Is a Graduate Certificate Worth the Investment?

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By: Dr. Roland Kushner, Ph.D., Professor of Business and Business Program Director, and Patrick Kinkaid, Ph.D., Adjunct Professor, Applied Analytics  Tuesday, January 19, 2021 03:00 PM

It’s common for adult mid-career professionals to perform a risk-benefit analysis when assessing the next step in their continuing education journey. Some see a master’s degree as the end goal and dive right into a two-year program. But sometimes the cost and time commitment of a master’s program may seem overwhelming. For these reasons, graduate certificate programs are gaining popularity as a low-risk way to test the waters of graduate education.

While a master’s degree program includes 12 for-credit courses spread out over two years, a certificate program comprises six for-credit courses, which can be completed in just one year. As a result, certificate programs are more affordable and offer the specific expertise an adult learner seeks. They provide an easier pathway for the person who has been away from college for a while to return and build their confidence as a graduate student. A graduate certificate also mark the halfway point in a master’s degree journey, allowing students to celebrate their accomplishment and then decide whether or not they want to pursue the full master’s degree.

Do employers recognize the value of graduate certificates?

In a word, yes. When employers are faced with a choice of hiring a candidate with a graduate certificate from an accredited institution and a candidate without one, the candidate with the certificate will have a competitive edge. Employers see certificates and other continuing education accomplishments from accredited colleges as tools that help make employees better performers on the job.

Muhlenberg College’s School of Graduate Studies offers two graduate certificate programs. The Graduate Certificate in Organizational Leadership program is designed to give students a set of tools and models that will enhance significantly how leaders can accomplish their work across a variety of organizations. Completion of the Certificate in Organizational Leadership program shows employers that you, as a leader, fully comprehend how to motivate people and bring teams together to deliver powerful business results.

The Graduate Certificate in Applied Analytics program teaches critical thinking, resourcefulness and methods that help those in business analyst or data science roles to tell the story behind the data. While the course is taught using one data visualization technology platform (Tableau), students who complete the program will gain knowledge they can apply to any number of similar platforms.

Today’s employers not only want to see students’ educational achievements, but they also want to know what they’ve achieved in the job. Every student in the Certificate in Applied Analytics program completes a data analytics project for a Lehigh Valley-area company, which graduates will have part of the digital portfolio and can immediately add to their resumes.

How can a graduate certificate program fit my personal needs?

For many busy adult learners, the biggest benefit of certificate programs is the flexibility they provide. They offer a low-risk start to a master’s degree program, allowing students to learn new skills and experience master’s-level classes simultaneously.

Students may stop their learning experience after completing their first six courses and earning their certificate, or they may sign up for another six courses of study to earn a master’s. All credits in Muhlenberg graduate programs count toward the completion of a master’s degree, which can be achieved with just one more year of additional study in either discipline.

Who should consider a graduate certificate program?

Graduate certificate programs appeal to business professionals at various stages in their careers. The Organizational Leadership program, for example, may be perfect for a young professional who’s hungry to become a leader. It may fit the needs of a newly promoted manager looking to develop a new skill set.

The Applied Analytics program may appeal to people who don’t want to just understand data, but who want to know how to interpret data and present it to other people. We’ve seen people blossom as presenters, achieving an aptitude they didn’t realize they had. Others have studied applied analytics to spark a career change. Certificate programs aren’t industry specific, so they provide a base of knowledge that adult learners can carry with them wherever they go in the business world.

Certificate programs may also appeal to mid and late career professionals, whether it’s a person looking to restart his or her educational journey after a layoff, or someone who didn’t have the opportunity to thrive in the undergraduate school but is now better prepared to get the full benefit of graduate education.

What sets Muhlenberg College’s graduate certificate programs apart?

With a tradition rooted in the liberal arts, Muhlenberg College’s graduate certificate programs provide a holistic view of education. This approach allows our students to draw upon a wealth of varied experiences when seeking to solve complex organizational problems.

Program instructors at Muhlenberg work to ensure students get maximum value from their graduate certificate experiences and adjust class syllabi each semester to draw on the strength of each individual class.

Interested in learning more about our certificate programs?

For more information about the Certificate of Organizational Leadership, please visit our website. For more information about the Certificate of Applied Analytics, please visit our website.  Set up an appointment with an advisor.  

About the Muhlenberg College School of Graduate Studies
The Muhlenberg College School of Graduate Studies offers a variety of post-baccalaureate certificates and master’s degrees aimed at enhancing intellectual and career development through challenging coursework grounded in the liberal arts. With a mix of graduate certificate pathways and master’s degrees aligned with workforce and economic trends, the Muhlenberg College School of Graduate Studies enables students to prepare for professional work and career advancement, with a focus on leadership and innovation.