Written by S.M. Audsley

The marketplace is competitive and many job seekers are endeavoring to gain an inside edge. One potential path? Enrolling in a certificate program. In fact, certificate programs are the fasting-growing credential, according to Inside Higher Ed. Wondering how a certificate can help you get ahead? Read on for a roundup of four reasons to invest in an online certificate, along with why studying it online -- and with one school, in particular -- is especially advantageous.

1. You’ll be more competitive in the global marketplace.

Today’s job market is fierce, and landing a job can be a difficult prospect. A certificate can help you position yourself above the pack. A peek into the hiring process in a recent report shows that “hiring managers default to saying ‘no,’ and that’s reinforced over and over again by terrible job applications.” The numbers and percentages of qualified applicants for jobs is telling -- a certificate further enhances your qualifications and will likely make your application look more appealing to hiring managers. 

Typically, online certificates end up “costing less than a degree and requir[e] less time to finish, these certificates often teach specific skills or hone topics within larger fields – as opposed to degrees, which are more broadly focused,” reports Jordan Friedman for the U.S. News and World Report. Most online certificates can be pursued on their own or as part of a degree program. Additionally, one hiring manager Friedman interviewed said, "I think we're seeing quick certifications that can be applied to the work in a day-to-day operation immediately are starting to carry much more weight and become much more valuable for an individual.”

Online certificate programs are transforming the learning experience: “They aren’t designed to be a replacement for a degree, but they allow professionals to learn new skills to move them ahead in their careers, get them up to speed in a new field, or meet state licensing requirements,” writes Ginger Dean for Forbes. There is no doubt a certificate won’t hurt you -- in fact it might give you the edge you need, especially in such a competitive job market.

2. Lifelong learning is a must in today's world. 

Learning is the key to ongoing relevancy in the fast-moving marketplace. Employers recognize that investing in your education and skill set is necessary at every stage (and at every age) of a person’s career. Everyone else thinks so too, as, according to a survey by the Pew Research Center, “87% of workers believe it will be essential for them to get training and develop new skills throughout their work life in order to keep up with changes in the workplace.”

Depending on your industry, or field of work, a certificate can keep you up-to-speed on the latest innovations and changes, while simultaneously making you more employable, and also a valued asset and expert for your company or organization. Adelia Cellini Linecker for Investors.com offers excellent advice. “Perhaps,” she writes, “the best way to approach any career change is to acknowledge that demand shifts rapidly and to plan accordingly.” 

An online certificate can give you the skills and certification you need to stay relevant, especially if you find yourself post-graduation or as a non-traditional student, going back to school, and continuing education after a leave of absence, maternity leave, or even with just a desire to change your career path.

3. You’ll have full control over your schedule. 

What’s so special about studying online? The flexibility can’t be beaten: log on and learn anytime, anywhere. Fitting in both advancing your studies and gaining more relevant experience, along with other commitments in life, can be tough in this fast-paced modern society. The best thing about earning your certificate online is that you can learn at your own pace, and on your own time.

“Online education has opened up training opportunities to many who were traditionally underserved by higher education institutions. By shortening the commute to simply a walk to the computer, providing the opportunity to study when you’re feeling your best, letting students learn when their children are occupied or napping, and allowing frequent travelers to study no matter where they are, convenient online training has made it possible for nearly anyone to go back to school,” writes one blogger, for Careerstep.com

4. The University of California, Irvine is setting the standard.

When it comes to online certificate programs, the University of California, Irvine Division of Continuing Education (UCI DCE) leads the way in helping people leverage the many benefits of online credentialing. As the continuing education arm of the University of California, Irvine -- an institution ranked in the top ten public schools in the United States by the U.S. News and World Report -- UCI DCE is committed to advancing continuing education through innovative, world-class education, delivered 100% online, that blends theory and practice. 

The Division offers a wide range of certificate programs, specialized studies, and special courses in such subject areas as business, technology, education, law, finance, engineering, healthcare, and more. The online learning format provides flexibility and convenience to learners no matter where they live or work. 

Enrolling is easy and is done on a course-by-course basis. Students can pick and choose the courses they want, and enroll. It's that simple! Enrolling in the entire certificate program is not required. Courses are facilitated by expert instructors who help guide you through the curriculum, and towards certificate completion.

Enrollment is ongoing for the upcoming semester, where you’ll find ample networking opportunities available with other learners who share the same academic interests. Advancing your career, learning specialized skills, investing in your future, has never been so readily accessible. And, the best thing is that it’s all possible without ever leaving the comfort of your own home!

Certificates can offer you an amazing career advantage, and the University of California, Irvine’s Division of Continuing Education is positioned to help you get the most out of the increasingly popular choice of online certificates. 

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