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A graduate or professional certificate is one alternative to a master of business administration (MBA) degree. In some cases, a certificate might be fine; in others, investing in an MBA is the surest way to reach your career goals. Here are several factors you should weigh before deciding which one is right for you.

  1. What they are (and aren’t).
    A graduate certificate program typically teaches specific skills or enhances knowledge of topics in a certain field, for example, business communications or accounting. A certificate doesn’t replace a degree, but it could help you fine-tune strengths needed to progress on your current career path or meet state licensing requirements. An MBA program, on the other hand, covers a broad range of subjects related to business and management. It results in a full, post-graduate degree, which is often required for higher-level positions and could open more career opportunities now and in the future.
  2. Chances of getting a good job. While all learning is valuable, it’s important to know what educational credentials employers look for. In the last five years, almost one-third of employers have upped their educational requirements for jobs at all levels. Twenty-seven percent hire people with master’s degrees for positions that used to require four-year degrees, and 36 percent are unlikely to promote employees who don’t have college degrees.1
  3. Potential to make more money. Many variables determine how much money you can make, such as the demand for skills in your geographic area and the number of candidates competing for the same jobs. To give you an idea of your earning potential, the Bureau of Labor Statistics says the median annual salary for occupations that typically require a postsecondary, non-degree certificate is $35,120, versus $64,510 for jobs requiring a master’s degree.2
  4. Offered in your field. There are certain fields, like finance or management consulting, where an MBA is often required and almost always preferred. In those cases, a certificate may not land you the job but could be a good stepping stone to a full MBA.
  5. Financial aid possibilities. Most universities help students get financial aid to pay for their education, if needed. More than 90 percent of Tiffin University students, for example, receive financial aid through sources such as Tiffin University grants and scholarships, federal and state grants, and federal and private loans. Non-degree certificate programs, however, often don’t qualify for student loans.
  6. Available online. You can find a wide variety of both certificate and MBA programs online. No matter which one you choose, you’ll have a flexible schedule that allows you to keep up with school even if you have a full-time job.

If you’re still not sure whether a certificate or an MBA is the best choice for your career goals, a Tiffin University representative will be happy to answer your questions and help you decide.

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[1]More Than 1 In 4 Employers are Hiring Employees with Master’s Degrees for Positions that had Been Primarily Held by Those with Four-Year Degrees in the Past, According to New CareerBuilder Survey,” March 17, 2016

[2] Education level and jobs: Opportunities by state, by Elka Torpey and Audrey Watson, Bureau of Labor Statistics, September 2014