In these days of economic woes, there is no disputing that education is one path to a higher-paying job. But there are more options than a one-size-fits-all four-year bachelor's degree.
More and more people are opting for the less-expensive and quicker route afforded by sub-baccalaureate certificate programs. These programs offer certificates within fields such as transportation, law enforcement, construction, security, business, technology, culinary arts and healthcare.
Certificate programs, which can last anywhere from less than one academic year to two years, provide students with an appealing combination of rapid post-secondary achievement and portable skills and knowledge. So critical are these programs that a report from Complete College America — a national nonprofit that works with individual states to increase the number of college degrees — called for a bold effort to double the number of long-term certificates offered within five years and then to double that number again over a subsequent five-year span.
The report goes on to say that a little more than half of students earn certificates at programs at community colleges, while four in 10 receive them from for-profit schools. The quality and value of programs vary widely, therefore prospective students should research and make sure the school is accredited.
Certificates in business or technology might cover topics such as e-commerce management, network communications or human resources. DeVry University's Keller Graduate School of Management, for example, offers graduate business certificates in areas such as accounting, entrepreneurship and project management.
Certificate programs in art and design include career-oriented courses in everything from multimedia design to residential planning. For instance, The Art Institute Online offers certificate programs in digital design, residential planning and Web design.
These online programs cover the fundamentals of design, and prepare students for entry-level positions at ad agencies, media outlets, interior design studios and Web development companies.
Fremont College, with campuses in Cerritos and Los Angeles, strives to bridge the gap between the traditional classroom and today's workplace by blending in-class interaction with online training, catering to both new and adult students.
"We have a mixture of students who just graduated from high school and older students starting a new career," said Ed.D. Fremont chancellor and CEO Sabrina Kay. "Our students tend to be more career-focused than the traditional 18-year-old college student who may not know what he wants to do."
Fremont's College of Wellness also offers an Associate of Science in Sports and Rehabilitation and a diploma in massage therapy. The Massage therapy program is a perfect example of a certificate program that works well for a certain type of student.
"Certificate programs are growing in popularity," said Kay, "because students see this as a way to get a skill set with practical knowledge and hands-on training. There are many ways to contribute to the world, and in the Wellness Program, students are healers who get joy out of helping others."
— Mary Jane Horton, Custom Publishing Writer