What Are College Certificates and Certifications?

Jul 21, 2018

Many college certificate programs prepare students to obtain the professional certifications they need to gain employment or advance in their careers. Other college certificates are awarded as a student progresses in an undergraduate- or graduate-level degree program.

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Certificates - No Degree Required

College certificates and certifications are a great way for students to quickly study for a specific subject or career. these programs are available to students with or without a degree in a wide variety of fields. College certificates allow students to obtain expertise in a field without investing the time needed to earn a college degree. Depending on the subject, students may complete a college certificate program in six months to a year because these programs focus on one discipline and lack the general education studies required by degree programs.

Upon completion of a college certificate program, students generally receive a certificate of completion or certificate of achievement, not a degree or diploma. Candidates may be able to transfer college certificate credits to degree programs at other colleges, depending on the institution and degree program.

Schools offer college certificates in a wide variety of disciplines, including:

  • Human resources
  • Computer repair
  • Massage therapy
  • Health care administration
  • Child care specialist

The coursework in a college certificate program depends on the subject studied. For instance, a phlebotomy certificate program may require courses such as clinical phlebotomy and a phlebotomy internship or externship. Coursework for a college certificate in bookkeeping may include payroll administration and accounting.

Certificates That Require a Degree

Post-baccalaureate college certificates are designed for students who hold bachelor's degrees and are interested in advancing their careers by obtaining in-depth knowledge in an area related to their profession. Some students choose to earn post-baccalaureate college certificates because they can't qualify for entrance to master's degree programs.

Post-master's college certificates are designed for students who want to acquire advanced additional knowledge in a specialty, usually one that's related to an undergraduate or graduate degree they have already earned. For instance, some graduate certificate programs focus on specific fields of education and mental health care. Students may also pursue a post-master's college certificate to help them decide whether to enroll in a doctoral program.


A certification is a credential given to individuals in specific fields after they meet certain requirements. These credentials are typically provided by professional organizations which vary by career. There are special college programs that can help students meet the eligibility requirements to obtain the certifications and licenses administered by these organizations.

Students can find programs that are designed to help with certifications in fields like:

  • Nursing
  • Real estate
  • Financial management
  • Barbering
  • Human resources
  • Medical assistance
  • Ultrasound technology

Completing a college certificate can allow you to train for a career or obtain credits that you can transfer to a degree program. Some tests require you to complete a certification program before you are eligible to take them.

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