, it can garner a lot of attention for someone who having established a position in a particular industry, makes the effort to upgrade the educational credentials. Graduate certificates are no longer cheap substitutes for degrees. Many are highly concentrated courses of study that provide limited expertise in a targeted field. There is also a great deal of flexibility in many of these programs: there may be one or two core courses and then a string of electives that allow the student to chart the most relevant course of study.

Graduate Certificates are for Master's Graduates Too

The graduate certificate has assumed a larger role as the body of knowledge that impacts a profession grows much faster today than ever before. Plenty of MBA grads, teachers with a MAEd and even physicians are enrolling in graduate certificate programs to fill educational holes. You'll find doctors in a program on health informatics and teachers enrolled in a certificate program in order to become principals. Graduate certificates and a graduate level education are not an either/or option; they fill different educational roles - often for a single professional.