Post-baccalaureate certificates: A good option for some graduates

Post-baccalaureate certificatesMany people earn Master’s degrees, but, even though they are increasingly common, they still have a certain cache. There’s no doubt that an Master’s in Business Administration or a Master of Science in systems engineering from a prestigious school will open otherwise closed career doors. The technology sector, in particular, is placing an increasing emphasis on solid graduate credentials. In nursing, a Master of Science in the field is necessary to keep on being promoted.

Those who dream of being a college professor really need to earn a Ph.D. because that’s the effective minimum requirement for a faculty position at most good universities. Likewise, people who plan a long and happy career in public school teaching are well advised to earn a Master of Arts or Science, depending on their subject.

However, there’s a quicker way to becoming credentialed. It’s called a “post-baccalaureate certificate.” This credential is earned by people who already have an undergraduate degree, and it is, in some ways, like a Master’s degree, only it takes less time and costs less money. A typical post-baccalaureate certificate requires the completion of only four to seven classes. Contrast that to a Master’s degree which typically requires completion of at least twelve classes and often a Master’s thesis, and you can see that the certificate option is a quicker route to a goal.

Here are some reasons that you might pursue a baccalaureate certificate instead of a Master’s degree:

There’s a job waiting for you—Through your friends or family, you might have a job waiting for you—but you need to demonstrate a basic level of competence in the field to be technically qualified for the position. Even if you are going into the family business, it can make sense to earn a certificate that clearly demonstrates basic field knowledge. You will find there is less resentment from other employees not directly related to management and fewer murmurs of nepotism.

You were hired provisionally—Sometimes people are hired for jobs even though they lack the minimum requirements. This can happen if none of the people who apply for the job meet the minimum requirements. In that case, the employer will sometimes hire someone and give him or her a deadline—six months or a year are common deadlines—to earn a credential. An employee who is working eight hours a day, five days and week, with a one-year deadline to get certified is well served by a post-baccalaureate certificate which requires completion of only a few classes. Under these conditions, trying to earn a Master’s degree within the deadline is risky. If you don’t complete the degree, you could be out of a job.

You can earn more money automatically—In some jobs, especially the government sector, employees automatically qualify for raises based on earning new qualifications and certificates. If you are working in government, and a baccalaureate certificate will earn you another $15,000 a year for taking five courses, it’s kind of a no-brainer that you should go for the certificate.

There’s a promotion waiting for you—In some job sectors, especially government and teaching, employees are promoted largely because of earned certificates and completed workshops and other continuing education experiences. When this is the case, even if the promotion comes with a modest raise, earning the baccalaureate certificate makes sense. That five thousand a year raise, multiplied by twenty years at that job, equals $100,000. That’s obviously a good reason to take four to seven courses at night or on your lunch hour.

You can roll the certificate credits over into a Master’s degree—Some baccalaureate certificates are offered by the same departments that award Master’s degrees. In that case, you should definitely inquire whether, after completion of the certificate, you can transfer some or all of the certificate courses into a Master’s program. That way, you have an immediate credential and, over the long haul, you can still earn a Master’s degree without starting over or losing your time investment.

Some employers put a lot of value on a post-baccalaureate certificate because it shows that you are not only interested in the field, you are also willing to make an investment of your own time and money to become more knowledgeable. Taking classes and earning good grades also demonstrates that you have a talent for the field and a good aptitude for learning more and being promoted.

If you are choosing between a Master’s degree and a post-baccalaureate certificate, be sure to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Will the post-baccalaureate certificate in fact teach me everything I want to know about this field?
  • If I opt for a post-baccalaureate certificate instead of a Master’s, will it hold me back professionally? Will I have a better shot at raises and promotions with a Master’s or are the prospects about the same with either credential?
  • Having finished a four-year degree, am I truly sick of going to school? This is an important question, and you should be really honest with yourself. A lot of people start Master’s degree programs and drop out with nothing to show for their investment of time and money. If the thought of sweating it out in classrooms for another year, full time, or another three years, part time, is unbearable, you should definitely opt for the quicker, easier route to demonstrating your preparation for a field.

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