Certification programs are a great way to learn more about a specific field or skill set that, in turn, can enhance your résumé by making you more competitive and increasing your eligibility for more opportunities. In addition, people also consider certification programs as an alternative or supplement to graduate school. Regardless of what specialization you’re interested in, certification programs encompass the following elements:
What Are Certification Programs?
A more condensed approach to learning a specialization, Idealist.org defines a certification program as, “a set of courses in a particular field that lead to certificate status or license to practice.” Certification programs provide you with the opportunity to improve your career mobility by showing employers that you have refined your knowledge and experience in your field.
Since certification programs vary by breath and depth, depending on the field, specific prerequisites are essential for consideration. Typically, certification programs look for the type of coursework you’ve completed, degree status, exam scores, and internship experience. Depending on the field, certification programs can be a component of a degree program or function on its own.
Do You Need A Certificate?
Along with expanding your competency, the value of certification programs lies in the subsequent recognition you will receive from employers and peers. Furthermore, obtaining a certificate applicable to your field will show people that you’re serious about your career path.
However, the need for a certification program isn’t always clear-cut for every field. If you’re unsure as to whether a certificate makes sense for your career, start by assessing the requirements for employment within a particular field. If they’re ambiguous or vary by employer, your next option is to consult professionals through informational interviews. For additional clarification, it’s also recommended to check with professional associations, as they will have information on broader industry trends due to the fact that they are usually the entity that grants the certification.
Certification programs differ in the sense that the courses provided are designed to prepare you for the final stage of achievement: passing an exam and/or other performance assessment that indicates your completion of the program. Since professional associations are the gatekeepers of most certification programs, they provide enrollees with information on eligibility requirements, study guides, exams, or other performance assessments.
Determine the Value of the Program
The accreditation of a certification program through a professional association speaks for itself. However, if you are pursuing a certification program through a college or university, it’s important to assess the quality of a certification program to determine its value. Idealist.org recommends researching the following questions to make an educated decision:
- Does the college or university offering the certificate program have a solid reputation in your community?
- Will the certificate that is offered strengthen your résumé or application for a job you really want?
- Did former students value the education they received?
- What are alumni of the program doing now?
- Did the program enhance their ability to work?
- Are they now qualified to do the same work that you plan to do after completing the program?
- What level of coursework and how many credit hours are required to complete the program?
- Is the program a post-baccalaureate program?
- Will your classes be undergraduates? Graduate students? Other professionals in the community?
- Is the breadth and depth of the coursework comparable to other schools with similar programs?
- Are the credentials and experience of the instructors relevant?
- Does their experience impress you?
Talking to former students, coworkers, human resource managers, college personnel and employers as well as conducting research online will determine such answers. It’s also possible that the completion of a certification program through a college or university will compel you to move forward with a graduate degree, increasing the quality of your expertise and opportunities for growth and success.
Certain fields actually require the completion of a certification program for employment eligibility and are usually known as a licensure. Good examples include occupations in social work and education. Licensure standards and procedures are regulated by government entities, most often a state agency.
Considering states take the sole responsibility for such licensure, standards are bound to vary from state to state. Therefore, it’s a good idea to carefully consider where you want to reside in relation to work. In some cases, states have reciprocity agreements with other states, or impose additional requirements for a certificate to be acknowledged across state lines. Other factors to consider are the standards for renewal or permanency.
Licenses are typically awarded through examination and/or other performance assessments, which can be offered or include an undergraduate/graduate degree and internships. Professional associations do not take responsibility for offering said examination but are the accreditors of academic programs that are geared towards the initial license or license renewal.
Combining a Certification Program with Graduate School
If pursuing a graduate degree is also an educational priority, many programs offer a certificate in conjunction with the degree. Coupled with the value of a graduate degree, this duality amplifies the benefits of both pursuits. As a result, you will increase your chances of cultivating a competitive edge, distinguishing yourself from other professionals as well as increasing the chances of a promotion through your current employer.
Certificate Programs at Florida National University
Being aware of the benefits of an educational certificate, Florida National University offers a handful of programs designed for professionals in criminal justice, business administration, medicine and English as a Second Language, geared towards non-native English speakers. For more information on the requirements of each certification program, visit www.fnu.edu or call one of our admission counselors at 305-821-3333 ext. 3.
Certification as an alternative to, or part of, a graduate degree. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.idealist.org/info/GradEducation/Resources/Options/Certification