Earning a graduate certificate offers a way to boost your professional credentials in a relatively short amount of time and with less of a financial investment than a degree program would require.

Graduate certificate basics

Penn State World Campus offers dozens of graduate-level certificates in a wide range of specialization areas, including homeland security, solar energy, marketing analytics, and distance education.

Most graduate certificate programs require between 12 and 18 credits (4 to 6 courses) and can often be completed in a year or less. Some certificate programs offer a choice of different “tracks,” which focus on an individual specialty area so you can pick the one that best fits your interests or career goals.

Benefits of a graduate certificate

Earning this credential may allow you to advance at your current workplace — possibly making you eligible for a salary increase or higher-level positions — or help you better position yourself as a highly qualified candidate when applying for opportunities with other employers.

A graduate certificate can be especially appealing in times when the job market is unpredictable because it gives you a way to explore new areas of interest or pivot toward a new career path without making the major commitment of a degree program.

In some fields, these credits may also satisfy continuing education requirements or help you earn certain professional licenses or credentials. Our Graduate Certificate in Accounting, for example, is a great way to earn credits that can be used toward the requirements for CPA licensure.

Some employers will assist with the cost of earning your graduate certificate. Check to see if your current or prospective employer offers any sort of tuition assistance program or professional development support that might help cover some of the cost.

An entry point to graduate-level education

Many people find graduate-level programs to be much more academically rigorous — and require more advanced time management skills — than undergraduate work, so a certificate can also be a way to “test the waters” and see if you are ready and able to manage the demands of a degree program with your current life circumstances.

Should you decide to continue on the path to a graduate degree, some or all of the credits from your certificate may count toward a degree, giving you a head start in meeting those requirements. Browse the list of available graduate certificates offered by World Campus.