Certificate programs are becoming more in demand by college graduates and job seekers. They’re seeing the value of a certificate program as more than another piece of paper to frame and put on the wall.

Instead, earning a professional certificate can lead to job offers, promotions, and salary increases.

Continuing education certificate programs offer you the opportunity to study in a specific area, either related to your existing job or in a field you are exploring. To earn a continuing education certificate from a college or university, you have to complete a number of required courses and electives. Most can be earned in one to two years.

No matter your profession, you’re likely to find a school offering a certificate for you and courses taught by professionals with real-world knowledge. There are certificate programs in everything from health care to law to management to nonprofits to technology.

Mary Walshok, dean of UC San Diego Extension, and co-author of the book Closing America’s Job Gap says:

“Unlike the 1950s through 1970s, when schools of continuing education and extension services were more like second-chance universities for adults who didn’t have the opportunity to get a college degree, these programs today are hubs of education and training providing the practice oriented credentials which combined with a solid liberal arts degree make for globally competitive careers.”

The University of California San Diego reports a 19 percent increase in students enrolling in certificate programs. In 2011, 3,841 students entered continuing education certificate programs at UC San Diego, compared to 3,217 during 2010. UC San Diego Extension offers 102 certificates, and for most of them, the entire program costs $1,875-$3,200.

The majority – about 85 percent – of students already hold a college degree. And employers are paying for the extra schooling, so it’s an option to inquire about if you’re currently employed.

Here are 10 areas where UC San Diego are seeing more students enrolling in certificate programs – and they reflect trends in other schools, too:

  • Lactation consultant
  • Biostatistics
  • Paralegal studies
  • Data mining
  • Lean Six Sigma
  • Leadership and management
  • Fundraising and development
  • Copyediting
  • College counseling
  • Reading instruction from research to practice

We’re seeing schools grow their certificate programs, too.

Lake Michigan College in South Haven, Mich., recently approved two new one-year Certificate of Achievement programs in logistics and energy production technology/line worker.

New certificates at UC San Diego include graphic design, in vitro diagnostics, career advising, mobile applications development, mobile device programming, and video and imaging technologies, clinical trials administration in Latin America, and global service entrepreneurship.

College of Mount Saint Vincent in Riverdale, N.Y., is offering career-focused certificate programs – a Pharmacy Technician Certificate Program and Medical Assistant Administration Program.

As you’re looking at college programs, you may be able to transition to a new job or more rewarding position by adding a professional certificate to your resume.

Holiday Traditions Can Point to New Career

Lori Johnston | December 13, 2011

For all of our holiday traditions, it takes hard work to make them happen year after year. We’re not just talking about baking those special cookies, reading holiday books with kids, finding the perfect gift for someone, or taking a little one to meet Santa.

Throughout the holidays, you’ll be coming into contact with people in careers that are super busy this time of year. But some of these fields need workers, and if you’re considering a career change, see how holiday activities and traditions might lead you to one of these five professions.

Event planner
From the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade to seasonal tree lightings and parades in other metro areas and small towns, event planners are needed to coordinate all the details and volunteers. Programs such as hospitality management give folks the education to work as an event planner, which also are in demand for company parties and social events tied to the holidays.

Advertising manager
If your child keeps telling you about the toy they’ve seen on TV and just have to have, you have experienced the power of advertising. Toy makers ramp up the marketing this time of year, so that their products become the must-have item, and professionals with advertising expertise and training from advertising programs help generate buzz for companies.

Financial adviser
Before the year comes to an end, many folks touch base with their financial advisor or planner to make contributions to 401(k) and other steps that can help lower their taxes. The know-how you get from a financial planning school prepares you to help individuals and families seeking to save as the year comes to an end.

Nonprofit director
If you’re volunteering with a charitable group or donating money, cans, clothes, toys, or other items to those in need during the holidays, the spirit of giving could take you into a new career. The nonprofit industry is seeking people who are passionate about a cause, who can use their knowledge of business, marketing, finance, technology, and other areas to help a nonprofit group reach more people, all throughout the year.

Family and pet photos are the focal point of all of those holiday cards, and it’s wonderful to see kids grow up and people share photos during the holidays.

Phil Bekker, a faculty member in the photographic imaging department at The Art Institute of Atlanta, says there can be enormous satisfaction in being involved in a creative field like photography. To be successful, though, a key skill that a photographer needs is people skills, which will endear them to potential clients. He adds that a personal style sets a photographer apart from others and makes them more in demand that other photographers.

For many holiday cards, those amazing portrait shots require a photographer with the training to get the right shot, and that includes one with all family members smiling!

-Lori Johnston

Technical Education Aided New IBM CEO

Lori Johnston | November 3, 2011

Take a look at the college degree held by Ginni Rometty, who will take over as IBM’s first-ever female CEO and president on Jan. 2, 2012, and you’ll see someone who committed in college to a career in technology. She earned her bachelor’s of science degree with high honors in computer science and electrical engineering from Northwestern University.

Technology is a job sector where more women are needed, and Rometty’s promotion reflects that companies are seeking female leaders with technical experience.

If you’re interested in working in the technology industry, don’t be intimidated by pursuing fields such as computer science while browsing college websites and course catalogs. While the technology field needs people in all types of roles, from human resources to public relations, leaders like Rometty reveal that focusing on science and technology from the onset can be rewarding.

But females are discouraged from technical education pursuits, Caroline Simard, vice president of research at the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology, recently told the New York Times. She said:

“Research shows that the majority of people have an implicit bias that associates science and technology with gender, so from a very young age, girls are not encouraged to pursue these careers. Women like Ginni Rometty are a powerful antidote against the stereotype.”

While IBM is a top global company, there are small- and mid-sized technology firms in your own town that need leaders, and by focusing on a technical education in computer science, software engineering, or other tech fields, you could position yourself to take on a leadership role and further help break the glass ceiling.

-Lori Johnston

Public Service Workers Getting Access to Education

Dawn Papandrea | October 27, 2011

A new program offers scholarships for police officers shines light on schools that are working to accommodate public servants and shift workers.

Herzing University recently announced  that the  International Union of Police Associations (IUPA) has joined its Badge-to-Grad Scholarship Program, which offers members and their families a discounted tuition rate. Among the school’s offerings are programs in criminal justice, homeland security, paramedic, and fire science.  IUPA members will also have access to master’s, bachelor’s and associate degree and diploma programs in the technology, business, healthcare and design fields.

This is great news for those in the law enforcement field, but it’s encouraging for all working adults as well. It shows that more and more institutions of higher learning are recognizing that people who are already part of the workforce can benefit from returning to the classroom. As such, it’s easier than ever to find degree programs that can be completed at your own pace, online, or during night/weekend schedules.

It’s also a good reminder that there might be opportunities to go to school at a discounted rate, or even have your tuition reimbursed, depending on your industry and employer. It’s up to you to find out about such programs so the entire school expense doesn’t have to fall on you.

Have you ever taken courses or completed a program that was funded by your employer or an organization? Tell us about it.

-Dawn Papandrea