For many of us, the economic downturn has prompted a fair measure of introspection, soul-searching aimed at career choices past, present, and future. But, even if you decide you need to make a change, the prospect of re-training for a new job can seem daunting. What if you don't have the time (or resources) needed to earn another degree?
Relax. A certificate program may be just the answer you are looking for. These programs are designed to give you the skills you need to get started in a new career, and perhaps best of all, most can be completed in well less than one year.
For example, the Center for Digital Imaging Arts (CDIA) at Boston University offers hands-on, career-oriented education and training in digital filmmaking, photography, graphic and web design, web development, 3D animation, and audio production. Full-time students can complete the classes and practicum required for a certificate in only two terms. (See www.cdiabu.com for more details.)
According to Howard Kaplan, program director for 3D animation at CDIA, students at the center come from a wide variety of backgrounds, and interestingly, there are no prerequisites. "So, don't get discouraged by what you think you don't know," Kaplan advises. "That's why we're here, to help you develop the skills you need."
Students leave the 3D animation program with a certificate, a portfolio, and real-world experience gained while working on their Practicum. 3D animation training like this can open doors jobs in a variety of industries, including not only movies and web design, but also video gaming, architecture, medicine, archaeology, and law.
The same holds true for CDIA's audio production program. Students in this program learn practical skills that can be applied to a wide range of sound design and post-production settings. These days, audio production specialists aren't needed just in music studios. They're landing jobs on film and television sets and in companies that produce video games, animation, and commercials.
"Audio production is not just about music," says Liz Teutcsh, program director for audio production at CDIA. "In fact, most of the work out there now is about sound design and mixing. That's what differentiates us from other schools. Here, we teach a lot more than just music production."
If the digital arts aren't for you, maybe you'd like to try the culinary arts instead?
After all, the National Restaurant Association reports that in 2008, employment in the restaurant industry outpaced the overall economy for the ninth consecutive year, and that trend is expected to continue in 2009.
Boston University Metropolitan College & Division of Extended Education offers a culinary arts program (www.bu.edu/foodandwine/culinary/index.html) that takes just 14 weeks to complete. Founded in 1989 under the guidance of Julia Child and Jacques Pépin, this program runs twice each year, starting in September and January, and provides instruction through lecture, demonstration, and hands-on cooking experience. Students also learn nutrition, food writing, the economics of running a restaurant, the study of wines, sanitation training, and more.
"Even in today's economy, restaurants remain a generator of jobs and careers," says Roxolana Sawchuk, director of marketing at the BU Metropolitan College & Division of Extended Education. "This intensive, hands-on cooking program is taught entirely by working chefs and experts in the food industry."
In most cases, certificate programs are specially designed to help working professionals transition to a different career path.
"These programs provide an opportunity to look at new things," says Mark Gould, associate dean for academic and faculty affairs for the College of Professional Studies at Northeastern University. "They can help people, within a year, gain skills, internships, and career services so that they can transition directly into something new."
Many of the certificate programs at Northeastern are offered both on-campus and online, so that students can fit coursework into their busy schedules. (See www.cps.neu.edu for more details.) Right now, one of the most popular programs is the graduate certificate in geographic information systems (GIS). This program is available online, on-campus, or a combination of both, and it prepares students for GIS positions in healthcare, public safety, environmental management, transportation and operations technology, real estate, and public utilities.
"GIS technology is used in a number of different industries these days, and we've seen a huge jump in the growth of this graduate certificate," Gould says.
The Arioch Center @ Wentworth Institute of Technology (www.wit.edu/theariochcenter) also offers a variety of hands-on professional certificate programs, as well as specialized, non-credit workforce training and development mini-courses designed to help students become more competitive in the job market. The selection covers the spectrum from AutoCAD, machine tooling, and welding to construction management and facilities management.
"If someone has been displaced, now is a good time get a specialized certificate because when the construction field recovers-and it will-they'll be in good shape," explains Joan Dolamore, dean of lifelong learning at the Arioch Center. "They'll find a compatible environment because the environment we create is very hands-on. Students can try one course, and they'll see that not only can they learn something new, they can enjoy learning."