Education for Life: Earning a Professional Development Certificate

  • Article by: Nancy Giguere
  • Star Tribune Sales and Marketing
  • March 1, 2011 - 2:17 PM

You're an experienced professional who wants to hone your skills in project management or business writing. Or perhaps you're a new manager who wants to improve your supervisory skills. In other words, you need specific, practical knowledge that you can apply immediately on the job.

"Professional development certificates are designed to help people gain this kind of knowledge," says Linda Halliburton, director of continuing professional education in the University of Minnesota's College of Continuing Education (

In fact, she says, students often comment that they like learning information and developing skills in class that they can apply the very next day. This is true even for professionals who have a lot of experience in the focus area. "I have supervised for over 15 years and still learned many things that I will try back at work," says Todd Brewster, a student in the supervision certificate program.

Popular certificates

The college currently offers certificates in two general areas: management development and human resource development. Three advanced "mastery certificates" are also available. Most certificates can be completed in two years or less, and some accelerated certificates can be completed in four or five months.

Popular certificates include project management, business writing and all four human resource certificates. "And enrollment in the supervision and management certificates is always strong," Halliburton says.

The supervision certificate focuses on team-building, delegation, interviewing and hiring, and other essential skills. The management certificate includes work in financial intelligence, strategic planning and measurement, and leadership skills.

Both 60-hour certificates include 42 hours of required course work. Students also choose 18 hours of electives, which allows them to customize the certificate. In addition, students benefit from the professional network they build with their classmates.

Remaining current and competitive

Earning a certificate - instead of simply taking courses piecemeal - demonstrates a focus in a particular area. "It shows that an individual takes learning seriously and can provide value to the employer," Halliburton says.

"In a jobless recovery, there will be more competition for jobs. A professional certificate can help an individual stand out."

Mary Nedry agrees. She's convinced that earning a SPHR certificate (senior professional in human resources) was the key to obtaining her current position with a large corporation.

"During the interview process, I was asked repeatedly `What have you done to remain current in the field of HR?'" Nedry says. "I believe the certificate was a critical element in securing the position."

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