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Why a Graduate Certificate Might Be a Better Be Than a Master’s Degree

Today’s highly competitive job market has left many college students wondering whether the extra time and money to get a master’s degree will pay off in the form of improved career prospects. But what many don’t realize is that a master’s degree isn’t the only option for post-baccalaureate education. There’s another, less expensive, faster way to gain industry-specific skills at the post-graduate level — the graduate certificate.

A graduate certificate takes about half as long to earn as a master’s degree, and is a fraction of the cost. In most fields, including project monitoring and evaluation, a graduate certificate can improve your job prospects and raise your salary just as much as a master’s degree. Even if you already have a master’s degree, a graduate certificate is a fast and economical way to upgrade your skills and stay competitive in the jobs market.

Advance Your Education in Less Time

If you want to enhance your skill set and pad your resume, but also want to hit the job market as soon as possible, a graduate certificate is the way to go. Online programs are a popular choice for students who want to earn graduate certificates; you could go to school online for a graduate certificate in project monitoring and evaluation, for example, while still holding down a full-time job.

The typical graduate certificate program consists of four to seven credits, although some programs can comprise as many as 15 credits. That’s about half as many as a master’s degree, so the degree takes a lot less time to earn — usually a year or less, compared to two or more years for a master’s. It’s a great choice if you’re looking for a qualification that could help you get that big promotion you’ve got your eye on, if you want to earn more money, or even if you want to change careers.

Boost Your Earning Power

You already know that people with master’s degrees tend to earn more than people who have only a bachelor’s degree, but you don’t have to commit to a master’s program to bring home bigger paychecks. Graduate certificates are especially valuable for people working in technical fields, such as heating and air conditioning, or in emerging fields, such as cybersecurity, social media marketing, or homeland security. Thirty-nine percent of men with a graduate certificate earn more than their counterparts with a bachelor’s, and 34 percent of women with graduate certificates make more than their baccalaureate-educated peers.

Save Money

If you’re not sure whether you want a master’s degree or you’re in a field where a graduate degree doesn’t necessarily equal a higher salary, a graduate certificate can get you the education you need to advance at a much lower price tag.

A graduate certificate runs about $5,000, compared to the tens of thousands of dollars a master’s degree costs. And if you’ve already got a master’s degree, it just doesn’t make sense to go back to school for another one when a graduate certificate could give you the extra specialization you need at a lower price and with a shorter time commitment.

Improve Your Job Prospects

While it’s true that there are certain fields where a master’s degree is a must — think law, medicine, or business — in most fields, a job candidate with a graduate certificate will always win out over one with only a bachelor’s degree. Employers are impressed by the extra credential, as most graduate certificate programs are tailored to meet industry demands.

Since the programs are so short, there’s no risk of your skills becoming outdated by the time you hit the job market. They’re also a good way to update skills later in your career, especially if you want to break into or advance in an emerging field that didn’t even exist when you were a traditional college student; one-third of people who earn graduate certificates are over age 30.

If you’re reluctant to commit to a lengthy, expensive master’s degree program, why not consider a graduate certificate instead? You can earn a specialized post-baccalaureate qualification in half the time and at a fraction of the cost of a master’s degree, and hit the job market faster and harder with the kinds of skills that make employers stand up and take notice.