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Benefits of a Graduate Certificate

UL Online -- Wed, 02/19/2020 - 4:11pm

The University of Louisiana at Lafayette offers several graduate certificate programs to give students the opportunity to build a more specialized or diverse skillset, based on their goals.

Some of the University’s certificate programs — instructional coach and cardiovascular nursing — are offered entirely online to better serve working professionals.Dani Oldfield works on graduate coursework in her Youngsville kitchen.

If you’re wondering if a graduate certificate could help you reach your professional or academic goals, here are a few things worth considering.

What is a Graduate Certificate Program?

Graduate certificates take about half the time as a master’s degree program. Our programs comprise graduate courses taught by UL Lafayette faculty and are offered as part of master’s and doctoral degree programs.

The University’s online graduate certificate programs are all between 12 and 15 credit hours, or four to five courses.

Dr. Mary Farmer Kaiser, dean of the Graduate School, says in addition to requiring fewer courses, graduate certificates typically don’t have as many admission requirements as full degree programs and don’t have the same comprehensive capstone or thesis requirements. 

“Graduate certificates are far more about taking an intense look at developing certain skills, rather than a broader look in a particular discipline,” Dr. Farmer-Kaiser says.

Professional Benefits of Graduate Certificates

For early- and mid-career professionals who need to develop skills in a particular area, a graduate certificate offers a pathway to learn and demonstrate those skills without committing to a full graduate degree program.

Some certificate programs are a direct response to industry needs or standards.

The Instructional Coach graduate certificate fulfills the requirements for the Louisiana Department of Education’s add-on certification as an instructional coach. Students can apply for the credential from the state once they complete the program.

In 2019, the University created the graduate certificate in cardiovascular nursing — the first program of its kind in the state for advanced practice nurses who have attained, or are in the process of attaining, a Master of Science in Nursing. The University launched the program with support from the Cardiovascular Institute of the South.

“Cardiovascular Institute of the South wasn’t interested in seeing their nurses were broadly trained, they knew their staff would have the basics,” Dr. Farmer-Kaiser says. “CIS wanted to make sure nurses had a depth of knowledge in cardiovascular patient care and practices.”

Academic Benefits of Graduate Certificates

Graduate certificates can also provide an entry point for those interested in pursuing a graduate degree but have been out of school for several years, are uncertain about committing to a graduate program, or need to compensate for academic lapses during their undergraduate degree studies.

“We do see that quite a bit. Students will come in with a less-than-stellar undergraduate track record, but it’s 10 years later,” Dr. Farmer-Kaiser says.

After they’ve taken the four or five required graduate certificate courses, Dr. Farmer-Kaiser says, they’ve built their academic credentials to compete as a grad school applicant.

A graduate certificate can provide students an opportunity to prove their abilities to themselves, as well as a graduate admissions office.

Ellen Farrar, of Katy, Texas, found UL Lafayette’s instructional coach program after her son enrolled at the University. The online graduate certificate, Farrar said, seemed manageable with her full-time job and 4-year-old daughter.

As she neared the completion of her certificate in 2019, Farrar decided she was up for the challenge — and range of opportunities — a full degree program would offer. Farrar enrolled in the online Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction with UL Lafayette in August 2019.

“If I was able to find the time and managed to do these, then I can do the other graduate courses,” she says.

Farrar was able to apply all of the courses from the certificate to her graduate degree program.

Enrolling in a Certificate Program

Students considering a graduate certificate program shouldn’t take the decision lightly, Dr. Farmer-Kaiser says.

Graduate certificate programs provide numerous professional and academic benefits, but they also require time and financial investment. Potential students should check with their employers to ensure the certificate curriculum aligns with the goals they want to achieve.

It’s also important to note that financial aid may not be available for graduate certificates.

If you’re interested in learning more about earning a graduate certificate online, reach out to us at online@louisiana.edu or 337-482-5555. You can find more information about the University’s certificate programs on our website.