You’ve decided to further your education, but you’re not sure what type of program and credential is right for you. Understanding the differences between a graduate certificate, and a professional certification can help ensure the investment you make toward your future aligns with your professional goals.

Basically, a graduate certificate is evidence of education. This usually indicates that coursework and case study has you prepared to apply critical thinking to situations in your field.

On the other hand, a certification is evidence of passing an exam or meeting industry standards. Because certifications are often issued by national organizations, they are standardized. For example, the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification is offered by the Project Management Institute.

With a graduate certificate completed, you may elect to expand on it into a full master’s program, where completing your degree will require less time and money. A professional certification typically will not get you closer to a graduate degree if one is in your eventual plan or required by employers.

Stevenson University Online Graduate Certificates

SUO’s graduate-level certificates are designed with working professionals in mind. They consist of 5 to 6 three-credit courses (depending on the program) to provide you with a base of knowledge of an industry practice in a specific field of study. These certificates may also be used towards a master’s degree. Student cannot apply credits from graduate level certificates to continuing education units (CEUs) or continuing education credits (CEC).

SUO offers 10 graduate certificates in Education, Forensics, Healthcare, and Nursing.

Professional Certifications

It’s fair to say, that certifications and graduate certificates are not mutually exclusive. Certification may be required to enter or remain in a profession at a certain level. You may be required to become recertified every few years through testing or experiential learning. Professional certifications, however, will not count toward an advanced degree if this is what you need to move up in your industry.

We hope this information helps demystify what graduate certificates and professional certifications are and what you should consider before moving forward into either.