The Value of a Graduate Certificate
When thinking of ways to gain more knowledge in your field, advance your career, or make a career switch, you’re probably considering postgraduate education as the first step. When you continue your education, you’re helping yourself stand out from other job applicants, while learning valuable skills. Although earning a master’s degree can set the path for your career, postgraduate certificate programs are a great way to grow in the field without sacrificing a large amount of time and money.
What is a graduate certificate?
A graduate certificate is a short educational program meant to further the knowledge and skills of professionals through specialized training. Many graduate certificates can be completed fully online, giving you the flexibility to continue your education while also working a full time job, or tending to family responsibilities.
Those who decide to pursue a graduate certificate online are typically focusing on enhancing their skills in a specific industry or field. Because graduate certificates are very specialized for one area, there are a myriad of options to choose from.
At NJIT, there are over 50 graduate certificate programs – you can study everything from digital marketing design and game design and interactivity essentials, to foundations of cybersecurity and business analytics.
Graduate Certificates vs. Master’s Degrees
If you’re wondering whether you should get a graduate certificate vs a master’s degree, you’ve come to the right place. When you pursue your master’s degree, you must ensure that you’re ready to take on the type of commitment they require. While some master’s degree programs can be done part-time, many are full-time and typically completed in two years.
The average cost of a master’s degree is between $30,000 and $120,000, with the cost varying depending on the type of program, length of program, and university. If you’re unsure about making the commitment to earn a master’s degree, or if you are just looking to grow in one specific area of study, a graduate certificate may be more practical. The average tuition of a graduate certificate can cost anywhere from $1,000-$5,000, and many can be completed in a year.
Benefits of a earning a graduate certificate
Earning a graduate certificate has quickly become one of the most popular ways for professionals to enhance their knowledge and skills in a specific field or area. However, you might be asking yourself; “is a graduate certificate worth it?” To help answer this question, here is a quick guide that will teach you all about what the best graduate certificate programs can offer:
1) Gain a competitive edge
The job market is a highly competitive place where it seems that almost everyone is applying for the same position. When applying for jobs, you want to do everything you can to make yourself stand out from the crowd. Employers are always looking for something different in a candidate – a graduate certificate shows companies that you’re invested in your field and can bring a higher level of expertise to the office.
2) Quick return on investment
If you’re going to invest time and money into higher education, you want to make sure you get something in return – this is known as return on investment (ROI). Unlike a master’s degree which can take two or more years to complete, graduate certificate programs are typically completed within a year, allowing you to start earning more sooner.
Checking your institution’s ROI can be helpful when deciding where to go for your graduate certificate. NJIT, for example, is ranked among the country’s top 55 colleges for return on investment, placing 26th out of 3,300 schools.
3) Increase in salary
You can’t talk about ROI without also discussing salary. Those who earn a graduate certificate can expect to see a salary increase of 13-25%. Having a higher starting salary is often a main selling point for a master’s degree – you can achieve that, and much quicker, by enrolling in graduate certificate programs online.
Earning a graduate certificate from an accredited university can also be a major factor in how desirable you are to employers. Companies are willing to pay more when you have a certificate from a well-known, respected institution.
According to Payscale’s 2019 College Salary Report, NJIT ranks in the top 2% nationwide in the mid-career salary rankings. NJIT students are in high demand, and pursuing a graduate certificate from the university can be a game changer.
4) Develop a specific skill set
Instead of learning broad, general information, graduate certificates focus on specific skills for a more specialized learning approach. This type of skill development will allow you to dive deeper into the subject, giving you a more in-depth understanding of the tools you’ll be working with.
5) Added job security
Obtaining another level of education beyond an undergraduate degree is becoming the new normal. In fact, more and more employers are actively seeking to hire employees with a master’s degree or some level of postgraduate education. Having a graduate certificate under your belt can check that box – you’ll prove to employers that you’ve expanded your knowledge of the field and are familiar with updated key concepts, skills, and tools.
When you can show companies and organizations that you’ve furthered your education, you’re automatically bumping your resume to the top of the pile. A graduate certificate lets employers know that you can meet their needs and fit the requirements of the position. You can even use your new skills to take on more responsibility, transition into a leadership role, or try out a completely new position all together.
6) Demonstrate professional development
Most industries are continuously growing as society and technology is updating and changing. Because of this, it’s crucial that you keep your competitive edge by staying up to date on recent trends, tools, and concepts. Committing to a graduate certificate program demonstrates your willingness to advance and further your career.
Demonstrating professional development also signals that you’re eager to engage in more responsibility. Educational progress may also hint to your employer that you’re ready for a promotion – companies value when employees further their education as it benefits the organization.
7) Stackable credentials
There is no limit to how many graduate certificates you can earn. Each one that you pursue, adds another level of expertise to your list of credentials. You can continue to stack them, showing employers that you’re well-versed in multiple disciplines, and progressing in your career path.
8) Preparation for a graduate degree
Professionals who are pursuing a graduate certificate are not only advancing their career, but also getting a jumpstart on a master’s degree. Many courses that are necessary for a graduate certificate, are also required for the corresponding master’s degree. Because of this, universities often allow credits to be stacked and transferred to a master’s program after successful completion of the certificate.
If you’re not sure exactly what you’re interested in, or not ready to commit the time, money, and energy needed for a master’s degree, graduate certificate programs are a great stepping stone. You’ll get a feel for what learning in that area is like, and can decide later if a master’s program is right for you.
Many universities will even design their graduate certificate programs with the intent that they will be stacked into a master’s degree. For example, at NJIT, once you’ve successfully completed a graduate certificate, you’ll be able to take advantage of rapid matriculated acceptance and eventual acquisition of two credentials toward the corresponding master’s degree.
Enhance your skillset with NJIT
Although it may seem that the only way to advance your education after undergrad is by pursuing a master’s degree, you have other options. Earning a graduate certificate online may be the missing piece in your career path.
When you’re looking to update your skills, boost your salary, and gain a competitive edge, a graduate certificate could be just what you need, especially if you want to accomplish this quickly. Expanding your knowledge through certificate education gives you the opportunity to explore emerging fields without committing to a master’s degree – but remember, you can use it to help prepare you for a master’s program in the future.
If you’re ready to invest your time into personal and professional development, check out the many graduate certificates NJIT has to offer and apply to start learning – get the career skills you need to achieve your goals.