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Step Aside College Degree, I Want a Certificate.

January 10, 2011

Growing up, the one thing my parents strictly enforced was education. Coming from a family filled with teachers, educating myself was the key to obtaining a good career. You graduate high school, go to college, earn a 4 year degree and boom, career. That seemed to be the only route in obtaining a job that afforded a comfortable lifestyle. That is of course until I started seeing commercials for certificate programs. You know the ones offering specialized training and job placement in less than 18 months. You mean I spent 4 years getting my bachelors, and one more year towards my masters, when I could have just spent a fraction of that time getting my certificate with the same results? All those years of finals, term papers and mandatory classes that had nothing to do with my major were all in vain. These commercials were proof that yes I could have gone to those frat parties and not to my advanced geology class. See mom! Seriously, who really needs to know that much about rocks anyway?

Here’s the deal on these certificate programs. First and foremost remember that just like college, or anything else, this is a business. Geared towards obtaining your money and in the end producing a piece of paper you can hang on the wall without any guarantee of work. These short vocational programs are  increasingly appealing to young professionals who don’t have the time or money to invest in a full four-year degree. You can obtain specialized certificates in almost any field ranging from health services, paralegal studies, forensic accounting and journalism. While these programs publicize job security and growth, a majority of the fields are very narrow and normally the base salary won’t cover the student loans you are due to pay. Not all of these certificate programs are shams though. Many accredited colleges like NYU and Cornell offer certificate programs, with NYUoffering over 113 different types. The difference is that when you get a certificate from NYU or Cornell you get to ride the tailcoats of their name as well.

 The best thing to do when thinking about enrolling in a certificate program is to do your research. Look into the school’s job placement rate and check for any pending lawsuits or complaints with the better business bureau. If you are going for paralegal studies make sure the school is ABA approved (American Bar Association). Look into the field you are pursuing by speaking with professionals and current or prospective employers about what their hiring preferences are. In many cases, especially in the health services field, experience outweighs certificate programs. According to an article I read in The New York Times, the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities issued over 345,000 certificates in 2008-2009. That’s a 25 percent increase in the last four years. Do you think there were 345,000 jobs available? Considering that was at the beginning of our economic crisis I’m going to go with no. Bottom line, consumers beware.

Wouldn’t it be nice to just know you won’t get jilted for your money and obtain all the services you pay for? At GAI (www.gunwel.com) that’s exactly what you get. We don’t nickel and dime and provide only the best for all your Tax & Bookkeeping needs. So give us a call at 212-979-6830 or stop by for a visit! We’d love to hear your thoughts on the new certificate craze. See you soon!!

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