Certificate programs are non-degree programs that can help you train for entry-level jobs. However, not all of these programs are useful so it is important to do your homework so you know what to look for in a program. Most of these programs are short-duration programs to prepare students with foundational skills and knowledge that employers look for when they hire for an entry-level position that involves direct patient care.
Which clinical jobs require a certificate program?
Actually, most programs do not “require” a certificate program in order to be hired. However, if you are going to become certified (take a test to demonstrate your preparedness and knowledge), sitting for the certification exam often requires that you complete a requisite number of classroom hours or complete a certificate program.
The entry-level clinical jobs that offer certificate programs include:
- Medical Assistant
- Nursing Assistant
- EKG Technician
- Patient Care Technician
- Surgical Technician
- Anesthesia Technician
If you are interested in the difference between a medical assistant and a nursing assistant you can read more here.
Five things to investigate when thinking about certificate programs include:
- Should you enroll in a certificate program? Think about whether you need more training for the job you want. Maybe you can learn the skills on the job. To find out, look at the job postings (on CapYear)for the type of clinical job you are interested in. You can even reach out to employers and ask what type of training experience might be helpful if it is not listed in their job posting and if they prefer or recommend a particular certificate program.
- Compare programs. Look at the cost, the graduation requirements, the qualifications of the faculty/teachers, and the completion rates. Is there an online or asynchronous option? What is included in the cost of tuition? How long is the program? Look at schedule flexibility and class sizes – does the schedule fit into your life if you have other responsibilities?
- Look to see if they include an externship or clinical skills component. Will the tuition cover an externship or will that cost extra? Do you have to find your own externship experience or is it included at a particular location for that certificate course? If the course does not include an externship – no worries, you can usually get that experience on the job.
- Can you get college credit for the course? Some community colleges offer certificate training programs that will give you the training you need. You may be able to transfer those credits for your degree requirements and have them covered by financial aid. Federal student aid programs (like federal grants, work-study, and federal loans) can make your education a lot more affordable, and offer better financing terms, so you’ll want to use these programs if you can. You should also take into consideration other options for tuition reduction, like apprenticeship models or other external scholarships.
- Is the program accredited or licensed, or both? Most of the certification examinations for these entry-level positions require that you complete your training hours in an accredited program. It would be a shame to complete a certificate program only to find you cannot sit for the certification exam. Accreditation also ensures your program meets certain educational standards set by the accrediting body. If you want to check the legitimacy of a program you can Most states have laws requiring that career colleges and technical schools be licensed or certified to offer classes and programs. A license, like accreditation, is another sign that a program is legitimate, and may be something that future employers or educational institutions look at. Contact the state department of education and the state attorney general’s office where the school is based. Ask if there have been a lot of complaints filed against the school. One way to verify if a program is accredited is whether they accept federal financial aid. If it does it is accredited.
You can look up programs in your area here. Make sure you do your homework before you commit to a program. You want to make sure the money you invest gives you a return on investment.