Undergraduate Certificate Programs

Undergraduate Certificate Programs offer students an opportunity to take a group of related courses in a shorter term than associate’s or bachelor’s degree programs. ...

Whether you need to take professional development classes, are looking for technical or vocational training, teacher training or add on to existing credentials, certificates may be a useful way of earning credits.

What is an Undergraduate Certificate Program?

Undergraduate Certificate programs differ from traditional bachelor’s and associate’s degree programs in a few different ways, both in terms of program duration, the intention, and the outcome. Typically, students with a high school diploma or GED are able to apply into certificate programs, and these usually take about one or two semesters to complete. While not a degree, there are a number of different reasons why a certificate may be worth considering!

Boost Credentials 

Some students choose to enroll in an Undergraduate Certificate Program while concurrently working towards their Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree, as a way to build up specific skills. Others may lean towards a certificate instead of degree, either as a way to build up a resume, or to later use the credits towards an undergraduate degree, which may be possible at certain schools. Yet other certificate programs require undergraduates to have earned a college degree, so the certificate becomes an additional academic credential to the degree itself. Paralegal studies are one example. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, most of the paralegal certificate programs are intended as intensive paralegal training to those may have a bachelor’s degree in another field.i 

DID YOU KNOW? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “vocational, technical, or trade schools—teach job-specific skills in programs that usually last 2 years or less. Unlike community colleges and 4-year colleges or universities, these schools do not offer degrees. Instead, students typically earn a diploma or a certificate. Some programs help students prepare for state licensing exams, which are required to work in certain occupations. Others offer skilled-trade apprenticeship or journey-level studies”ii

Technical-Occupational Preparation

If you are hoping to become proficient in a technical field, an Undergraduate Certificate may be a good option. Some programs offer a few targeted core courses (from 3 to 18, roughly) as well as give students the freedom to choose a few electives. This might be useful in a number of industries. For instance, if you aspire to work as a dental assistant, a one-year diploma from an accredited program includes classroom and laboratory work as well as supervised practice and gives you the opportunity to learn the trade.iii Other possibilities where a “postsecondary non-degree award”iv might be useful could include:

  • Cooks, Bakers, Food Service Managersv
  • Medical Transcriptionistsvi
  • Medical Records, Health Information Techniciansvii
  • EMTs, Paramedicsviii
  • Firefightersix
  • Medical Assistantsx
  • Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nursesxi
  • Appraiser, Adjuster, Examinerxii
  • Computer support specialistxiii
  • Property, Real estate, Community Association Managersxiv
  • Lodging Managersxv

Undergraduate Degree vs. Undergraduate Certificate?

It is important to note that an undergraduate degree means that after you have completed your program, you will have obtained either an Associate’s degree or a Bachelor’s Degree, which in itself, can be a stepping-stone to a graduate degree or occupations where a degree is required. 

On the other hand, if you earn an undergraduate certificate, you will have completed fewer courses, which although might be a platform to continued education, is not equivalent to a degree. This difference is going to matter with respect to entry-level education requirements for various career paths, so you have to determine what is appropriate in your future career path. That being said, a certificate could signal to a prospective employer that you have put in the extra time to learn practical skills.

Campus or Online Certificate?

There are options for campus based certificates and undergraduate certificate programs online for those who either cannot commute or are busy working. Whether you prefer the social learning environment or logging into your courses from a computer, the choice is nice to have. In either case, it is in your favor to see what the accreditation standards are in terms of your program and institution especially if you are hoping to use the credits towards an undergraduate degree or you are in a profession where there are specific licensing laws.

An Undergraduate Certificate may be right for you if you:

  • Need to acquire career-focused skills to potentially launch a career
  • Have an undergraduate degree in a related field and want to boost your knowledge or skills in one area
  • Need to meet state or national licensing or credentialing requirements
  • Are looking for a way to go beyond a high school education
  • May work towards an undergraduate degree at a later date, but would like to enter the job market with some preparation

Take the Next Step

Usually, a certificate program focuses on a single career domain. Browse our sponsored listings to find Undergraduate Certificates such as Paralegal Certificate, Professional Baking and Pastry Certificate, Undergraduate Certificate in Biblical Studies, Medical Office Specialist and Health Claims Specialist Certificate. As you can see, you could earn anything from a business certificate to a baking certificate. This could make for an exciting search, and you can reach out to the different colleges, universities, career and technical schools for more information as they all have unique features.


sources[i] bls.gov/ooh/legal/paralegals-and-legal-assistants.htm |[ii] bls.gov/careeroutlook/2013/spring/art01.pdf |[iii] bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/dental-assistants.htm |[iv] bls.gov/careeroutlook/2014/article/education-level-and-jobs.htm |[v] bls.gov/ooh/food-preparation-and-serving/cooks.htm[vi] bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/medical-transcriptionists.htm |[vii] bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/medical-records-and-health-information-technicians.htm|[viii] bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/emts-and-paramedics.htm |[ix] bls.gov/ooh/protective-service/firefighters.htm |[x] bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/medical-assistants.htm |[xi] bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/licensed-practical-and-licensed-vocational-nurses.htm |[xii] bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/claims-adjusters-appraisers-examiners-and-investigators.htm |[xiii] bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/computer-support-specialists.htm |[xiv] bls.gov/ooh/management/property-real-estate-and-community-association-managers.htm |[xv] bls.gov/ooh/management/lodging-managers.htm

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