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Professional Certifications Gaining Momentum

Time Moneyland’s Jon Marcus reported last week that universities are beginning to shift their offerings to meet more short-term and low-cost student needs.

Once the realm of for-profit institutions and community colleges, universities are moving into the professional certification market.

“The growth is huge,” Director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce Anthony Carnevale told Marucs. “It’s a good side-business for four-year colleges and graduate schools.”

With increasing costs and waning value being associated with full degree offerings, universities are seeing professional certifications as a “cash cow”, capable of rebuilding interest and enrollment. After all, professional certifications are usually pursued by adult students who either pay the full course cost without institutional aid or have their costs covered by an employer. Adult students who do not have the time, patience or interest to begin the process of earning a full degree.

“Increasingly, certificates are all that’s required for entry into particular lines of work, so if you’ve got your eye on a particular profession, sometimes a certificate is going to be all you need,” James Breckenridge, executive director of the Institute of Intelligence Studies at Mercyhurst College, told Marcus.

Moreover, from the university’s perspective, certificate programs can be added and modified more quickly than conventional degree programs, and therefore can stay in-tune with changes in fast-moving fields such as information technology or intelligence.

Offering certificates also allows institutions to intimately connect with a range of prospective students they otherwise would have had no communication with. Stephen Flavin, Vice President of Academic and Corporate Development at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, told Marcus that they’ve seen a large number of students move into graduate programs at WPI after earning a certificate.

“We have an extremely high adoption rate of those who progress on to the full master’s. So it works for the individual, and it also works for us,” he said.