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The power of certificates
Having more certificate programs will allow UMBC to cater to more students' wants and needs. Photo courtesy of U.S. Army CERDEC via Flickr.

The power of certificates

According to a report by Burning Glass Technologies, a college degree today is similar to a high-school diploma from a few years ago. Employers are looking more and more into applicants who have at least a bachelor’s degree. This is true even for jobs that traditionally did not require a degree and are not even listed as a definite requirement on job applications. However, not all students are necessarily after a diploma in their career.

The report further reveals that even though there was a high percentage of job application ads that claimed a preference to applicants with a college degree, there was a relatively low percentage of workers in that specific field who actually possessed those degrees. Applications may state that a college degree takes priority, but considering the actual amount of degree holders, it seems that just having a marketable skill is more essential.

Although it seems that it is an absolute necessity to have a college degree, this is not always the case. There is still the option of completing a certificate program, whether at a college or a reputable online source. It would be very beneficial for UMBC to implement more non-degree focused certificates that potential students could work towards.

UMBC does have a few certificate programs, but they are not advertised well. Erika Echols, a senior sociology major looking into child care and teaching, stated, “I honestly think increasing certificate programs would increase enrollment. I know from personal experience UMBC was not my first choice, considering its limited programs.”

Echols also states, “UMBC offering certificates would be beneficial to students because … as long as you have a degree you are qualified [for some job], but it is limited to certain jobs.”

There are many in-demand and well-paying jobs that can come from a certificate program. Some examples include travel agents, fitness trainers, real estate agents, and a plethora of other possibilities. Adding and promoting certificate programs can open the doors to previously unrealized career opportunities for UMBC students, even if they never complete a degree.

There are many different types of students that would greatly benefit from an addition of certificate programs. The programs could also bring more students to UMBC. These could be non-degree seeking students who simply want to take a few classes in order to earn a certificate for their chosen field or full-time students already enrolled in a degree program who may want to beef up their resume with a newly acquired skill.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is one university that is way ahead of the game in their certificate programs offered to the public. MIT has several free courses that anyone can complete online from their accredited university. These certificates are offered at a bachelor’s and master’s level.

By implementing this model, UMBC could allow students to leave the university with a practical certificate under their belt. With more certificate programs, UMBC could get ahead of the curve in increasing the employment rate of students after graduation.