What is a College Certificate Program and why are so many people enrolling in them?


Over the last several years, college certificates have grown in their popularity and more and more people are choosing to take them. You’ve probably heard of a friend, or two, maybe even three+, that are excitedly beginning their journeys of taking a college certificate program. But why? They all have good reason to, but many are still confused as to what a certificate is and unaware of the many benefits they provide.


What is a certificate? Explained.

A college certificate validates your knowledge of specific skills often in a demanding field within the work place. Essentially, a certificate acts as evidence that a student completed education and/or training in a specific field during their college courses. Depending on what type of program you were to take, it would serve as the evidence that you completed education, training, and/or obtained skills in a very specified area of study or practice.  Similarly, many college degrees serve as general validation of completion in school, too, but do not have specific workplace transferability. Having these transferable skills is highly desired by many employers, especially by those in demanding work fields.


Most often, certificate programs offer specialized education and training in fields that require specific skill sets.  In the past, many certificates pertained to technical, trade, and vocational schools, however, today there are many more opportunities for the modern day student and you can even enroll into certificate programs for the fields of Business, Medical, Security, Information Technology, Legal, and more!


So the next commonly asked question is what is the difference between a certificate and a degree?




The difference between a certificate and a degree.

Certificate programs are relatively short term, 3-9 months, low in cost, and have high rates of completion relative to degrees programs.


Certificates offer very specialized education and training that allow the student to develop transferable skill-sets specific to the work field or type of job they desire to be in. They also allow the student to dive right into their desired area of focus and to graduate in a shorter time frame with the skills they need to succeed in the work field.


A degree on the other hand is a long-term program, typically 2 to 4 years when the student can commit to full time and without taking time off from school. Along with providing knowledge and study in the student’s major area of focus, degrees also require students to take general education studies (gen eds) and sometimes pre-requisite classes depending on the student’s field choice.


Both certificate and degree programs are extremely valuable to students. A post-secondary education is not only desirable to employers but in many cases it is mandatory and in today’s time, not having a post-secondary education or significant training and experience to replace it can severely put you behind the competition.


Do you have to choose between the two? No! It’s not an either/or situation. You can absolutely have both under your belt if you desire and you can complete them in either order. If you’re short on time or need to get into the work field sooner rather than later though, a certificate may be a great stepping-stone toward your long-term goals. If you already have your degree, on the other hand, taking a certificate program to add to your skill-set can enhance your resume and potentially help with your career progression. Certificates can sometimes also be the sole education required to get you where you want to be.


Benefits of taking a certificate program.

There are many benefits that come along with taking a certificate program. Here are some of them:


  • Short term, graduate in a year or less
  • Cost-efficient
  • Provides specialized training directly for your major area of focus/interest
  • Makes you more marketable (every credential matters today)
  • Develops skill-sets for desired career fields
  • Versatile – Can serve as your sole education, compliment your current degree(s), and/or serve as a stepping-stone toward your long-term goals
  • Helps to get your foot into the door of a new career field
  • Sets you up to be a qualified candidate for portable careers
  • Allows you to first explore a new career field before investing many years into it
  • Helps you to maintain relevance within your industry


It’s no wonder that certificate programs are growing in popularity (quite rapidly) especially in today’s very busy, on-demand world. The flexibility, cost effectiveness, and short-term completion rates of certificate programs are extremely desirable to lifestyles of military spouses who are frequently uprooting their families and moving to new places. Our military-friendly programs are perfectly compatible with the military lifestyle and we take pride in catering to our military community.



What to look for when selecting a certificate program.

There’s no question as to whether or not a certificate is beneficial. So, how do you know what to look for?


First, you want to make sure you know how to choose a good college in general.

Other important factors to remember when selecting a certificate program include accreditation, field of study, and post-graduation opportunities. Is the school you are considering accredited? Does it offer the benefits and flexibility that your lifestyle requires? Does the certificate program come with post-graduation benefits such as a complimentary reimbursement of certification testing? (That’s a major bonus!) Does the program align with your career goals? Do the cost and value align with your financial goals?

These are all important questions to ensure you have the answers to before making your decision. For more tips on what to look for in a school, check out this article.






Get the facts.

All in all, it’s never a bad idea to just pick up the phone and get information! It should be easy and comfortable to get real, actual facts when speaking with a school. With Martinsburg College, you can speak to a representative in our Admissions department risk-free, have a personalized conversation with them where you can discuss your goals, ask questions, and assess career paths that may work well for you – all with no obligations to enroll or take a program! Even if you’re not 100% sure you want to take that next step, it doesn’t hurt to get the information so you can make an informed decision. Fill out a Contact Form and let us reach out to you to answer all of your questions.


Find out what all the hype about Certificate Programs really is about! Even better, if you are a military spouse, you may be able to qualify for military spouse education benefits and take one of our programs for no out-of-pocket cost to you! Becoming a college graduate, even while being a military spouse, can be more achievable than you may think!