As a hiring manager, you will encounter candidates with a variety of credentials: degrees, professional training certifications, diplomas, and certificates. One type of certificate that is becoming increasingly popular is a graduate certificate. As with any credential, you’ll need to assess this achievement in relation to the candidate’s fit for the job. However, not everyone is familiar with graduate certificates, and that can make it hard for hiring managers to understand what these credentials say about a candidate’s potential fit.
What Is a Graduate Certificate, Exactly?
Earning a graduate certificate involves completing a program of post-bachelor’s degree study. It is often described as a form of specialized training at the university level that is designed to meet the supplemental needs of professionals. Graduate certificates generally focus on a particular industry or job title, and they typically require 12-18 credits of academic coursework in a given subject area. They sometimes also serve as a waypoint on the journey toward a full master’s degree.
While the types and focuses of these certificates have expanded to nearly every specialty, career focus, and topic in recent years, a few popular examples include accounting and finance, international business, sustainability, leadership, healthcare administration, technology, and entrepreneurship.
Many recent grads and working professionals seek to continue their education after earning a bachelor’s degree. Going the certificate route can help them stand out from the competition, gain a promotion at work, or make a successful career change.
How to Evaluate Graduate Certificates
When looking at an applicant who has earned a graduate certificate, consider that after finishing college, that candidate completed 4-6 master’s-level courses in the graduate certificate area.
Typically, the first question a hiring manager would ask is how a candidate’s certificate relates to the position at hand. Keep in mind, however, even graduate certificates in unrelated areas may still offer valuable transferrable skills, so it is important not to dismiss out of hand a credential that is not a perfect match. It may be tempting to base your assessment solely on the school where the certificate was earned, but the school’s reputation and branding alone do not provide enough information about the program of study.
A specific list of coursework undertaken can provide additional detail on what the candidate studied during the program. You can ask the candidate for this information directly, or you may be able to find it through a quick web search. Course names and descriptions can provide a sense of any technical or software training the candidate make have undertaken. Some certificate programs have more of a strategic focus, while others focus more on technical skills.
The next question is how the graduate certificate relates to the specific career trajectory of the candidate. Does the graduate certificate look like an extension of the candidate’s bachelor’s degree? If so, it represents additional training and knowledge in that specific area; it may have been a refresher course or a way to get updated on new industry practices. The subject of the certificate could also be a focus area within the same general field of study as the candidate’s bachelor’s. In this case, the certificate provides in-depth knowledge in a specific area within a general field, of which the candidate has broad knowledge….