Why Certificates Can Get You a Job Even Without a Degree
Updated 22 August 2023
Some careers have flexible requirements that allow professionals to pursue alternative educational paths. This flexibility means a professional can earn a certification instead of a traditional undergraduate degree. If you feel a non-traditional educational program may fit your lifestyle or personal preferences, you can consider getting a certificate instead of a degree. In this article, we explain why certificates can get you a job even without a degree, share the benefits this can offer and provide tips for pursuing certifications.
Why certificates can get you a job even without a degree
To understand why certificates can get you a job even without a degree, consider the following explanations:
An employer may accept a certification in place of a degree because these programs often provide equivalent training. Equivalence means the employer can feel confident a certificate holder has the same knowledge about the industry as a professional with a degree. Some employers even list the degree requirement with the phrase or equivalent to indicate they consider candidates with a certification or extensive experience.
Undergraduate degrees often offer less specialised training than certifications. This limitation is because undergraduate degrees usually have a specific curriculum and often spend time on broad concepts rather than speciality areas. A certification program is typically much smaller and can focus on single topics. For example, while pursuing an undergraduate degree, you may complete a technical writing class in one semester, but in a certification program, you can complete a course specifically about email campaign writing.
Having a certificate showing your abilities in a specialised area of work can help distinguish you from other candidates, even if those candidates have degrees and more educational qualifications.
Some positions may have more skill-based requirements, which is why you might be able to earn a certificate instead of a degree to get a job. Sometimes, a certificate program can help professionals develop similar skills to a degree earner. For example, although becoming a registered nurse requires a degree, you can become an enrolled nurse with just a diploma. There are also many healthcare jobs which only require a Certificate III or IV. You may also be able to use your extended and unique skill set to your advantage over other job candidates, even without having the same educational qualifications.
Related: How to Write a Skills-Based Resume
Some professions have universal standards for their qualifications or offer a specific exam or licence. Often, you can access these exams regardless of your educational background. Some professions without an exam or licence have universal skills. In this case, certificate programs provide training on a distinct topic that allows you to complete specific job duties without a degree. For example, many coding languages within the information technology (IT) field have certificate programs. If you earn a certification in C++, you likely have the same relevant programming skills that a professional who completed an IT degree has.
Benefits of earning certifications
There are many benefits to earning a certification, which include the following:
Requires less time
Earning a certification is often a shorter time commitment than earning a degree. An undergraduate degree can take two to four years, while many certification programs take less time, often only a year or a few months. Having a shorter time commitment for your educational qualifications can allow you to pursue more than one certification within the same amount of time you might spend earning an undergraduate degree. You also may be able to join the workforce earlier, gaining more experience in your field and increasing your earning potential.
Is less expensive
Certification programs are often less expensive than degrees. The cost of certifications can depend on the organisation that hosts them. In some cases, you can even seek financial assistance, such as using a tuition reimbursement program your employer offers or applying for grants. These lower costs can allow professionals for whom college programs are unaffordable to have similar career options as those who can afford them.
Allows for specialisations
You can earn a certification in a speciality area within your field, which may qualify you for more jobs. It can also allow you to pursue a topic that's particularly interesting to you. This opportunity may lead you to a career you're passionate about, increasing your job satisfaction. While you can also add specialisations to degrees, it may take longer to achieve and there may be a requirement to complete general education courses to accompany the speciality.
Helps with career advancement
Certifications may help you get jobs and promotions. Even after you earn a position, you may want a certification to help qualify you for promotions. For example, if one of your long-term career goals is to become a manager, you might earn a project management certification to prove that you can handle this responsibility. Earning certifications also shows your employer that you care about your career advancement, which may encourage them to consider you for more promotions.
Offers flexible learning
Many certification programs offer flexible learning options to suit you as a professional. This assistance can mean a flexible class schedule, online programs and even self-paced courses where you can learn at your own speed. These measures can provide more flexibility than a traditional degree might, which can help you maintain a positive work-life balance and manage other responsibilities you may have, such as taking care of your family and working.
Flexible learning options can also benefit those who prefer a non-traditional school setting. If you want something other than traditional classroom learning, you may find that self-paced classes or online courses are more enjoyable and manageable for you. This can allow certifications to become more accessible than degrees.
Has fewer entry requirements
To earn a degree, you first apply to a university that may have various requirements for entry, such as a passing score on a standardised test, the completion of a secondary school certificate or extracurricular activities. Certifications typically have fewer requirements. The qualifying factors for certification programs are usually financial, or you may complete a beginner certification before enrolling in another. This structure allows certification programs to become a good option for those who might not perform well in secondary school.
Tips for earning and highlighting your certifications
If you decide to earn certification, you may benefit from the following tips:
Create a list of preferences
Create a list of preferences revolving around certifications. You may consider what type of courses you want to take. Establishing a budget for your certification is also helpful. When making your list, decide which schedule works best for your life. Creating this list of preferences can help you choose a certification that best fits your career goals and personal life later.
Conduct research to determine if the certification is appropriate for you. You can research different organisations that offer certificates to find courses in which you can enrol. It's also beneficial to conduct career research to ensure that it's still possible to achieve the position you want without a degree. While this is an option for many careers, others may have strict education requirements. Once you confirm you can earn a certificate instead of a degree, you can conduct further research to find a specific certificate program.
Develop studying skills
Developing studying skills can help you succeed in your certification course. Many courses are online or take place in non-traditional learning environments, so it's helpful to develop learning skills. These skills can also help you pass exams, which many certification programs end with. These final exams can determine whether you earn the certificate, so it's important to study for them.
List them on your resume
Once you earn a certificate, list it on your resume. You can either create a certifications section on your resume to enhance readability or list them in your education section. When listing your certificate, be sure to include its official name, the name of the organisation from which you earned it and the year you received it. This can provide helpful information for the employer so they can understand the value of your certification.
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