Certificates are the fastest growing postsecondary credentials being earned today and second in quantity only to bachelor’s degrees.  With innumerable options available to prospective students across an array of fields, the Graham School’s Professional Development Certificates set themselves apart in a variety of compelling and important ways. From instructors who are experienced experts in their fields to curricula that are revised every three years in order to optimize their alignment with the state of industry, Graham School certificates put the University of Chicago rigor to work while training students in skills that allow them to excel in their careers.
“We place a great deal of focus on making sure that what students are learning is best aligned with what matters for the work they do at their jobs,” says Lisa Malvin, assistant director of Professional Development Certificates at the Graham School. “It means we reassess the material every three years with the goal of making the material as relevant and immediately useful as possible.”
Perhaps more than anything else, however, the extracurricular benefits that come with earning a certificate through the Graham School set its programs apart from the competition. These benefits, which each student has access to once their coursework begins and which they continue to have as alumni, equip students with experience beyond just the classroom. With approximately six events per quarter, students have numerous opportunities outside the classroom not only to network with others but also to go deeper into the material covered in class.
“The benefits you get access to by earning a certificate aren’t the sort of things you get access to doing non-credit coursework anywhere else.”
“The benefits you get access to by earning a certificate, such as access to the UChicago job board, the LinkedIn group, and career services, aren’t the sort of things you get access to doing non-credit coursework anywhere else,” Malvin emphasizes.
Typically more skills-based than a master’s degree, the material learned in the classroom can often be put to use the next day at work. It is one reason why employers like to see their employees developing new skills and abilities through certificate programs, Malvin notes. Employers often even pay to have their employees enroll.
“Certificates are also great if you’re thinking about maybe making a shift in your career,” she adds. “If you’re curious to know more about another field, the experience you get earning your certificate gives you a sense for whether the field suits you or not.”
Tyler Hough, who was employed by the University of Chicago when he started the certificate in Project Management, found it to be the perfect way to add formal knowledge to his already broad experience in project and process management. While considering applying to business schools after earning his certificate, he went on to earn another certificate, this time in Financial Decision-Making. It gave him enough insight into what business classes would be like to realize he was more interested in policy work than business school.
“The courses on finance and economics provided me with a strong foundation that I continue to use to this day,” says Hough, who now hosts career webinars for the certificate programs while also pursuing his master’s in higher education administration. “The University of Chicago name, without question, was very attractive to me, and through my experience, I really enjoyed and took advantage of the complimentary and inclusive programming. In particular, I’m thinking of the student networking events, alumni connections, and professional development webinars. This turned into a big selling point in the program for me.”
Jill Walsh, who presently teaches Introduction to Developmental Editing for Fiction, earned her Editing certificate through the Graham School. She was working in marketing at the time, but she had always wanted to work in editing, and halfway through the program she landed a job with a publishing house.
“I credit the Graham School program with jumpstarting my career in publishing,” she says. “Just being in the program carried a lot of weight in the publishing community.”
After working in publishing for a couple years, Walsh found that she had gained the experience and network of contacts necessary to go out on her own and start freelancing.
“I always tell people that you have to network like crazy to succeed in editing,” Walsh adds. “And while there are a number of ways to do that in Chicago, the networking events held at the Graham School are not only one of them, but they’re also a great way, as a student, to start developing the skills you’ll need to grow as an editor.
 Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, 2012.