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What is a Certificate Program? Should You Get One?

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Successful people have one thing in common: they’re lifelong learners. Even when they become an expert or leader in their field, they know it’s critical to keep updating their skills and learn about the latest developments in the industry. Certificate programs, in particular online courses, are a fantastic way for all kinds of professionals to continue their education while working and meeting other life commitments.

These short, accessible courses allow you to build competencies in a particular area, and often a recognized qualification, in order to switch industries, get that promotion, or simply perform better in your current role. So, what is a certificate program exactly and is it right for you?

certificate program

What is a Certificate Program? Key Facts

Certificate programs are short, specialised, and often intensive courses intended to help you build your skills and knowledge in a particular area.

Certificate programs are available in a range of subjects, including digital marketing, business analytics, information technology, and project management. Most certificate programs take between 10 weeks and 6 months to complete, but can be even quicker. For example, EDHEC’s online executive certificates range from 5 to 10 weeks.

Formats can also vary, ranging from asynchronous online study to in-person seminars and intensives. Courses may have set start and finish dates, or may be open-ended, allowing you to start whenever you want and complete them at your own pace.

Some certificate programs are offered by reputed universities and business schools, giving you the opportunity to gain a recognized qualification from a well-regarded institution. Other certificates are available as massive open online courses (MOOC).

MOOC courses can vary widely in quality of teaching, structure, and content, and therefore may be less well-regarded by your employer or future employer. However, there are some excellent MOOC courses offered in partnership with recognized universities and business schools, such as our course on Investment Management with Python & Machine Learning.

EDHEC online also directly offers certification courses in management, finance, and topics related to addressing modern business challenges, such as:

What’s the Difference Between Certificates and Longer Programs?

You can find intensive certificate programs designed for busy executives that can be completed in a very short time frame, to allow you to boost your skills and then get back to work. 

Additionally, as they are shorter in duration and more focused, certificate programs typically have much lower tuition and fewer fees.

Certificate programs, especially shorter, more intensive courses, typically focus on one particular topic and/or building competencies in a specific area. 

Business school certificates often focus on solutions to a particular business challenge, such as value creation, leadership, or sustainable business. On the other hand, longer courses can cover a wide range of topics relevant to a particular role or profession.

While certificates may combine theory and practical elements, the type of coursework is typically more limited. Longer courses can incorporate a range of learning and assessment methods, such as research projects, dissertations, labs, and internships, though these vary widely between different programs.

Benefits of Certificate Programs

One of the major benefits of certificate programs, especially online and MOOC courses, is that they give you the flexibility to train while continuing to work, raise your family, or both. These programs are typically designed for working professionals, so they schedule classes during evenings or weekends, run intensive workshops, or allow you to access course materials on your own schedule.

Recognised certificates are also extremely valuable to professionals at all stages of their career. They’re ideal for recent graduates looking to gain specific skills in a certain area to bolster their qualifications. 

These programs are also extremely useful for established executives who want to refresh or expand their skills, as well as mid-career professionals looking to move into a leadership role.

If you’re looking to switch careers or transfer to a new industry, a certificate program can allow you to skill-up in new areas and give you a qualification relevant to the sector you want to move into. 

Finally, certificates are a great investment for companies that value their staff and managers’ professional development and want to increase their skills and competencies. Therefore, you may be able to have your company sponsor your tuition – after all, it’s a great investment for them!

You’ll also enjoy the other benefits of continuing education without having to sign up for a full-length course, such as:

  • Demonstrate that you’re dedicated and committed to professional development
  • Increase your earning potential
  • Keep up to date with the latest trends and developments
  • Gain new perspectives and fresh inspiration
  • Make valuable connections and build your network
  • Explore new areas to clarify your goals and solidify your career map
  • Develop your soft skills such as teamwork, communication, and time management

Are Certificate Programs Worth It?

We’re living in a dynamically changing world, where rapidly-evolving technologies are not only changing the way we live, but also disrupting even the most traditional and established industries. 

Certificate programs can equip new graduates and established professionals alike with the skills, knowledge, and tools they need to excel in these new environments. 

However, whether this is the right choice for you will ultimately depend on where you are in your life and your career and where you want to go in the future.

Now that you know the answer to the question: “what is a certificate program?”, you can weigh up the pros and cons of these types of courses against other forms of further education. 

Depending on your needs and career goals, you may be better pursuing an online Master’s which will give you a solid understanding of a range of concepts and topics. Alternatively, a shorter, more focussed online certificate could be the best way to see an immediate impact on your career or work performance.

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