Certificate FAQ

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It’s not surprising that you may have questions about the ins and outs of certificate programs. Some certificates are designed for established professionals or those who have already earned a bachelor’s degree. Others are for beginners who are looking to break into a specific field. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of frequent questions to help clarify things and give you more insight into how certificate programs work. Let’s take a look…

What’s the difference between a certificate and a degree?

Certificate programs generally involve less than 10 classes and can be earned at both the undergrad and graduate level. The classes are focused on a single subject or profession and the programs can be offered in short time periods like three, six or nine months.  Bachelor’s degree programs, on the other hand, involve 120 credit hours (or 40 classes) and generally take approximately four years to complete. Rather than focusing on a single subject or discipline, bachelor’s degrees often include a wide variety of topics throughout the course of the program.

What’s the difference between a certificate and a certification?[i]

Definition of a Certification: Industry led credential. Is not a requirement for work in an occupation 
Definition of a Certificate: Can include education developed certificate programs through education institutions - often education institutions offer prep course work for certifications.

What is a CE certificate?

CE stands for continuing education, which generally refers to coursework completed by students who have already finished a degree programs. The goal of continuing education – and CE certificates – is to update professionals on the latest developments and technologies in their fields. In some industries, such as healthcare, education and accounting, professionals are actually required to take CE credits  yearly in order to stay certified or licensed in their respective jobs.

What is CEU?

A CEU is a continuing education unit. This is a unit of credit that is equal to 10 hours of participation in an accredited program, which is designed for professionals with certificates or licenses to practice in various occupations. The units were established and are regulated by the IACET and they provide a record of how much current education and training a professional has completed. The annual number of CEUs required varies between states and by profession.

What certifications can I get online?

Yes, online certification programs are a series of classes designed around a specialized area of study. The difference is that because you are studying online, you have the flexibility to fit your studies into your busy work and family schedule. Students generally spend about two and half hours each week corresponding with classmates and instructors and performing coursework. Videos, podcasts, online discussions and e-books are just some of the tools used – and online certification programs are offered in a wide variety of topics at both the undergrad and graduate level.


[i] nces.ed.gov/programs/slds/pdf/W_Workforce_Certification.pdf 

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