A specialized skill set and knowledge
A specialized skill set from a quality certificate program can help you stand out from other job candidates in competitive fields where many applicants have similar backgrounds.
The advantage of added skills does not only apply to tech, healthcare or other jobs requiring a college degree. Trade workers, such as machinists in the manufacturing industry, may choose to pursue a non-degree certificate program to learn skills such as operating computer numerical control (CNC) machines.
If your career plans include a very specific position within a company, you can use certificate programs to tailor your knowledge for a particular role. A custom strategy can be effective because many certificate courses focus on specific skills, streamlining the learning process compared to a degree program.
Here are four more helpful things to consider.
1. Research your options
The first step in finding the appropriate certificate program for your needs is researching the possibilities.
First, you want to define your chosen career path. Certificates have a narrow focus, so you need to be sure about your chosen specialization before you enroll. While you may not need to settle on a specific position, you will likely need to select a focus, such as financial planning, cybersecurity or business analytics.
The next step is to find the best programs for your chosen subject. If the programs are offered through a university, you will want to ensure it is an accredited institution and that the program will lead to an actual certificate. Some programs can help you prepare for a certification exam from a credentialing organization respected in the industry.
The difference between certificate and certification is that a certificate is an educational program you can receive through a college while certification is a note of accomplishment through any other organization or resource that might specialize in a specific skill or set of skills rather than an overall topic. To determine which may be best for you, consider speaking with a college career counselor or ask those in the industry you are looking to break into which they value more.
If you decide you want a certificate, you will want to select a program that provides the most value for your career. In some industries, such as tech, you will have to choose between many similar certificate options. You want to be sure that you select one that aligns with your plans and is preferred by employers in your industry.
Another way to determine which professional certificate is right for you is to seek advice from people working in your chosen industry or profession or even talk to HR managers and recruiters to see which credentials they prefer when hiring.
2. Understand the financial implications
Professional certificates may be less expensive than degree programs, but they still need to be factored into your budget. There are traditional options for covering the cost, such as paying tuition and exam fees up front or taking out a loan, but there are other options too.
Companies that want their workers to upskill may offer employer payment programs in which the organization covers all or part of the cost of a certificate program. Another common option is tuition reimbursement, which involves the employee paying for the course up front or with a loan. The employer then reimburses the employee over time.
3. Explore job opportunities
Certificates are an opportunity to specialize in an area of interest. However, you also need to be practical about which certificate you choose. Is there a demand for this skill set? Does the salary make earning a certificate worthwhile? The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics offers growth projections for professions over the next decade. These insights can be useful, as can looking at job sites to see the number of open positions in your area of expertise and the salary offered for those jobs.
First-person insights can be valuable during your decision-making process. Networking with peers and others in your field can help you learn more about which certificates offer the most value, tuition reimbursement opportunities through your employer and how difficult or rewarding specific programs are.
The benefits of networking extend to your certificate program as well, where you may have opportunities to network with students and faculty. These connections could help you learn about jobs available in your new area of expertise or different associations or groups that could prove useful.
Where to get professional certificates
Several kinds of places offer certificates, including colleges, online universities and well-known companies that offer their own specialized options. It will depend on which industry or skill you are seeking a certificate in.
Certificate programs at University of Phoenix
University of Phoenix offers 45 online certificate programs in over nine fields, including business, cybersecurity, health informatics and education. Discover which certificates may be right for you and your career goals!
Here are just several examples of useful certificates at University of Phoenix:
Advanced Cybersecurity Certificate — Develop technical knowledge to step into the fast-growing field of IT security, helping keep computer systems safe from data breaches and cyberattacks.
Advanced Software Developer Certificate — Develop programming, software engineering and IT architecture skills in as little as seven months. Learn to design and implement software solutions in relation to project scope and stakeholder needs. Study multiple programming languages and software architecture principles.
Marketing Certificate — In as little as seven months, you can learn specialized skills such as designing product development strategies that deliver value to consumers and managing supply chains.
Financial Planning Certificate — In as little as seven months, you can gain skills to help others navigate the world of investment and financial planning, including building personal finance plans, analyzing investments and managing portfolios as well as helping clients choose insurance coverage.
Business Analytics Certificate — Develop valuable skills such as mining, analyzing and visualizing data. Learn how to use data ethically and securely, make decisions ethically and securely and apply data to core business functions. You can complete this program in as little as 11 months.
Medical Records Certificate — Learn the entry-level, technical aspects of medical insurance, billing, coding and claims processing in approximately 10 months online. Our Medical Records Certificate prepares you to sit for the Certified Billing and Coding Specialist (CBCS) exam, a national certification offered through the National Healthcareer Association.