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Certificate Programs: Education's Best Kept Secret
(Continued from 1)

Who Enrolls in Certificate Programs?

A wide range of students participate in certificate programs, but according to Howard Deckelbaum, director of the Information Technologies Institute at NYU
School of Continuing and Professional Studies, students can usually be divided into three categories.

The first type is often an entry-level professional seeking enhanced skills. Deckelbaum notes that the number of such professionals in certificate
programs rose significantly during the dotcom craze.

The second type is the professional who needs or wants new skills to make a job change. “Students constantly need to retool so they can be diversified in business,” says Michele Vaccaro, MBA program advisor at Fairleigh Dickinson University.

The third type of student must acquire advanced skill sets for his or her current position. “Students often realize they need to improve in other areas as well, which forces some competitive edge,” adds Vaccaro.

What Can You Get out of a Certificate Program?

The obvious answer is a credential on your resume without the time and cost involvement of a master’s degree. Then again, most of the benefits will be
ones you don’t read about in catalogues or on Web sites. New job skills will allow you to market yourself more effectively.

Pamela Rittelmeyer will testify to that. She enrolled in NYU’s Making a Digital Movie, an intensive, three-week certificate course. There she wrote a short script, filmed a live-action sequence, added digital effects, and later found work in the camera department of the blockbuster movie, Planet of the Apes. Along with being credited in the movie, she was promoted to the head camera position of the visual effects unit. With an invitation from NYU, she spent the next summer making a documentary of the Making a Digital Movie course.

“I partly credit [my success] to my knowledge of visual effects that I gained from the NYU course,” said Rittelmeyer. Of course, she added, the credit should also be attributed to her many years of work experience and her ability to market—or “show off”—her new skills effectively.

With industry-driven certificate programs taught by professors working in the field, students are able to demonstrate that they have learned the latest career skills from the best in the industry. And with information technology skills in the greatest demand, it’s no wonder that IT certificate programs are the most popular programs being taught at NYU School of Continuing and Professional Studies. Unlike day-length seminars, certificate programs, contends Deckelbaum, “provide a fundamental core of knowledge.”

And, adds Vaccaro, even non-IT courses at FDU “enhance technology skills” and “encourage new strategic techniques.” Some students who enter a mode of study work on multiple certificates, she explains, with individuals completing three or four certificate programs over a short period of time.

Take the Road Less Traveled

Whether planned or not, certificate programs can take your career in a new direction. Barth Healey, senior staff editor of the foreign news desk at The
New York Times
, recently completed NYU’s Certificate in Conflict and Dispute Resolution. His study was not prompted by a desire to improve his current
position, but rather to prepare himself for a post-retirement career as a mediator.

“[I] will be retiring or going to shorter hours in a couple of years,” Healey explains. “I see an opportunity to stay active, and—who knows—maybe even get paid for a good number of years beyond the basic three score and ten.” He has already started scoping out both private and court mediation opportunities
in Nassau.

Sign Me Up!

The hardest part of certificate programs may be locating information about them. Many schools carry such programs, but they admit that they do not market them satisfactorily. When searching through a school’s Web site, you will find most certificate programs described in Continuing Education sections;
however, some schools also list their programs within Special Programs, Admissions, and within individual curriculum departments. When requesting
information on the phone, ask for Continuing Education or the department in which you are interested.

Browse over 350 online courses and certificate programs.


Anglea Leeper works as an independent educational consultant and freelance writer and editor in Wake Forest, North Carolina. She has also contributed to Multicultural Review, The Book Report, American Careers, and Succeed Magazine. Her upcoming book, Juneteenth: Celebrating African-American Freedom will be published in 2004.

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