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Master's Degree, Graduate Degree or Certificate?

Is bachelor's degree enough to be successful in your IT career? The answer is "NO" for most IT professionals who are eager to climb up the corporate ladder ahead of the competition.

Job training, continued education and even reading books sound all good and prove to be a great way of learning new material but they all lack one thing in common. Credential is what employers are looking for especially if you are thinking of changing your job.

I personally see three options, each with its cons and pros and varying degree of time investment required.

Master's Degree

Pretty much all master's degree program from accredited higher education institution require 30 credit hours or slightly more depending on the program.  That equates to about 2-3 years if you enroll as a part-time student.

You can obtain many master's degree in a year if you are willing to go for full-time basis.  Either way, it's a quiet amount of investment in time and money.  For good schools, you also have to be accepted with well packaged application which include test scores such as MCAT, GRE or GMAT depending on the major.

Graduate Diploma (Graduate Certificate)

Graduate certificates is the shortest course of study with the least amount of cost.  It typically requires 12 - 24 credit hours to fulfill the requirement.  There is also Undergraduate Certificate for those with high school diploma but opted out of 2 or 4 year undergraduate program.

Certificates consist of courses that help you develop career competency in a single subject.  So it is very similar in concept to professional certificate.  The difference is that the graduate certificates are offered through accredited institutions.

There are so many great programs out there today with an option for online classes.  If you want to further your education and knowledge in a particular study area that is not specific to a system or product, this is the best way to go.

Professional Certificate

I don't think there is a single source authoritative list containing every certificate that are available. 
Certifications are generally issued from a professional organization, university, or from a private certifier that are typically associated with specific product.

The level of knowledge and experience required by various certification program varies significantly. Many certifications must be renewed periodically, or may be valid for a specific period of time.  That clear sets it apart from Master's or Graduate Certificate, and having an expired certification in your portfolio doesn't do much for the potential employer.  It's just like having an expired security clearance.

Wikipedia has a great short list of popular certification (link), but google is your best friend if you are researching on what other certifications may best complement your career development.  We will cover many of the hottest certification programs in intimate details on upcoming posts.

Master's Degree, Graduate Degree or Certificate? Reviewed by Brandon on Tuesday, February 10, 2015 Rating: 5

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