|Certificate Programs: Education's
Best Kept Secret
by Angela Leeper
simply wanted to take a few technical writing courses.
I called a few university English departments to inquire about
their offerings, but was repeatedly told that I needed
to be enrolled in a master's program to take classes.
After dialing the third school, I finally heard the
magic words, "Have you heard about our certificate
program?" Having completed a master's program just
a few years before and even working in education, I
was amazed that I had never heard of these hidden treasures
in continuing education.
What is a Certificate Program?
When MBA students at Fairleigh Dickinson University
(FDU) expressed an interest in side concentrations and
double majors (which the university does not allow),
it developed a Post-MBA Graduate Certificate Program
in areas such as entrepreneurial studies, health systems
management, and international business and regional
economics. The structure of these certificate programs
resembles those at most colleges and universities. Rather
than enroll in a lengthy (and often costly) master's
program, students can complete five courses in specialized
areas. Although all certificate programs have required
courses, some also allow electives in the same field.
Students need not have completed an advanced degree
to enter a certificate program. There are many just
like the one at Fairfield University, which targets
those with and without degrees. Fairfield offers credit
certificates in areas including writing and interior
design, and non-credit certificates for subjects such
as business leadership, computer graphic design, and
human resource management. Students can also apply some
certificate courses toward future degree pursuits.
Another advantage certificate programs hold over traditional
degree programs is flexibility. Although schools encourage
students to take at least one course per semester, time
requirements to complete a certificate program generally
do not exist. In addition, schools primarily offer such
courses during evenings and on Saturdays.
Susan Fitzgerald, associate dean in the School of Continuing
Education at Fairfield University, recommends that students
talk to advisors, especially if flexibility is important,
before entering a certificate program. And flexibility
is truly present in Fairfield University's completely
online technical writing certificate program, which
accommodates those with vigorous work schedules and
from various geographic locations.
Students definitely play a role in the flexible nature
of certificate programs. "They are working people,"
explains Anvernette Hanna, director of public relations
at the New York University School of Continuing and
Professional Studies, New York, NY, "so we develop
courses according to their interests and job needs."
When students enrolled in NYU's certificate in conflict
and dispute resolution needed more experience in mediation,
for example, officials rolled out a mediation apprenticeship
course the following summer where real-world experience
was gained in Manhattan Small Claims Court. With 108
certificate programs ranging from multimedia technology
and screenwriting to e-finance and e-law, NYU's School
of Continuing and Professional Studies accommodates
numerous student needs.