Exploring Professional Certificate Programs

A college education has become an essential asset for any person who wants to be taken seriously in the modern world. However, college is understood to be an extremely expensive and time consuming commitment, leaving many young people in severe debt. This is made even worse by the fact that sometimes the degrees which they worked so hard to earn are nebulous and difficult to get a well suited career for. And what about working professionals who want to advance certain skills or transition into a new career path?

For these reasons, more and more people have become conscientious of another option than degrees: certificate programs.

Certificate programs are alternative courses which some colleges offer both to undergraduates and graduate students. They’re more affordable and less time consuming than earning a regular degree would be. Depending on the focus it usually takes about a year to complete one.

Just because they’re less expensive and require a shorter time commitment, it doesn’t mean that they’re any less legitimate by any stretch of the imagination.

“Certificate programs like Project Management and Agile enable working professionals to qualify for more jobs—and better jobs—because they are able to demonstrate practical expertise in emerging fields. We have seen a number of participants leverage a certificate into new roles,” says

Dean of Ramapo College’s Anisfield Business School Dr. Ed Petkus, Jr. “For instance, one participant was able to combine project management training with prior manufacturing experience to get a job at a public utility.  Another was able to increase his social media business by demonstrating better levels of organization. It’s not uncommon for people to get a new job while in the program, due to the urgent need for certified project managers. Also, companies themselves see the value-added that a project management certificate brings, as they send their staff to complete our program in order to increase their skills.”

A certificate program is far more focused than an ordinary degree and will give students extensive and in depth knowledge regarding a specific career path which they’re interested in pursuing. Fields of focus can range from the more hands on trades like carpentry or plumbing to medical practices like pharmaceutical studies or surgical technology. Business management focuses include accounting, project management, management, marketing and a lot more.

Because of the wide variety and specificity of the focus offered, certificate programs are an extremely efficient and effective way for a person to break into a given field and make a viable, sustainable and flourishing career within it.

A tool & resource business owners

While certificate programs are extremely helpful for students seeking employment, they’re also helpful for employers and owners of small, or even large, businesses and firms. If you are a small business owner currently searching for employees, it could be helpful to specifically seek out workers who hold certificates. Keep in mind the specific job which you’re looking for someone to do.

Do you need an accountant to help keep track of your company’s earnings and expenses? Do you need a technician to help maintain properties your company owns? Do you need a programmer to create a well laid out and functional website for your company?

Chances are, if you’re seeking employees there’s a very specific task which you need them to perform, and it’s important that you don’t waste a portion of your company’s finances on the salary of somebody who’s insufficiently skilled to perform the way you need them to. Looking for an applicant who’s certified in the area you’re targeting is a helpful way to indicate their skills and qualifications, if they’re right for the position you’re offering.

Even if they have less work experience than you might ordinarily expect, certificate programs are specifically designed to emulate working directly within the field of their focus, and prepare students to enter directly into a career and become part of the work force.

Furthermore, you may look at your current staff or workforce and evaluate if there are any specific skills needed that a certificate program may offer. Many small business owners are seeing a return on investment by fully or partially subsidizing certificate education for their workforce.

Alternative pathways

Something worth noting is that while completing a certificate program is in and of itself a complete education and sufficient grounds for a person to kick start their career, it does not have to be the only path which is taken by an individual.

Although they’re often seen to act as alternative options to degree programs, there’s no reason that a person can’t leave their college education with both the benefits of holding a degree and a certificate. As a matter of fact, it’s quite a common practice for graduate students who’ve already earned their degree and been through the full college experience to return to their education and spend an extra year or so getting a certificate on top of that. This is done because the sheer usefulness of a certificate and the efficiency of earning one is a benefit which students with degrees have recognized the intrinsic value of.

To become versed in a skill, something concrete and well defined which has definitive applications in a professional setting, is highly valued. As such a certificate is a tool the use of which is difficult to overstate in the arsenal of any educated member of society. Especially if the degree which the student chose to earn is something which doesn’t directly lend itself to a particular job, for example liberal arts, women’s studies or sociology.

It doesn’t only have to be returning graduates who seek both a degree and a certificate, of course. Undergraduates can begin their college career with a certificate program and then segue into a bachelors degree. Especially since the credits which they earn in the certificate program carry over.

Many options

It is in fact possible to earn multiple certificates in differing areas, though as a general rule it’s best to keep each subject relevant to each other, to avoid becoming unfocused.

Overall, the most important takeaway from all this is that certificate programs are a very good option for education. They’re extremely versatile, covering any number of fields, yet each program is focused and in depth enough to provide professional level working knowledge of its subject.

An increasing number of students are recognizing their value and choosing to pursue one, either in addition to or instead of a standard college degree.

This in mind, it may very well turn out to be an extremely wise and profitable venture for business owners to select their prospective employees based on certification.

Aidan McHugh is an art student at the Bergen County Technical High School in Teterboro. He serves as an editorial & art intern for Meadowlands Media.


Find Local Certificate Programs

Bergen Community College


(201) 447-7488


Berkley College


(800) 446-5400


Eastwick Colleges


(201) 327-8877


Fairleigh Dickinson University


(201) 692-2000


Felician University


(201) 559-6000


Montclair State University – Feliciano School of Business


(973) 655-4000


Hudson County Community College


(201) 714-7100


Ramapo College of New Jersey


(201) 684-7500


Saint Peter’s University




Teterboro School of Aeronautics


(201) 288 – 6300


Universal Technical Institute


(973) 866-2200


William Paterson University


(973) 720-2000

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Joe Garavente

Joe Garavente

Joe is the director of publications and communications for Meadowlands Media. He oversees editorial, advertising, production and distribution for all Meadowlands Media digital and print products. Meadowlands Media is the media and communications division of the Meadowlands Chamber, Meadowlands Live! | Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Meadowlands 2040 Foundation. Meadowlands Magazine—which has been serving the region’s business community for over 40 years—is the flagship publication of Meadowlands Media and reaches over 50,000 business owners and executives. It is the official publication of the Meadowlands Chamber. Meadowlands Media has also grown to publish for consumer, business and visitor audiences across print and digital platforms, offering readers critical information and advertising partners prime exposure for their brands. Joe can be reached at (201) 939-0707 or JGaravente@meadowlands.org

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