Certificates Become Increasingly Popular Among College Students

By Catherine Groux
Posted June 07, 2012 02:53 PM

Many students are choosing to earn certificates to advance their knowledge.
Many students are choosing to earn certificates to advance their knowledge.
Today, many individuals emphasize associate's and bachelor's degrees as the path toward stable employment; however, according to a new report, many students are choosing to earn certificates to prepare for the workforce.

More Students Earning Certificates

A new report by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce shows that the number of certificates awarded to students has increased by more than 800% in the past 30 years. In 1984, less than 2% of adults said a certificate was their highest academic credential. By 2009, that figure grew to almost 12%.

Today, students earn these credentials throughout their careers, but most certificate holders are between the ages of 19 and 29 when they earn their award.

While many Americans opt to earn a certificate to land a stable job and immediately enter the workforce, the report shows that some also choose to earn a college degree. Today, about 19% of certificate holders also have an associate's degree, while 12% have a bachelor's degree.

Popular Subjects Studied by Students Earning Certificates

Across the country, colleges offer certificate programs on a wide range of topics to cater to students' diverse interests. Currently, one of the most common subjects individuals study when earning a certificate is healthcare, followed closely by business/office management, the report states. However, some students choose to pursue certificates in subjects like cosmetology, auto mechanics, construction, and computer and information services.

The Benefits of Earning a Certificate

Many individuals opt to earn certificates to develop more career skills in a short amount of time. The report states that students can earn short-term certificates in less than one year of instructional time, while medium-term certificates only require one to two years of study.

However, there are other benefits that come with earning this credential as well. The Georgetown report indicates that while high school graduates earn an average of $29,202 per year, a certificate can raise this salary to $34,946.

Still, the pay increase individuals will see from earning a certificate greatly depends on whether or not they opt to work in the field their credential pertains to. For example, the report shows that certificate holders who work in that industry earn about 37% more than those with only high school diplomas. However, certificate holders who do not work in that field earn only 1% more than high school graduates.

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