So, you’re thinking about postgraduate study and weighing up your options. A graduate certificate looks like the quick and easy choice, but does that also mean it’s the least impactful? Not necessarily. Let’s look at why a graduate certificate is worth it.
In the family of university qualifications, the graduate certificate (affectionately nicknamed Grad Cert) is the often-overlooked middle child. They don’t get any of the adoring attention that goes to Bachelor’s Degree, the baby of the family, and they live in the shadow cast by the high-achieving eldest sibling, Master’s Degree.
It’s a tough life for Grad Cert, but we’re here to give them the love and praise they’ve missed out on for years – by asking “is getting a graduate certificate worth it?”and answering with “absolutely”.
Graduate certificates are worth it for 5 core reasons:
Some industries and organisations are tougher than others when it comes to climbing that ladder. In some cases, tertiary qualifications are strict requirements for rising above a certain level. And even in more flexible workplaces, having a postgraduate degree to your name certainly won’t hurt your chances.
But getting that next promotion isn’t just about having an extra abbreviation in your email signature. What really counts is the skills, knowledge and confidence you’ll pick up from a graduate certificate – and the ability to demonstrate these to your employer. This is what makes a graduate certificate worth it if your main motivation is reaching that next level in your profession.
However, we also understand that some working professionals don’t have the luxury of being able to invest that much time into returning to study. And the difference in cost between a graduate certificate and master’s degree can be significant too, even if you secure a Commonwealth Supported Place (CSP).
Here are some examples of the difference in duration and fees for master’s degrees and graduate certificates at UQ:
*As of May 2022, these programs have Commonwealth supported places (CSPs) available with significantly reduced fees.
^These fees are indicative only. Last updated May 2022.
If you only need a few specific courses to advance, change or secure your career – and if you already know what those courses are – a graduate certificate can provide a fast track full of tailored learning. A master’s degree, on the other hand, might feel like it includes some “filler” content (courses that are highly valuable in general but not quite relevant to your personal goals).
In some circumstances, a shorter program can have enough upskilling to get you where you want to go, so it’s worth considering a graduate certificate before you dive right into 1.5 or 2 years of full-time study.
Get a preview of a longer program
Worried that you’ll change your mind halfway through and wish you had gone for the full master’s degree? Not a problem.
After completing a graduate certificate, if you’re still hungry for more, you can usually apply your credits towards continuing onto a graduate diploma or master’s degree in the same discipline.
It’s like playing Deal or No Deal. When you get offered your graduate certificate, you can take the deal and run. Or you can play on and go for your master’s. (The key difference is there’s no risk of going home with 50 cents.)
This is perhaps the biggest factor that makes a graduate certificate worth it if you’re on the fence about committing to a longer degree – you can just stay on the fence while doing your graduate certificate. If your courses ignite a passion you want to pursue for longer, you can continue your academic journey. Or if you discover your interests might lie elsewhere, you haven’t gone too far down the rabbit hole to back up and change direction.
In fact, many students use a graduate certificate as a stepping stone towards a master’s degree when they don’t meet the prerequisites to get into their desired master’s program directly. This is worth noting if your career advancement goals will require a master’s degree.
Specialise or pivot in your career
Branching out of your career comfort zone can be intimidating, whether you’re looking into a niche subfield or a new industry altogether. A graduate certificate can help you get up to speed with an unfamiliar line of work, allowing you to channel your existing knowledge and experience in new ways.
Plus, if you’re considering a significant career change, completing a graduate certificate can give you an insightful window into the new world you’re about to step into. This can often be enough to reaffirm your decision or guide you down a different path – before you’ve invested too much time or energy.
Sharpen and shine your skills
We live in a world where “keeping up” is essential for all workers, whether it’s:
keeping up with your peers
keeping up with evolving technologies
keeping up with societal changes.
The only way to stay at the top of your game is with professional development – and a graduate certificate provides plenty of that.
Not all the benefits of a graduate certificate are as tangible as a new job title or qualification. One of the advantages that goes under the radar is how you’ll feel in your day-to-day work. The skills and knowledge you’ve acquired can go a long way in boosting your confidence, productivity and ability to make a valuable contribution to your profession. This impact is difficult to measure, but it’s undoubtably one of the key factors that make a graduate certificate so worthwhile.
A graduate certificate isn’t right for everyone. There’s no replacing the full qualification and comprehensive learning of a master’s degree.
But, for many students, the grad cert provides a valuable and gentle reintroduction to university. It allows you to pick up relevant skills for your career while also exploring the academic options available to you.
If the 6 months of study is going to give you the credentials, knowledge and pathway you need for your goals, a graduate certificate is worth it.