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A Study on The Effectiveness of Certificate Programs


The Chronicle of Higher Education featured an article written by Jennifer Gonzalez called, “Certificate Programs Could Play a Key Role in Meeting the Nation’s Educational Goals,” indirectly highlighting the role of CERC’s Certificate in Conservation and Environmental Sustainability.

Drawing upon a report commissioned by Complete College America, “Certificates Count: An Analysis of Sub-Baccalaureate Certificates,” the researchers demonstrate the effectiveness of certificate programs in empowering colleges to get more students to finish a postsecondary credential and build skilled workers to solve complex problems.

Earning a certificate has “real economic value,” according to Stan Jones, president of Complete College America “In some cases, they have more value than associate degrees and even some bachelor’s degrees.” The report divides certificates into different categories based on length of study, emphasizing that more long-term certificates “have significantly higher labor market value than short-term certificates because of their greater technical and academic rigor, and because of the wider range of job-­ related skills they provide graduates. Certificates of one year or more are consistently linked to increased earnings.”

Based on these findings, the report deems long-term certificate programs as an “underutilized strategy” in meeting President Obama’s college-attainment goals, and “calls attention to the significant value of certificate programs – practical and often underutilized credentials that can provide graduates with an appealing combination of rapid postsecondary achievement and portable skills and knowledge.” Reiterating that Certificates enable graduates to find immediate work and position them for future academic success, the report “advocates for a national goal to double the number of long-­term certificates produced within the next five years, and then double that number again over the subsequent five years.”

CERC is proud to encourage students and working professionals to enroll in the Certificate in Conservation and Environmental Sustainability Program, which provides individuals with the knowledge and tools to be effective environmental leaders and decision makers in the 21st century. It is an evening program in which environmental issues are discussed, debated and examined, where participants develop an in-depth understanding of conservation science and practice through case studies and a focus on Environmental Policy, Management and Finance.

Certificate courses are taught by Columbia University professors and researchers from the CERC Consortium as well as adjunct faculty who are current practitioners in the public and private sector. This breadth of experience and diverse set of perspectives inform curriculum development to reflect scientific expertise and current hands-on approaches to environmental sustainability. Through the Certificate Program, professionals from all sectors can gain the knowledge and tools to make sound decisions about business activities and policy practices that impact the environment.

Classes are held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Columbia University in New York City (with access to all University facilities)
• Courses meet once a week for five weeks
• Weekend field courses are offered but not required
• Rolling admission deadlines.
• No previous coursework or scientific knowledge is required
• The Certificate, which grants an official transcript from Columbia University, can be done in as little as nine months or as long as three years. Twelve courses must be completed to graduate.

Click here for more information on CERC’s Certificate in Conservation and Environmental Sustainability.

Science for the Planet: In these short video explainers, discover how scientists and scholars across the Columbia Climate School are working to understand the effects of climate change and help solve the crisis.
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