FAQ – What is a Graduate Certificate?

What is a graduate certificate?

A graduate certificate is a short sequence of courses, normally at the master’s level, provided by a university.  Certificates require between three and six classes and most or all of the courses will typically transfer to the same university’s related master’s degree.  Applicants are typically required to have a four year bachelor’s degree from an accredited university to apply.

A graduate certificate focuses on a specific subject and bridges the gap between a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree.  In fact, most certificates are simply a subset of required courses and/or electives that are part of a master’s program.  Some schools allow students to earn a graduate certificate or two while pursuing a master’s degree.  A graduate certificate usually does not include the heavily academic courses found in a master’s program like research methods and statistics.  Certificates generally get straight to the meat of the subject and avoid the master’s degree courses intended to make you “well rounded”.

Be careful not to confuse a graduate certificate with a professional certification.  Some professions require that you be “certified” to practice.  Graduate certificates do not typically confer any type of professional certification.

Why earn an online graduate certificate?

Because it is a great way to start a new career or to progress in your current one!  A certificate demonstrates that you have successfully completed a formal course of study in a university setting and offers some distinct advantages:

  • Employers are comfortable with the idea of university credentials.
  • As a graduate level program, employers recognize that the level of education you received is not trivial or basic.  It provides evidence that you have demonstrated specialized knowledge in the subject.
  • A certificate program allows you to study a very specific subject.  Think of it as laser guided learning.
  • Allows you to receive formal recognition of your accomplishment at half (or less than half) of the cost and effort of obtaining a master’s degree at the same school.  You can quickly update your resume by earning a college level credential in less than a year.
  • Provides the opportunity for you to learn a great deal about a subject without committing to a master’s program.  However, most programs allow you to apply all or most of the credits earned for the certificate to a related master’s degree.
  • You can complete the program 100% online.  Work on your assignments when it’s convenient and never have to commute to a campus.
  • Many programs give you the opportunity to avoid taking the GRE, writing an application essay, submitting references, paying an application fee, etc. for admission.  You will need a bachelor’s degree though.
Certificate Names

There are many instructional design related graduate certificate programs that are similar, but have different names.  Some examples are:

  • Instructional Design
  • Online Teaching
  • E-Learning
  • Distance Education
  • Instructional Design and Performance Improvement
  • Instructional Systems Development
  • Instructional Systems Technology
So what is a graduate certificate?  It’s a great opportunity for professional development or to explore a new career!

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