July 11, 2012
Certificate programs might be your ticket to a career boost
If you've been thinking about increasing your skills, retraining or exploring a new career but don't want to spend the equivalent of a full college degree (and don't have the time for more intensive schooling), you might want to consider signing up for a certificate program.
Right now is the time to decide. University of Washington Professional and Continuing Education is introducing 16 certificate programs to its already meaty roster starting this fall, including mobile business strategy, product design and development, digital publishing, Drupal site building, professional open source Web development, and food nutrition and health.
Many of the classes can be taken on their own, but assembled together into three quarters of learning, the certificate programs offer a real chance to build expertise and also can lend your resume weight.
Your employer might even subsidize your attendance if the skills you obtain can benefit the company as well. (In order to propose this, draw up a plan outlining how you would apply new skills to your job and what the gains would be for your employer.)
The tuition also qualifies for a tax credit.
The beauty of these types of certificate programs is that they are manageable for working professionals and also fit in nicely if you are spending most of your working hours searching for a job, which can seem like full-time work (and often is).
Aside from enabling attendees to learn new skills, certificate programs also can provide an entree (connections, insight, a network) into a new industry.
I have completed two of these programs and am happy that I did. I gained proficiency in new areas and, perhaps more importantly, made connections that helped fuel career growth. I also learned a lot about myself as an individual and as a worker, things like what best motivates me (deadlines and being accountable to others) and how to incorporate creativity into my work in order to be more satisfied with my job.
A series of special and preview events -- including free sample classes and an open house -- are coming up starting next week.
Aside from more than about 125 certificate programs, Professional and Continuing Education also offers more than 30 specialized graduate degrees and bachelor degree completion with working adults in mind. Options include evening classes and weekend and online learning options, and skills can be used immediately on the job or to find a new one.
If you're thinking about going beyond a certificate to earn a full graduate degree, the UW is hosting another popular Grad School Boot Camp at the end of this month. Enrollees can learn about programs offered by different schools (not just the UW) and how to conquer the application process.
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
Paul Anderson helps professionals in transition find their desired employment.
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