What Is a College Certificate Program?

College certificate programs offer you an alternative academic credential to the lengthier undergraduate or graduate degree programs. The coursework of such programs tends to be compressed, focusing almost entirely on a specific topic. Keep reading for more details about these programs.

College Certificate Programs

College certificate programs are designed to offer you the opportunity to refresh, pick up or master a subject or skill at the postsecondary level. Certificates are offered at both the undergraduate and graduate level. A certificate program will typically require fewer credits and take less time to complete than an associate, bachelor's, master's or doctoral degree program. In some cases, the credits earned in college certificate programs may be applied or transferred to degree programs if you later decide to continue your education.

If you already hold a degree in a particular field, you may choose to pursue a certificate program in the same field in order to gain knowledge related to your career. If you don't have a degree or are seeking to change careers, a certificate program may be a good way to complete occupational training.

Important Facts About College Certificate Programs

Prerequisites Varies, depending upon program of enrollment; undergraduate certificate programs may require a high school diploma, or equivalent
Online Availability Fully for select programs
Possible Careers Administrative service manager, fashion designer, claims adjuster, gas plant operator, loan officer, building inspector, sales representative, editor, budget analyst, insurance underwriter, personal financial advisor
Continuing Education Licensure or certification requirement varies by career; cosmetologists are required to be licensed in order to practice


The curriculum of a college certificate program depends on the field being studied. Most certificate programs differ from degree programs because the curriculum focuses on one particular subject area. This allows you to effectively learn a particular skill or body of knowledge in a relatively short amount of time, usually about a year or less. Most certificate programs won't require you to complete general education requirements outside the focus of your field of study.

College certificate programs are offered in many areas of study, including:

  • Management
  • Environmental studies
  • Homeland security
  • Gerontology
  • Graphic design
  • Property management
  • Accounting
  • Computer-aided design
  • Arts administration
  • Human resources management

Flexible Programs

You may enjoy flexibility in attending classes when you're enrolled in a college certificate program. A number of schools offer courses in their certificate programs during evenings and weekends to accommodate the schedules of non-traditional students and working professionals. Additionally, a number of certificate programs may be completed entirely online, allowing you to complete coursework and your assignments when your schedule allows.

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