What is a graduate certificate? It’s a concentrated study of a particular topic that helps you build credentials and skills in a short amount of time.

Why get a graduate or post-graduate certificate? If you already have a degree, what value could a certificate bring?

Capella University’s Product Manager Leigh Johnson share two benefits of this short-term program.


What Is (or Isn’t) a Certificate Program?

There are two types of certificate programs depending on your highest level of education completed: the graduate certificate (or post-baccalaureate) and the post-graduate certificate (or post-masters).

Johnson cautioned that a certificate is a different achievement than an industry certification. “An industry certification, for example, a Project Management Professional (PMP)® credential in IT, is independent of any academic requirement,” she said. “A certificate is an academic credential with coursework involved.”

The coursework is the key difference. Courses for a certificate are usually pulled from degree curriculum. “In Capella’s online certificate programs, we use the specialization courses,” said Johnson. “Students get deep knowledge and training in specific subject areas.” And certificate courses accrue academic credits that can be applied towards a future degree.


Who Should Pursue a Graduate or Post-Graduate Certificate?

“It’s a broad range,” said Johnson. “A candidate can be looking for more expertise beyond a bachelor’s, wanting to test what it’s like to pursue a master’s, working on career advancement, or beginning a doctoral program.”


Why Get a Certificate?

There are two primary reasons to earn a certificate: career advancement or a trial run for an advanced degree.


1. Career Advancement. “A certificate sets you apart in the job market. It’s a way to differentiate yourself, a way to grow your expertise,” said Johnson.  “In the field of education, the more graduate courses you take, the more your income will increase,” she said. “And a certificate makes someone highly marketable.”

It’s not just advancing in an existing career, though. “It’s a good way to try out a new program,” said Johnson. “A certificate program is a way to gain enough expertise to make a move to a new career without committing to a full master’s or doctoral program. And it can be done in increments.” She also noted that there are employers who will pay tuition for an employee to work towards a certificate because it also benefits the employer.

Depending on the industry (such as nursing), a certificate may be aligned to industry certifications, too. For example, a nurse who earned a post-graduate certificate could also sit for industry certifications, boosting his or her credibility and marketability in the field.


2. Advanced-Degree Test Run. As mentioned earlier, a certificate program is a way to what an advanced degree program would be like without committing to the full program. “They’re taking the same specialization courses that students enrolled in a degree program in that field will take,” said Johnson. “Some people don’t need the advanced degree; they just want the expertise. But others will complete the certificate, realize that they are well positioned for an advanced degree, and go on to get the higher degree.”



Learn more about Capella’s certificate programs