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Finding job opportunities in the USA is no easy feat. Still, an even bigger challenge is to land a job offer that helps you to accomplish your career goals without making any financial compromise. In this ever-competing job market, you need to shine like a star for grabbing the attention of prospective employers.

Acquiring advanced educational qualifications or skills is a sure-shot way of moving smoothly along your career path by securing not only lucrative jobs but also promotions whenever suitable opportunities arise. But, the fact that higher education in the USA is insanely expensive is not hidden from anyone. Moreover, most of the graduates pursue employment immediately after completing their bachelor’s degree to gain financial independence.

So while you can’t go out and earn while pursuing your degree you can start your own online course that will fetch you money while you still focus on your further education. Creating your first online course will help you reach out to students who are still pursuing their undergraduate degree or are in high-school.

But with the coming of COVID-19, the business has suffered a lot and the education sector is not an exception. So managing your career through these crises is the biggest challenge to all. Deciding what to do after completing your undergraduate degree might seem more confusing as both the job market as well as the education sector are going through a drastic change. 

You need to decide if you should pursue a graduate certificate course or Master’s degree depending on the field of study, personal preferences, and applicable regulations. Some students even work during their studies. For example, international students with F1 status in the United States of America are allowed to undertake OPT jobs for earning both hands-on experience and money. 

So, What Should You Do to Stand Apart?

Completing a relevant master’s degree can enhance your visibility among job seekers and give you a competitive edge over your colleagues. However, as we have discussed earlier in this blog post, studying in a US-based college or university can cost you an arm and a leg. If you are already heavily indebted due to loans incurred for getting an undergraduate degree, you might not find chasing a graduate degree a great idea.

But worry not, as we have tried to provide the most favorable solution for both indigenous and international students who have attained undergraduate education.

Graduate certificate programs can enable you to earn a valuable educational credential for improving your career potential. Whether you have finished your bachelor’s degree recently, sometime back or a long ago, a graduate certificate can make maximizing pay raises and climbing the ladder of success much smoother.

What Exactly Is a Graduate Certificate?

an example of a graduate certificate

As the name implies, a graduate certificate can be obtained after completing a certificate course provided by a college or a university. A graduate certificate usually focuses on developing specific skill sets along with some practical knowledge in your undergraduate field. So, in general, it gives you more knowledge and skills to get into a profession you wish for.

This certification is considered to be at a higher level than an undergraduate certificate, just like a master’s degree. However, it should not be confused with a master’s degree or other types of certifications as it has been designed to fulfill some specific objectives.

Many colleges and universities offer graduate certificate programs in a wide range of specialized fields or subject areas. Bachelor’s degree holders can apply to a certificate program of their choice by considering various factors, such as current career path, future aspirations, areas of interest, in-demand hard skills and soft skills, level of competition, and personal & professional commitments. 

If you have been searching for certifications to boost a resume, then you must opt for a graduate certificate, as it is highly respected by organizations.  

How Does It Differ From a Master’s Degree?

Though both a master’s degree and a graduate certificate are a part of graduate-level education, they vary significantly in terms of scope of coursework, mode of study, time, and cost. While a master’s degree program allows you to gather detailed knowledge in a particular field of study, a graduate certificate program equips you with in-depth knowledge of a subject area. Apart from this, here are a few other differences between a graduate certificate and a master’s degree that will help you understand what you will need to achieve success in your life. 

1. Attendance

Graduate certificates will save up your time due to less or no attendance while it’s not so with a master’s degree. As graduate certifications are aimed towards early and experienced professionals engaged in varied industries, most of the institutions offer part-time programs. Unless a certificate program requires full-time attendance owing to the nature of the subject area, students can study part-time through offline and online modes. You can apply for an online or part-time certificate course as many employers accept online degrees and traditional degrees while hiring candidates. 

2. Time and Cost

The time and cost involved in a graduate certificate course are much less as compared to a master’s degree. In fact, they are also relatively less than the time and cost required for completing a graduate diploma. Generally, a graduate certificate program consists of 4-10 graduate-level courses that can be completed in a duration of six months to one and a half years while a master’s degree could be longer than this. 

The credit hours per semester can vary from 12 to 18. It’s important to note here that a graduate certificate will cost more than an undergraduate diploma. Unlike degree programs, federal financial aid in the form of grants, scholarships, and loans is not available for all graduate certificate programs. You can inquire whether the graduate certificate you wish to pursue is eligible for financial aid or not before applying.

3. Application Process

The application process for a graduate certificate course is less hassling and less time-consuming than the application process for a master’s degree course. It requires minimal paperwork and formalities. 

What Are the Different Types of Programs?

Innumerable types of graduate certificate programs are provided by several higher education institutions across the USA to facilitate learning among inexperienced and seasonal professionals. Programs covering a vast array of subjects are available to choose from. New types of graduate certificate programs are developed on a continual basis to meet the demands of employers as well as accommodate the transformation taking place in the global industrial landscape. 

How to Choose the Right Type of Program?

You need to practice due diligence while choosing the type of graduate certificate course to ensure that it gives your career the right direction. The graduate certificates can be broadly categorized into various types depending on their objective. Some certificate programs can strengthen your core competencies, whereas others can fetch you a high-paying job.

Ask certain questions to yourself for selecting the most appropriate graduate certificate course, for example, “Will it further my goals for personal and professional life?”, “Do I feel passionate about this subject area?” “Can I devote the necessary time to coursework and exam preparation?” and “Can I afford to pay for this course?”. It will help if you keep your present and future needs in mind for making the right decision.

Once you have finalized the type of program, you should choose the college or university from which you would like to earn a graduate certificate. As the curriculum of graduate certificate programs is not standardized, you need to compare the curriculum set by the universities you have shortlisted.

What Are the Benefits of a Graduate Certificate?

interviewer questioning two aspiring applicants

A graduate certificate can prove to be beneficial for your professional and personal development in more ways than one. As graduate certificate programs are built to help the students realize different ambitions, you can enrich your skills in a variety of fields. 

Along with expanding your knowledge base and learning the practical applications of knowledge, a graduate certification can also ease your job search struggle. Whether you are looking for employment opportunities for indigenous students or jobs for international students in the USA, a graduate certificate can win you a job offer. 

We have listed down a few benefits of earning a graduate certificate.

1. Upgrade existing skills

The way of carrying out business operations has become much different and difficult today as compared to the previous time. In addition to that, the use of sophisticated software and digital tools is increasing day by day. Therefore, upgrading skills is essential for staying relevant and marketable. You can complete a graduate certificate course related to your current skill set to boost your chances of getting a promotion and a raise. 

2. Cultivate new skills

Gaining specialization in a specific subject can lead you to achieve a better position in your current or new organization. You can study one or more niche areas of your field, depending on your short-term and long-term goals. Completing the required coursework will increase your proficiency and confidence levels. Find out about the desirable skills in your field and available job opportunities in the USA to select the suitable graduate certificate program.

3. Salary boost

Having a graduate certificate will give you a good pay raise compared to pay a company offers you on the basis of your undergraduate certificate. Research suggests that people with the graduate certificate received 10% to 30% more than candidates without graduate certificates.

4. Switch a career path

Many individuals show a willingness to make a career switch due to either feeling stuck in a rut or discovering their passion late in life. A graduate certificate can provide you with the knowledge and skills that are prerequisite for walking on your new career path. Choose a career path that is the best match for your skills and interests.

You can avail graduation certifications to boost your resume for impressing the employers and landing a stable and well-paid job. 

5. Solve your confusion

If you have just completed your graduation degree and are confused if you want to do a Master’s, applying for graduate certification course will let you know what all higher education demands and if you are ready to pursue it.

6. Prove existing skills

Every employee learns a variety of new skills while working for an organization to improve their productivity and expand their responsibility. The skills that you pick up during your employment tenure should be mentioned in your resume. But, a lack of appropriate educational credentials can make potential employers distrust you. 

So, you can prove that you possess those skills with the help of a graduate certificate befitting to your job role and skill set.

7. Obtain a license

Some professions have national or state licensing requirements to ensure the delivery of safe and quality services by the individuals and/or organizations—for example, mental health therapists. You can abide by the regulatory requirements and seek a license by acquiring a graduate certificate.

Similarly, some professions require individuals to get an education on a continual basis. With the help of a graduate certificate course, you can satisfy this requirement easily.

8. Transfer of credits

The credits earned in many graduate certificate programs can be transferred to a master’s degree related to the same field. In case you wish to pursue a master’s degree in the future, you can get the advantage of the transfer of credits. 

If you cannot decide the type of Master’s degree, devote time, or arrange for funds at present, get enrolled in a graduate certificate. However, it would help if you inquired beforehand whether the program you have chosen qualifies for credits transfer or not. 


Job Interview

The fact that the number of students pursuing a graduate certificate course has grown by more than 50% in the past two decades is enough to suggest the value and popularity of this certification. From nursing and paralegal to financial management and cybersecurity, graduate certificate programs are available in a large range of subject areas. 

You can even find a course that is extremely specific to the position held by you currently or the position you wish to hold in the future. Many students holding a master’s degree apply to these certificate courses too. In the end, we will just like to say that ‘learning never stops!’

Written By
Abrons Dilan is a public relation executive at OPTnation. He is PR strategist and writer, with extensive professional management experience in the public and private sectors.

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