Certificate programs should not be entered into lightly. The ability of a certificate to help you lies entirely on the field of study, degrees already obtained, employment experience and if it is worth the cost involved. For instance, those wishing to become ultrasound technicians who run right out after high school and sign up for an ultrasound technology certificate program will be doing themselves a huge disservice. DO NOT trust any college recruiter to tell you the path to a career. You must research this yourself. Some college recruiters, particularly for-profit career school recruiters, like many other salespersons, may tell you all about how in just 18 months you can have a certificate complete will all the skills you need to enter, in keeping with our example, an ultrasound career. It is simply not true. An effortless search for ultrasound technician under u in the Bureau of Labor Statistics online Occupational Outlook Handbook would reveal how an ultrasound technician certificate is usually only useful to those already employed in a related health care job. The truth is that certificates are a great tool for those with associates, bachelor, or master degrees to add a new skill to their already existing skillset. Often times, in the competitive field of business, a person who is finding it difficult to find a job or someone who is trapped in a stagnating job can enhance their career or stand out from other job applicants with a certificate. A certificate can show employers you are motivated, dedicated and willing to invest time and energy into self-improvement.
Again, I must caution that research is required. Some who have already completed a bachelor degree should consider more than a program’s length of time when looking for such career enhancements. It may be tempting to enter a one year certificate program rather than a two year masters program, but sometimes it is more advantageous to invest a little more time for another degree. Certificates are specific to a particular vocation, where masters degrees will open options for you in a number of different occupations if you should change career choices in some years, or your career choice is suddenly choked out of the market as has happened to some careers through globalization or the Internet. The best choice for leaving your options open is a certificate program that allows you to transfer those credits into a masters program in the future if you desire. Certificate programs are also handy stepping stones toward acceptance into a masters program for those whose grades may have denied them access to a masters. Overall, the value of a certificate is truly dependent on the specifics of each occupation. Researching the career itself before researching schools is imperative.
For paraprofessional occupations like electrician, a certificate is sufficient, however, an apprenticeship is usually required. For those caught unaware it is not a terrible mistake, as the certificate hours can be applied to the apprenticeship. Welding, machining, and metalwork are occupations where a certificate program is adequate without a degree, however, these occupations, among others, usually require an industry approved certificate, meaning that the certificate program must be endorsed by a trade group such as the National Association of Manufacturers. Trade groups are vital to certain industries you must find everything out about a career. The paralegal profession exemplifies a career where a certificate is useless without a bachelor’s degree already in hand, moreover, it also requires training be from a paralegal program that is approved by the American Bar Association (ABA). This is something to consider when choosing schools. There are over 1,000 schools offering paralegal training, yet the ABA only endorses 270 programs.
The bottom line is that you must research the actual path toward a given career. Besides checking with the Occupational Outlook Handbook and trade associations, why not simply get in touch with local businesses that hire in your field and ask some questions. The best decisions are well-informed decisions.