Professional certificates are evidence of postsecondary education or training in a specific field or profession and are usually awarded following completion of a certificate program. However, not all certificates require a postsecondary degree or diploma. Some certificates may be awarded to students who have acquired an appropriate amount of work experience and who have successfully passed an examination.
Certificate programs are typically vocational, meaning the program provides individuals with the education and training needed to perform a job. For instance, auto mechanic certification programs provide students with the knowledge and skills needed to perform work on automobiles and engines, while a certificate in accounting provides students with the background to tabulate costs and identify accounting errors.
Additionally, certificate programs may be helpful for individuals who don't qualify for advancement opportunities with their current degree but who may not have the time to earn a completely new degree. For instance, individuals may choose to combine a certification program in Web design with a noncomputer-related degree, such as communications, to demonstrate to prospective employers that they have the skills and abilities to perform the job even if their academic degree may not reflect it.
What are the advantages of earning certifications online?
Online certificate programs may afford students the benefits of a more flexible schedule than traditional on-campus programs, allowing busy parents to complete their training when they can. Online programs may also allow students to earn a professional certificate while continuing their career and allow students who have applicable work experience to earn formal certification without having to take costly degree programs.
Currently employed individuals may work toward earning a certificate in business management, entrepreneurship and medical office administration without having to earn a degree. These certificates may qualify individuals for employment in these fields or others, and may be useful for individuals seeking promotions or an employment change. Some certificate programs, such as those for information technology, may provide the focused training necessary for utilizing specific security or database programs.
Although a number of certificate programs are available online, some programs may require practical work experience in the field of choice or on-site attendance. For instance, certificate programs for physical therapy may require students to have previous work experience - such as employment as a massage therapist - or to attend a hands-on training program in addition to completing online courses.
U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupation Outlook Handbook, Occupation Finder, March 29, 2012, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/occupation-finder.htm?pay=&education=&training=&newjobs=&growth=&submit=GO