What Is a Non-Degree Certificate? (With Examples and FAQ)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published September 29, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Post-high-school education can take many forms. Some students choose to pursue traditional four-year college degrees, while others go to trade schools or pursue community college opportunities. If you're interested in training in a specific area, you might also consider completing a non-degree certificate program.

In this article, we explain what a non-degree certificate is, provide examples of non-degree certificates, list their benefits and answer frequently asked questions about this educational option.

What is a non-degree certificate?

A non-degree certificate is a document awarded to students upon completion of a professional preparation educational program. These programs can help students build the skill, knowledge and educational credentials that employers might value in job candidates.

You can find non-degree programs in many professional fields, including computer technology, health care, construction and marketing. These opportunities exist at a range of institutions, including community colleges, technical colleges, corporations, vocational schools, undergraduate colleges and other nonaccredited educational centers.

Non-degree certificates can be useful for students who'd like to increase their professional marketability without spending the time or resources that a four-year college degree requires. It can also be useful for individuals interested in making mid-career industry changes or those seeking promotion. Certificate programs often take a year or less to complete. You may also choose a program with in-person or online instruction.

Read more: Certificate vs. Degree: What's the Difference?

Examples of non-degree certificates

Many professional fields accept non-degree certificates in place of or in addition to traditional college degrees. Here are a few examples of non-degree certificates that might help you qualify for your dream job, regardless of your industry of choice:

Commercial construction certificate

Commercial construction workers and managers help build structures like stores, offices and schools. If you're interested in working in commercial construction, a certificate can help prepare you with the knowledge, skills and safety techniques you may need. To earn this type of certificate, you might complete classes like commercial construction techniques and civil construction techniques. You might also complete a hands-on construction lab.

Related: What Are the Different Types of Construction Jobs?

Residential construction certificate

Residential construction certificates can help prepare construction workers who'd like to work on projects like homes, apartments and housing complexes.

Through this type of program, you might gain a strong foundation in construction strategies, mentorship opportunities and make useful networking connections that may help you gain employment after completing your certificate. This type of certificate program might include a residential construction technique course or a residential construction techniques lab.

Automotive technician certificate

If you're interested in becoming an automotive technician, a non-degree certificate can help you learn about automotive maintenance, repair and business. A program like this can also give you the basic skills that you may need to find work at a repair shop and inspire confidence in customers.

You can take classes in automotive specifics like steering, suspension, braking, HVAC, welding and electronic systems. You might also gain experience in engine maintenance, minor mechanical repair and major mechanical repair.

Dental assisting certificate

You can prepare for an entry-level dental assistant job by completing a dental assisting certificate program. Consider finding an accredited program that includes a combination of clinical observation, lecture and hands-on experience.

You might study topics like anatomy, physiology, dental technology and clinical procedures. Specific courses may include foundations of dental assisting, pre-clinical chair-side assisting, dental practice management, preventive dentistry, dental law and ethics, dental imaging and training in chair-side procedures.

Web programming certificate

There are a wide range of programming and development certificate programs that can help prepare you for a career in web development. This type of certificate can help introduce you to common programming languages, application programming interface (API) software and other coding basics.

You can also learn to design, implement and scale web pages and apps. If you're looking for an introduction to this subject, a professional certificate in computer science for web programming might be useful. If you'd like more specificity, consider a program that focuses on front-end development, back-end development or a specific programming language.

Java programming certificate

Earning a Java Programming certification can be an excellent way for a programmer to add skills to their resume or for a beginning student to learn coding basics that might be valuable for a wide variety of careers.

In a program like this, you might learn object-oriented programming and design techniques, concurrent programming techniques, Java user interface development and how to troubleshoot errors in Java. This is just one example of a specific technological certification that you might consider if you'd like to improve your computer science and programming proficiency.

Network support certificate

Earning a certificate in network support can help you prepare for a range of professions within the wide industry of IT. You might explore coursework in areas like operating system deployment, IT troubleshooting, network installation, network access and IP connectivity. Specifically, courses might focus on web analysis for business application, project management, computer user support, network essentials, computer hardware, computer software and operating systems management.

Related: 10 High-Paying IT Jobs You Can Get Without a Degree

Plumbing certificate

Some states require plumbers to complete a certificate program to work. Those completing a plumbing certificate program might learn about plumbing fixtures, tools and accessories. You can also learn about construction methods, pipefitting, steamfitting, safety procedures, construction management and plumber code. Consider pairing a plumbing certificate with a trainee program to prepare you fully for work as a professional plumber.

Welding certificate

Working as a professional welder can involve hazardous tools and procedures, so earning a professional welding certificate can be a useful way to ensure that you're practicing your craft safely and efficiently. It may also help you access more challenging or high-level jobs.

This type of program might involve courses like that introduce basic, intermediate and advanced welding techniques, tools and terminologies. Specific examples include oxy-acetylene cutting and welding, shield metal arc welding, flux core arc welding and gas metal arc welding. You can also find certification programs to prepare you for specialized welding work like underwater welding.

Massage therapy certificate

A massage therapy certificate can help individuals get hired as professional massage therapists. This can be a flexible and rewarding career opportunity. In a certification course, you might learn specific massage techniques like Swedish massage, sports massage, hydrotherapy and reflexology.

You might also learn about communication, ethics, anatomy and massage history. Some massage therapy certificates may also include basic business courses to help massage therapists open their own practices.

Real estate certificate

Earning a real estate certificate can prepare you to work as a real estate broker, broker assistant, real estate associate or real estate agent. You might learn about real estate fundamentals, essential technology and important laws.

Lessons in green real estate and the best sales practices can help individuals build the skills they may need to succeed in their chosen real estate profession. You might also learn how to identify and successfully navigate challenges like real estate fraud.

Read more: 7 Finance Certifications You Can Get Without a Degree

Benefits of non-degree certificates

There are a variety of benefits to pursuing a non-degree certificate , including:

  • Career preparation: The primary benefit of a non-degree certificate is that it can prepare students for the workplace. Students can choose the non-degree certificate program that aligns closely with their desired career path to gain the skills and knowledge to make them valuable team members in the future.

  • Job marketability: A non-degree certificate can increase the marketability of an individual when applying for jobs. Students can use these programs to obtain knowledge that supplements any level of existing education and might help them gain the attention of potential employers.

  • Economic value: If you know exactly what you'd like to study, a non-degree program can offer a cheaper and more time-efficient education than a traditional degree program. This can make it a strong option for individuals for whom saving money is a priority.

  • Low-commitment: For individuals who are unsure of whether a college degree is the best option for them or for professionals considering a mid-career change, a non-degree program can offer a low-commitment opportunity to explore the educational path. Following a non-degree certificate experience, these students might decide to pursue a new career option or continue on their previous trajectory with a new skill on their resume.

FAQs about non-degree certificates

Professionals and job seekers who are looking for a valuable certification option with a low time commitment may benefit from pursuing a non-degree certificate. Here are some answers to common questions that individuals might have about non-degree programs:

Who can benefit from a non-degree program?

A wide range of individuals can benefit from completing a non-degree program. High school graduates who choose to pursue a certificate rather than a traditional college degree may experience better hiring rates and higher salaries than high school graduates without a certificate.

College graduates can also benefit from higher salaries and more diverse career opportunities by earning a non-degree certificate to supplement their existing education. Individuals who hold a master's degree can similarly benefit from deepening their professional knowledge of a relevant area with a non-degree certificate. Mid-career professionals can also use a certificate to support a career change.

How do you choose a non-degree certificate program?

When choosing a non-degree certificate program, first think about your professional goals and which type of program might offer the best preparation. Specifically, you can consider your desired industry or job and the skills that you'd like to learn to help you prepare. To assist with these decisions, visit the website or course catalog for each program option to compare the specific requirements and training opportunities.

Other useful elements to consider include:

  • Price

  • Scholarship opportunities

  • Location

  • Online versus in-person preference

  • Time commitment

  • Program graduate employment rate

  • Instructor credentials

Related: How To Get a Corporate Job Without a Degree (Plus Tips)

How do you apply to a non-degree certificate program?

After selecting your ideal non-degree program, visit the website of the educational institution to find a specific admissions checklist. Common application requirements include a written personal statement, two letters of recommendation, previous educational transcripts.

Many also require supporting materials, like supplemental essays or activity lists. If English is your second language, the institution may also ask you to complete an English proficiency exam to ensure that your knowledge of the English language is adequate for the program.

Consider creating a calendar that lists important deadlines for your application to ensure you complete each step of the application in a timely manner.

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