What are Certificate Programs?
Certificate programs are educational programs offered through places like vocational schools, trade schools, community colleges, and online. They are designed to train people for specific jobs with focus on the training needed to work in various areas. Unlike training that results in college diplomas, certificate programs usually don’t require people to study traditional liberal arts or science courses. Instead most courses in these programs will teach the skills needed for work in a specific field. There are some exceptions to this, and some certificate programs offer the option to also earn a college degree, usually an Associate of Arts, by taking some extra classes.
There are numerous certificate programs for many different fields of work. They might train people in medical technology, auto repair, early childhood education, or in computer programming. Length of any of these programs is variable. Most take no longer than a year, and some can take a much shorter period of time. A nurse wanting to get a phlebotomy certificate so he can draw blood or work in a lab might only require a few weeks of training. On the other hand, learning how to become an echo technologist could take a year or more of work.
Finishing a certificate program doesn’t necessarily translate to automatically being able to work in a chosen field. Sometimes this work is preparatory to taking exams for licensing. Licensing may or may not be required after certificate programs are completed. It really depends on each profession and the state or country rules regarding requirements for working in that profession. On the other hand, many programs, when completed, may assure competence in a certain field and are all a person will need to get hired.
Not all certificate programs are created equal, and it’s especially important if pursuing training in one to make certain that the school offering the program is considered a good one in a person’s chosen profession. This can be ascertained by looking at the school’s credibility, and it may also be important to talk to people in the profession a person would like to work in order to find out how a particular program is viewed. People should be wary of online schools that do not have an extensive background or reputation and that are not accredited.
Costs for reputable programs can vary too, and in general those programs offered at junior colleges or community colleges will be least expensive, and usually come with accreditation and good reputations. On the other hand, online or offline trade and vocational schools, though more expensive, can be advantageous for many reasons. They may be faster, have more flexible scheduling, or not have waiting lists. Some people are able to train in vocational schools while retaining their day job, which can cut down on expenses in other ways, and there can be ways to get student loans while pursuing a certificate, though not all schools or all types of certificate training are eligible for student loans.
@Buer – I'm pretty sure you're right about that, but I think the industry-wide standards for certification are more common in medical and various white-collar fields than in vocational or trade schools. I'm honestly not sure how community college accrediting and thus certification work.
I've heard that certificate programs are not always run in the same way. What I mean by this is that there can either be industry-wide standards for certification or a certification program can award certificates to its students based on whatever criteria it chooses itself.
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