What Are Certificate Programs?

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. View article »

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  • 0:04 Certificate Programs Overview
  • 0:46 Undergraduate Programs
  • 1:34 Undergrad Certificate…
  • 2:18 Graduate Programs
  • 3:02 Graduate Certificate…

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Video Transcript

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 Programs

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.

Requirements for completing an undergraduate certificate program also vary, but most can be finished in less than one year on a full-time basis. Some of the course requirements for an accounting certificate include:

  • Financial accounting
  • Managerial accounting
  • Strategic cost analysis
  • Financial reporting

Graduate Programs

Graduate certificate programs are commonly offered in both professional and academic subject areas. They are not the same as graduate degree programs but are instead designed to show that a student has attained mastery of a specific topic or area. Many graduate certificate programs are aimed at working professionals who want to broaden their expertise by gaining specialized training in an advanced topic. Examples of subject areas in which students can complete a graduate certificate include applied statistics, health communication, nursing studies, project management, social work, and nutrition science.

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:

  • Venture funding
  • Organizational leadership
  • Project management
  • Negotiation strategy

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.

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