What are Certificate Degrees?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 06 June 2019
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It’s common to think of degrees, such as the bachelor’s degree, as separate from certificates. There are many educational programs called certificate programs that focus on specific training in a subject but tend to leave out the educational requirements of formal degrees, especially at the college level. Such programs can be found on college campuses, at trade and vocational schools, and in many places online. Finishing these programs could be viewed as earning “certificate degrees,” even if that sounds oxymoronic.

In addition to the number of certificate degrees that can be earned, there are also many people who have certification or licensing in certain areas and who must periodically take continuing education to maintain a license. This is true of a lot of professions, and these people have certainly earned degrees in the past. Sometimes these programs are called continuing education programs and they may be thought of as maintaining certificate degrees or simply maintaining certification.


Alternately, instead of simply maintaining a license, some professionals seek out true certificate degrees that expand their professional repertoire. People with degrees can specialize in different areas. A person with a PhD in psychology could participate in a certificate degree program in psychopharmacology. Though this would not license the psychologist to prescribe medicines, he or she would be able to claim expertise in this area. Similarly, nurses can participate in a number of certificate degree training programs that allow them to operate more equipment or to perform specialized medical procedures.

On the other hand, many people still view certificate degrees as training that may lead to a job and that doesn’t typically involve traditional liberal arts studies. In some fields, certificate training is received very well, and in others it may not be as acceptable as degrees earned in the field. A place of employment looking to hire an accountant, may not be as well satisfied with someone who has a certificate in accounting instead of a degree in the subject. There continues to be a certain prejudice for the liberal arts education, though there are plenty of people who earn a certificate degree and who are quite well rounded.

That is one consideration people should have when they’re thinking about training programs. As mentioned, there will be some that couldn’t be earned as part of a normal degree in any case, but some of them may not be as well received in the job world, if they’re considered a watered down version of true degree studies. On the other hand, certificate programs often have the advantage of being much shorter than a college degree program, and could provide necessary training to enter or re-enter the work force.



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