From Degree to Greater Credentials

By Emad Rahim, DM, PMP and Richard Holloway, J.D.

CTU Higher Education - From Degree to CredentialsYou’ve considered a degree program, and somewhere along the way you may have wondered if adding a certificate to your credentials would advance your career. A professional certificate can distinguish you among other graduates and give you greater standing in your job search or professional career.

While the objective of a degree program is to help students build knowledge and skills in a particular area of study, a certification program goes beyond that. Degree programs must meet standards set by regional and national accrediting organizations, the Department of Education and state licensing agencies. In an engineering, project management or computer science program, for example, you’ll gain a thorough education. At the same time, these disciplines have industry-related certifications, and though you may complete a degree program, you’re not guaranteed to successfully pass a corresponding certification exam.

The typical full-time law student, for example, completes education in topics like civil procedure, constitutional law, contracts, criminal and property law in three years, but along with hundreds of other law school students, a graduate still has to pass the bar exam to become an attorney. Certification exams specifically test for professional competencies and knowledge gained outside of your college education. They often require you to have significant career experience within your discipline, perhaps along with professional references and other requirements beyond those needed for graduation from a degree program.

On the other side of a professional certification, however, are some real advantages: employers respect the accumulated years of high-level work that underlie a certification, and they see you as more accomplished in your field than the average graduate. Certifications are based on having relevant experience in addition to college knowledge, and they let employers know you can get the job done well.

If you’re interested in pursuing a certification after earning your degree, keep  in mind that you may first need to put a few years into your field to gain the kind of real-world understanding it takes to pass the exam. Make an excellent name for yourself in the small pond of your professional career, and you’ll be poised to move ahead of the class as a certified professional.

*Colorado Technical University does not guarantee third-party certifications. Certification requirements for taking and passing certification examinations are not controlled by Colorado Technical University but by outside agencies and are subject to change by the agencies without notice to Colorado Technical University. Therefore, Colorado Technical University cannot guarantee that graduates will be eligible to take certification examinations, regardless of their eligibility status upon enrollment. Find disclosures on graduation rates, student financial obligations and more at

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