Certification & Diploma Programs
Certification and diploma programs provide
students with a diverse array of professional opportunities. They vary widely,
from highly specialized information technology certifications to culinary school
diplomas to certifications from professional societies to internal corporate
certifications. While it is impossible to generalize about such differing
options, most certificate and diploma programs provide students with valuable
opportunities to advance in their chosen fields; in some areas, it is impossible
to advance without the right certification. Students who are contemplating a
certification or diploma program should research their desired career path
carefully in order to determine the best plan of action.
programs are a series of classes focusing on both theory and practice in a
particular field. They are not as broad as degree programs and they usually
concentrate on a particular area. For example, in an undergraduate degree
program in business, the student will study in depth a broad range of areas such
as marketing, accounting, finance, human resources, organizational behavior,
production, economics, and several others. Under a certificate program, on the
other hand, he/she will concentrate his/her studies in a specific area. For
example, in a marketing certificate/diploma program the curriculum will include
topics such as consumer behavior, marketing research, marketing strategy,
international marketing, internet marketing and others. These are all different
topics related to one specific area. Some certificate programs also offer an
overview of several different areas.
While some universities
refer to their programs as certificate programs, others call them diploma
programs. There is not a commonly adopted criterion to differentiate them. In
general, a diploma program is required to provide a certain minimum number of
instruction hours and are longer in duration. However, you may find two schools
with similar programs in curriculum and duration, but one of them defining the
program as a certificate program and the other calling it a diploma program.
Which department is
responsible for offering the certificate/diploma program?
programs are offered in most cases by the Extension Department (sometimes also
called the School of Continuing Education). At some institutions, however, the
certificate/diploma programs are offered by the schools within a university
(such as School of Business, School of Law, etc.). Still some
certificate/diploma programs may be offered by the Extension Department in
cooperation with one of the schools.
What kind of
audiences attend these programs, and when are the classes being offered?
programs are designed primarily for a local audience (Americans) but enrollments
are also open to international participants. These programs are more likely to
have a majority of local residents and the classes are offered in the evening
(during the week) and on weekends (daytime).
programs are designed primarily for an international audience. In this case,
most of the participants are non-Americans and classes are scheduled during the
daytime every day of the week. Because of that, the schedule tends to be more
intense than the evening courses, and participants are able to learn a lot more
within the same period of time. Some schools refer to this kind of schedule as
"intensive format" or "accelerated programs."
certificate/diploma programs differ from degree programs?
programs are shorter and tend to focus more on practical aspects rather than
theoretical concepts. In addition to the lectures, most programs make use of
real case studies/discussion intensively, and many programs also include visits
to sites of related interest. Some still offer optional internship opportunities
to complement the curriculum.
What are the
academic requirements to be accepted in the program?
Usually, the main
requirement for admission is an advanced knowledge of the English language. Some
schools use minimum TOEFL scores as a requirement. Others use the TOEFL as a
reference, but still accept students who haven't taken the TOEFL exam. Other
requirements may include basic knowledge of a specific field (such as computer
skills, management concepts, etc.) and/or some previous work experience.
What are the main
advantages of certificate/diploma programs?
These programs allow you
to acquire new skills, international experience and even some work experience
within a short period of time. Most programs vary from two weeks to a year in
duration, depending on the topic and format of the program. Their curricula tend
to be a lot more practical, providing ready-to-use skills upon your return. They
are faster and cheaper than degree programs (bachelor's or master's). Their
entrance requirements are also less strict than the degree programs'
requirements. They provide a great opportunity to network with professionals
from other countries. Some are offered several times a year, providing
flexibility and convenience in terms of scheduling.
What are the main
issues to look for when considering a certificate/diploma program?
- Look for the curriculum
that most closely matches your needs. Professional visits and internship
opportunities are attractive features.
- You should also check
the total number of instruction hours. Do NOT look only at the duration of the
program. For instance, a program with duration of 24 weeks and offering 12
hours of instruction per week will provide you a total of 288 hours of
instruction. A program with duration of 10 weeks offering 30 hours of
instruction per week will provide you 300 hours of instruction. The fact that
a program has a longer duration does not necessarily mean that you will learn
- Pay attention when
comparing costs. Do NOT compare tuition costs based only on the duration of
the program. As mentioned above, take into consideration the total number of
instruction hours. The tuition cost should be based on the total hours of
instruction provided, and not on the period used to deliver them. And don't
forget the living expenses. The longer the program, the more you will pay for
housing, food, transportation and incidentals.
- Other factors to
consider are the faculty, reputation of the school, support services offered,
scheduling, location and opinions of former students.