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Certificate programs are designed to give students mastery over a narrow subject area or topic. These programs are offered in many trades, professional fields, and academic areas and are available at both the undergraduate and graduate levels..
Certificate Programs Overview
Certificate programs are available at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Before enrolling, prospective students may want to consider program options, admissions requirements, and curriculum.
Certificate programs are generally geared towards adult students and students looking for short-term training leading to immediate employment. These non-degree programs are usually provided at two main levels: undergraduate and graduate. They may be offered in a wide variety of subjects, from trade occupations, like plumbing and air conditioning repair, to academic subjects, like accounting and communication.
Undergraduate certificate programs are for students who haven't previously completed an undergraduate degree. These programs are available through many community colleges, universities, and career schools. Certificates are available in skilled trades, career-oriented fields, and academic fields. Some programs offer coursework that is similar to that of associate's degree programs in the same subject, and students may be able to transfer their credits to associate's degree programs when they finish. Examples of undergraduate certificate programs include heating and air conditioning repair, medical assisting, dental assisting, office management, business, and accounting. Undergrad Certificate Requirements
While the entry requirements for undergraduate certificate programs vary by school and by program, most students who hold a high school diploma or GED qualify for admittance. Schools may have additional requirements, such as basic math skills, English language skills, and basic technology proficiency.
Graduate Certificate Requirements
Graduate certificate programs are designed for students who already hold an undergraduate degree, such as a Bachelor of Arts or a Bachelor of Science. Students may also need to meet a minimum GPA requirement set forth by the school. Applicants to a graduate certificate program may be required to submit some of the following application materials: application and fee, official transcripts, standardized test scores, personal statement, and letters of recommendation.
These certificate programs are shorter than graduate degree programs and can usually be completed in less than one year on a full-time schedule. Some schools may allow students earning credits in a graduate certificate program to transfer those credits to a graduate degree program at a later date. Included below are a few courses in a graduate certificate in entrepreneurship:
By earning an undergraduate or graduate certificate, individuals can prepare for future careers, expand their knowledge in an academic field, and/or earn credit toward a full degree.
Diploma programs are short curricula that encompass a broad range of fields defined by the educational institution offering the diploma. Federal, state and local departments rarely set guidelines for diploma programs, sometimes making them the target of educational fraud such as 'diploma mills.' The following article outlines common diploma programs and teaches individuals how to avoid diploma mill scams.
What is an associate’s degree?
An associate’s degree is an academic program taken at the undergraduate level (the first stage after secondary school). It aims to give students the basic technical and academic knowledge and transferable skills they need to go on to employment or further study in their chosen field.
Associate’s degrees are most commonly offered in the US, but you’ll also find them in some parts of Canada, Hong Kong, Australia and the Netherlands. Other countries have similar programs but under a different name, such as foundation degrees in the UK.
In the US, associate’s degrees are available at various types of college, including community colleges, junior colleges and technical colleges, affiliated colleges of universities and university institutes. It typically takes two years full-time to complete an associate’s degree.
For some students, an associate’s degree provides preparation for a bachelor’s degree, while for others it’s a qualification in its own right, helping to improve employment prospects compared to only having completed a secondary-level education.
What’s the difference between a bachelor’s degree and an associate’s degree?
Both bachelor’s degrees and associate’s degrees are categorized as “undergraduate” degrees, meaning that they are both open to students as soon as they complete secondary level education. In contrast “postgraduate” degrees, such as master’s or PhD programs, require students to have already completed a bachelor’s-level program.
So how can you decide whether to apply for a bachelor’s degree or an associate’s degree?
Here’s a roundup of some of the key differences:
In order to gain either qualification, you’ll need to complete a specified number of study hours or course credits. This may vary slightly depending on the institution and location, but an associate’s degree usually takes two years to complete full time. In the US this equates to 60 credit hours as opposed to the 120 hours required for a bachelor’s degree – which takes about four years to complete full time.
Many associate’s degree students choose to study part-time, which of course means the degree will take longer to complete. On the other hand, it’s also possible to take a “fast-track” course, working at an accelerated pace and even studying during the vacations to complete the degree in a shorter time.
Students who’ve completed an associate’s degree may be able to transfer some relevant course credits to count towards a bachelor’s degree, shortening the time needed for the latter degree.
Tuition fees for associate’s degrees tend to be lower, and as the course takes less time to complete, the overall cost is considerably less than that of a bachelor’s degree. The difference in costs will vary depending on the institution, but you can typically expect to pay around two to three times less for an associate’s degree. And, as you’ll also spend less time studying, you’re likely to spend less on costs such as accommodation as well.
Finally, entry requirements for associate’s degrees are typically much less competitive than for bachelor’s degrees, and admissions deadlines are usually later. They can be an alternative for students who don’t meet the entry requirements for a bachelor’s degree, perhaps because they studied more vocational courses or didn’t quite get strong enough grades.
Types of associate degrees
There are four types of associate degrees: AA (Associate of Arts), AS (Associate of Science, AAA (Associate of Applied Arts) and AAS (Associate of Applied Science). The main difference is that the ‘applied’ courses are more focused on preparing students for a particular career, focusing on practical vocational skills, whereas the AA and AS are targeted more at students who want to go on to a bachelor’s degree, with a focus on preparation for higher levels of academic study.
Online associate degrees are also becoming more popular, due to their flexibility and affordability, allowing individuals to work while they study, often for a reduced price.
Careers with an associate’s degree
Possible careers with an associate’s degree will vary in terms of the type of associate’s degree, and the subject you major in. However, there are lots of relatively high-paying and highly skilled jobs that can be entered with an associate’s degree. For example, one recent list of attractive careers with an associate’s degree includes dental hygienist, web developer, nuclear technician, radiation therapist and air traffic controller.
Studying a bachelor’s degree is likely to open up even more possible professional pathways – but it’s definitely worth checking whether you actually need a bachelor’s to enter your chosen career, especially if you’re facing high tuition fees. You may be surprised by how many skilled roles require only an associate’s level qualification. And as many bachelor’s degrees are more academically rather than vocationally oriented, bachelor’s graduates often need to undergo further professional training before they can start work.
Transferring from an associate’s degree to a bachelor’s degree
Transferring from an associate’s degree to a bachelor’s degree is often very simple. As long as your course credits are relevant and accepted by the university offering the bachelor’s degree, you can transfer them and join the bachelor’s program halfway through – known as the 2 + 2 format.
If you do want to have this option, make sure you research your chosen institutions and their requirements, as you may need to take specific classes/credit hours to ensure you’re fully prepared to transfer to the bachelor’s program. Why choose an associate’s degree?
There are lots of possible reasons to choose an associate’s degree. You may want to enter the workplace more quickly and cost-effectively. Or you may want to study a full bachelor’s degree but not have strong enough grades, or simply like the idea of paying lower tuition fees for a few years before transferring.
In fact, perhaps the easiest way to decide whether or not you should embark on an associate’s degree is to consider the career you want to get into, and to apply for the degree that will best equip you for that position. It might even be worthwhile checking current job listings in the country you want to work in and researching the qualifications and skills most in demand among your target employers.
A bachelor’s degree is a four-year undergraduate degree. Historically, the term “college degree” meant a bachelor’s or traditional four-year degree.
It typically takes four years of full-time study to complete your bachelor’s degree—encompassing 120 semester credits or around 40 college courses. If your college uses a quarter system rather than a semester system, you’ll need to complete a minimum of 180 quarter credits to earn an accredited bachelor’s degree.
A bachelor’s is a post-secondary undergraduate degree. Historically, the term “college degree” meant a bachelor’s or traditional four-year degree. Bachelor degrees are also sometimes called baccalaureate degrees. Regionally accredited liberal arts colleges award most of the bachelor degrees in the United States.
Liberal arts classes are required for all types of bachelor degrees. In most cases, more than half of a bachelor’s degree consists of general education or liberal arts courses in areas such as English, critical thinking, psychology, history and mathematics.
Typically only 30 to 36 credits—10 to 12 courses—will be in your major area of study.
The bachelor’s degree remains the standard for entry into many professional careers. Getting a bachelor’s degree can be the ticket to a more promising career.
In most cases, you cannot attend a professional graduate school in law, medicine, or teacher education unless you hold a bachelor’s degree. That means you will almost always need a bachelor’s before enrolling in a master’s program to open the door to even more career opportunities.
A bachelor’s degree is the first step towards some of today’s hottest professions. It can allow you to work in an occupation while you decide whether to pursue a graduate degree to become qualified for the highest level jobs in that require graduate study.
A master’s degree is the first level of graduate study. To apply for a master degree you usually must already hold an undergraduate degree (a bachelor’s degree).
A master’s degree typically requires a year and one-half to two years of full-time study.
To earn a master’s degree you usually need to complete from 36 to 54 semester credits of study (or 60 to 90 quarter-credits). This equals 12 to 18 college courses. Most master’s degrees are awarded by public or state universities.
Quick Facts About Master’s Degrees
Why earn a master’s degree? Many jobs require a master’s degree, and many that don’t require the degree will pay more if you have a master’s
How long does it take?
Full time: from 1.5 to 2.5 years Part time: up to 5 or 6 years
How much does it cost?
Master’s degree tuition rates vary greatly, from a low of about $8,000 to a high of close to $300,000 for the most expensive brick-and-mortar programs. Most students take out loans to complete a master’s degree. Online programs tend to be more modestly priced but still vary.
Is it worth it?
That depends on the salary differential in the field and the cost of your education. In the vast majority of fields, the salary differential makes degree cost a great investment. Here is a tool to check to see the averages in your choice of profession: GradSense Degree/Salary Calculator.
What types of master’s degrees are there?
You name it. Almost all fields have at least a sub-specialty that offers a master’s degree program. Just to list a few areas: education, health sciences, engineering, social services, mathematics, business, management, veterinary science, biological/chemical/physical sciences, religion, computer science, arts and humanities. And more.
How do I choose the right master’s degree program?
Consider cost, wage differential for the degree, your time, and your career goals. Make sure that your program is accredited and that it covers the specific curriculum that will help you attain your goals.
Why earn a master’s degree?
Considering whether or not to pursue a master’s degree can be complex. This article will give you an idea of all the factors you should consider before you enroll in a master’s degree program. The general trends are that more people are getting master’s degrees, more professions are requiring a master’s, and more programs are available online. Completed in about two years fulltime, or three to five years part time, a master’s degree does not take as much time as an undergraduate degree. The cost of a degree can vary widely, and depending on the salary premium in your field for the master’s, a degree can be a good investment in your future earnings. No matter your chosen profession, there are likely master’s degree programs to advance your career. But why would you need one? These days, it can be very beneficial to have a master’s degree so you can compete for jobs with higher salaries and more responsibility. While some professions make it mandatory to have a master’s degree, other professions may not require it. Even if your profession does not require a master’s degree, there may be a wage differential for workers that would make the degree worth the time, effort and money.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Master’s Degree?
Here’s the short answer—typical master’s degree programs require from one and a half to two years to complete. There are usually 36-54 credits, or 60 to 90 quarter-credits, in most master’s degree programs. Length of program varies by degree subject and school. Many programs allow graduate students to attend part-time while retaining their jobs and family lives, and thus the degree could be spread out over five to six years. Some graduate school programs offer flexible coursework and schedules for working people who still want to pursue a master’s degree without quitting their job. Some fulltime programs are even designed with working professionals in mind, allowing for weekend and evening classes, though students will be expected to be very focused to complete a fulltime graduate program while continuing to work. Other programs may be more efficiently completed full time, either in a brick and mortar classroom on a traditional campus, or partly (hybrid online/on-campus) or fully online, with the recommendation that students not work fulltime during the program. Online master’s programs often offer the benefits of self-scheduling and accelerated course offerings. The time to degree in each program is somewhat unique, as requirements and scheduling vaey. Studying fulltime gets the degree done quickly, while studying part time to accommodate family and current job obligations can take longer. In addition to coursework, online or in-person, many programs require hands-on work in the field. This supervised fieldwork may be able to be completed at a student’s jobsite, or require additional time working at another site, making regular employment more difficult to squeeze in.
When is a Master’s Degree Worth It?
A master’s degree is good choice when you… Already hold a bachelor’s degree Pursuing your master’s online is a best bet if you want to advance your career in a field where you already have previous professional experience and you hold an accredited bachelor’s degree. Certain organizations in fields like education, medicine, and engineering may even require their top level employees to have master’s degrees.
Know that your chosen career will require a master’s degree
If your desired career requires a master’s level education in order to get an entry-level job, then you may not have another option. For example, if your goal is to become a physician’s assistant or high school principal, then you will most-likely need to earn a master’s degree. or
Need a graduate degree to qualify for a higher salary grade
If your potential salary will outpace the cost to get a degree and if the job prospects are promising, then the cost of a master’s degree is worth it.
In medieval universities, a master’s degree or doctorate often took 12 years to complete. Blimey! Thankfully though, nowadays you can get a postgraduate qualification in a much shorter time.
Generally, a postgraduate degree is a degree which you study for once you have finished a bachelor’s degree.
Some postgraduate degrees require the completion of particular bachelor’s degree, others don’t. Currently, approximately 540,000 students are enrolled on postgraduate programmes in the UK.
As a general rule, you need to have completed a bachelor’s degree before doing a postgraduate degree (although there are some exceptions).
There are four main types of postgraduate degrees: taught courses, research degrees, conversion courses and professional qualifications. Many postgraduate courses are studied at university, but some courses are taught in a commercial environment.
There are two main types of taught courses: master’s degrees and postgraduate diplomas (or certificates). A taught master’s degree usually takes place over one or two years and mostly involves the completion of a dissertation or project.
You can also study integrated master’s degrees, which form part of your undergraduate degree. Bear in mind though, that not all master’s degrees are taught courses in their entirety.
For example you can do a Master of Research degree, which is more focused around independent research. A Master of Research degree is still a taught course, but 60% of it has to focus on an individual research project.
Postgraduate diplomas or certificates are academic or vocational qualifications. A postgraduate certificate normally takes around four months, whereas diplomas usually last around nine months.
You could study a subject which is completely new to you, or you could choose a course which builds on what you learned in your bachelor’s degree.
Postgraduate certificates or diplomas can provide a route to particular careers, or they can work as a stepping stone towards studying a master’s degree. However, sometimes they are awarded to those who did not fully complete a master’s degree.
A huge part of postgraduate study revolves around independent research. Research degrees are often referred to as doctorates. The main types of doctorates are: PhDs, DPhils, integrated PhDs and professional doctorates.
Doctorates can be taken after a master’s degree or, in some cases, after a bachelor’s degree, during which the master’s is usually earned along the way. Doctorates are generally completed over two to four years.
The main component of a PhD is the doctoral thesis. This is a research project on a specialist topic and can be between 40,000 and (wait for it) 120,000 words. It should be worthy of publication and add something new to your field of study.
Of course, there is another reason to do a doctorate (aside from immersing yourself in a subject you love): you get to put ‘Dr’ in front of your name!
An MPhil is similar to a PhD, but lower in the academic pecking order. Instead of completing that mammoth 120,000 word research project, you’ll be conducting an individual research project of around 30,000 to 35,000 words. It is still well respected, but you won’t get to call yourself ‘The Doctor’.
If you want something a little less traditional, you could look into doing a ‘New Route PhD’ or a professional doctorate. Professional doctorates combine professional skills with academic knowledge in a PhD.
These degrees are more vocationally-minded than traditional PhDs and are often taken to further people’s professional careers. You’ll still be completing an original piece of research, but there’s also a taught or directed study element to the doctorate.
Postgraduate degrees aren’t all about academia and shimmying up the academic career ladder. Further postgraduate study is sometimes needed for certain careers.
Postgraduate conversion courses give you that vital lifeline if you haven’t studied a relevant undergraduate degree for the profession you want to pursue. They give you the option to transfer to a different subject area.
Conversion courses are usually one year taught courses and are often heavily vocational. There are different levels of conversion courses: certificate, diploma and master’s.
A law conversion course (or a Graduate Diploma in Law [GDL] for those in the know) offers people who didn’t study law at undergraduate level to get a foot in the door of their chosen career in law. Equally, you can do conversion courses in other subjects, including psychology, social work, business and I.T.
If you’ve come to the end of a three-year undergraduate degree course and suddenly realised medicine is your calling then there is a Graduate Entry Medicine course, which takes four years to complete; this is a fast track for people who have not studied medicine as their first degree.
And of course, let’s not forget the PGCE (Postgraduate Certificate of Education) — a hugely popular conversion course for graduates who want to teach.
There are also a number of professional qualifications offered by professional bodies, which are essential entry qualifications for various careers. For example, if you want to be a solicitor, you will have to take the Legal Practice Course (LPC).
These qualifications offer practical training and are mainly focused on providing entry into a profession, or allowing you to develop your career further once you’ve already made it halfway up the career ladder.
So whether you want to make yourself stand out from the crowd when applying for jobs, pursue a career in academia, train for a career or simply continue to study a subject you love, make sure you pick the right postgraduate course for you. Good luck!
A Doctorate, or Doctoral Degree, is the highest level of academic degree awarded by a university. A doctorate typically signifies that the individual is qualified to teach at the post-secondary level or work in a specific field of profession. There are two major types of doctoral degrees; the research-oriented degree, and the professional doctorate degree.
Doctorate Degrees are sometimes referred to as terminal degrees which means it is the final degree available in graduate school for students wishing to study in the chosen subject. In most fields, the terminal-level degree is the doctor of philosophy, or PhD, but in some fields, it's a professional degree, such as a doctor of medicine or law degree.
We commonly associate a doctorate degree with the field of medicine and the abbreviation ‘M.D’, or medical doctorate, and the Ph.D., or Doctor of Philosophy Degree. In fact, there are different types of doctoral degrees, including the DBA degree, and several reasons why earning one might be just what the doctor ordered.
Is a PhD and a Doctorate the Same?
Doctoral degrees encompass both PhD degrees and other 'Doctor of' degrees. While these may be equivalent academically, there are differences to learn between PhD degrees and other degrees such as the Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) or Juris Doctor (JD). Essentially, the differences appear in terms of the type of research and the focus for each degree - whether it is research-focused (PhD) or professional practice-focused (e.g. DBA degree, JD degree, PsyD degree).
How Many Years is a Doctoral Degree?
Typically, a doctorate degree program can take about 4 to 6 years to complete after the bachelor’s degree. If you hold a master’s degree, you may be able to complete your doctorate in about 3 years of full-time study - or you may be able to find a dual masters and phd program. However, this is going to depend on the institution and the type of program. In some universities, it may be possible to find part-time doctoral degree programs, a factor that might extend time to completion.
What Are the Prerequisites for a Doctorate?
Doctoral applicants were previously required to have a master's degree, but many programs accept students immediately following undergraduate studies. Many programs gauge the potential of a student applying to their program and grant a master's degree upon completion of the necessary Ph.D. course work.