Requiring less time and money than a master’s degree, graduate certificates offer many benefits, as well as a flexible opportunity to invest in continuing your education with minimal risk. They enable professionals to remain current and competitive in the marketplace, making these programs excellent selling points to potential employers—if you know how to market their value.
For those who have recently earned or are considering the value of pursuing a graduate certificate, it’s important to understand how to best market your achievement to employers in order to set yourself up for success. Whether that means adding value to your current role, earning a promotion, or even landing a position at an entirely new organization, a graduate certificate has the potential to enhance your career for the better.
Interested in highlighting how your graduate certificate sets you apart to your current or prospective employer? Read on to learn how to best demonstrate the value of earning a graduate certificate in your field.
4 Ways to Demonstrate the Value of Your Graduate Certificate
In today’s job market, it’s not enough to simply refer to your graduate certificate on your resumé. Throughout the interview process, it’s imperative that you can make it clear why your graduate certificate has made you a better candidate for the specific role you’re in consideration for, and how it increases your value to the prospective employer. Here’s how to best demonstrate the ways that earning your graduate certificate has set you apart from other applicants.
#1 Highlight Your Specialized Knowledge
In many industries, tools, technologies, and best practices change so rapidly that employers require highly adaptive teams with hyper-relevant skill sets. Graduate certificates demonstrate your specialization of these skills for immediate application, as well as your commitment to keeping your abilities current. Even if post-graduate education is not mandatory for hire, having a mastery of specialized knowledge can put you at the front of the applicant pack.
Did You Know: Certain graduate programs—such as those at Northeastern—focus on experiential learning to help professionals put their education into practice. This may include writing a thesis, conducting research, or completing project-based work to broaden your industry knowledge, giving you the tangible experience needed to translate skills learned in the classroom into a rewarding career.
Figure out how to best highlight your specialized knowledge by identifying what information, backgrounds, and skill sets the organization you’re interviewing with values the most. This insight can be most easily acquired by doing your homework prior to the interview: Explore the company website, read news articles about the prospective company, or analyze the job description to understand what attributes they are looking for in their next hire. No matter your approach, taking the time to do this research will allow you to make parallels between your courses and the day-to-day responsibilities of the role you’re applying for, and give you time to figure out how to best highlight those aspects of your background in your interview.
#2 Showcase Your Core and Transferable Skills
Just by successfully pursuing a graduate certificate, you will illustrate to hiring managers that you possess many of the core qualities companies are looking for in prospective employees. Use this to your advantage by detailing instances where core skills such as initiative or time management abilities have helped you to succeed.
What’s more, taking graduate-level courses proves you have the capacity to tackle complex problems that aren’t as extensively covered at the undergraduate level. Make sure to highlight this during an interview, as well, providing specific examples of multi-dimensional assignments you’ve worked on as a way of demonstrating your ability to respond to difficult tasks, manage difficult projects, and synthesize information effectively.
You’ll also have likely refined many transferable skills during a graduate certificate program. These skills can apply across industries and functions, making them an important asset to many potential employers.
Some of the most common of these transferable skills to highlight during an interview include:
- Analytical Skills: Examples include collecting research, analyzing data, interpreting new information, and finding unique approaches to solving complex problems.
- Interpersonal Skills: This consists of management skills, working with people of different personalities and backgrounds, accepting constructive criticism, practicing empathy, actively listening, and working independently.
- Organizational Skills: Goal setting, assigning schedules, time management, event planning, and delegating tasks fall under this category.
- Communication Skills: Examples include respecting others, being a concise writer, effective public speaking, and honing non-verbal communication, such as tone, hand gestures, and body language.
When communicating these skills to prospective employers, it will be vital that you are able to articulate how they will translate to the specific job or industry you are pursuing. Take the time to think this through ahead of time so that you can easily address the correlation during an interview.
#3 Emphasize Your Commitment to Continuous Learning
Most companies not only recognize the benefits of continuing education, but actually prefer their employees to remain on the path of lifelong learning. According to a recent survey by CareerBuilder, 38 percent of employers have raised their educational standards over the past five years. Studies have also shown that lifelong learners are generally eager to gain more knowledge, help others, and keep improving themselves both personally and professionally—making them well-rounded options when it comes to hiring.
In portraying your commitment to learning, don’t be afraid to show your passion for your field. Articulate the reasons why you pursued the certificate you chose in the first place, including your desire to stay ahead of trends in your industry.
Keep in mind that as you cite your continued commitment to and investment in your discipline, you may encounter questions about why you chose not to pursue a master’s degree instead. Although the answer to this question may vary, for many working professionals, the flexibility offered by a graduate certificate simply fits better into their busy lifestyle. For others, graduate certificates are a stepping stone, providing the opportunity to rollover credits toward a master’s degree should the desire arise. Whatever your motivation, be sure to address the question in a way that emphasizes your initiative, your desire to grow and develop with the company, and the value you will be able to add to their bottom line.
#4 Boast Your Network
When you pursue a graduate certificate at Northeastern, you gain access to a global network of over 3,000 employer partners and 255,000 alumni. Such a considerable set of professional contacts can help you—and your next company—connect with leading organizations and key industry partners.
Let your prospective employer know about the meaningful business relationships you’ve developed—and will bring with you—because of your network membership. (Bonus points if you can identify particular contacts you will plan to target upon being hired to further your potential employer’s specific business goals.)
The Benefits of a Graduate Certificate
Earning a graduate certificate takes time and requires hard work to complete, yet having one signals to employers that you are motivated to succeed and willing to put in the hard work in pursuit of your goals. The completion of this type of program can demonstrate to employers that you are not only an avid learner with the industry expertise, skill sets, and ambition needed to excel, but that you are productive, ambitious, and take initiative—in both your studies and your career. Don’t hesitate to showcase your talents to employers by highlighting the ways that your pursuit of advanced education has prepared you for a successful career in your field.
Interested in advancing your career with a graduate certificate? Explore Northeastern’s 50+ certificate programs in burgeoning industries like data analytics, digital media management, experience design, and engineering leadership to keep you competitive in today’s marketplace.
This article was originally published in November 2017. It has since been updated for accuracy and relevance.