You have been thinking about it for a while – heading back to school to update your skills and become more competitive in today’s changing job market. But how to find the time and the money?
Enter the professional online certificate program. Now you can pick up the latest technical and business-oriented skills in about six months, and do it from anywhere that you can access a high-speed Internet connection.
The University of New Orleans has developed a growing portfolio of these competitively priced programs in the last year. UNO currently offers three online certificates, covering some of the market’s most in-demand skills: software product management, agile application development, and e-learning and instructional design.
Stand Out From the Crowd
Earning a professional certificate is a great way to make your resume stand out, according to Summer Elasady, an instructor in the Certificate in Agile Application Development program.
“Getting a certificate takes you to an extra level above other job applicants,” Elasady noted. “It shows that not only have you made a serious commitment to learning more about your field, but you’ve also gained specialized skills with the latest technology.”
She also observed that knowledge of the agile development process is particularly valuable in her field right now.
“The job market for software engineers is continuing to expand exponentially,” said Elasady, who currently works as a technical lead at the Seattle biotech company NanoString Technologies. “Agile development is not just a nice-to-have addition to your resume—it’s become the expected norm and minimum requirement for programmers.”
Convenience and Flexibility
Each program consists of two online courses, which are taken consecutively. Most coursework can be completed on the student’s own schedule, as long as regular deadlines are met.
The online format and flexible schedule makes the programs a great fit for today’s busy working professional, Elasady said.
“This format opens the doors to students who need more flexibility in their learning environment,” she observed. “You can work on assignments outside of normal working hours, you don't have to worry about commuting in rush-hour traffic. You can even attend office hours to get live help, all from the comfort of your living room.”
Learn From Those Who Do
Another advantage of certificate programs is that they are taught by experienced professionals who know exactly what skills are required for today’s job market.
“You are being taught by people who are working in the field and know what’s going on right then and there,” said Ronnie Ashline, an instructor in the Certificate in E-Learning and Instructional Design program. Ashline’s day job is senior curriculum developer and program manager for Amazon Web Services.
“I only teach topics that have worked for me in my product management career,” said Roy Firestone, an instructor in the Software Product Management program who works as a principal product manager at Verizon Media. “With devices and data becoming a greater part of our everyday lives, it takes professionals that speak two languages, technology and business. Like myself, the other Software Product Management instructors speak these two languages and bring current, real-world experience to the classroom.”
Feeling Connected, Virtually
Online learning has come a long way from what it was even just a handful of years ago, as Ashline explained.
“If you look back maybe seven years ago, people still saw e-learning as being alone on a computer and clicking your way through a class,” she said. “And that’s not really what it is anymore. I think these courses show what e-learning is capable of, where we have virtual sessions, you constantly engage with other students and share each other’s work.”
In Ashline’s program, students can even collaborate with each other on projects, such as with the practicum project that is the focus of the second course.
“I really feel like the way the course is structured allows for a healthy cohort feeling,” she said. “We have a virtual webinar component, where you can actually see people’s faces and practice along with me and other people in the course. You’ll really feel close to those you study in the course with.”
Ashline also noted that this type of bonding helps generate valuable professional connections with others who work in the same field.
An Affordable Credential From a Recognized Institution
The certificate programs offered by UNO can cost just a fraction of what students would pay for some private boot camps.
They also carry with them the backing of a well-known university, which Elasady feels can make a difference.
“When choosing a certificate program, you do need to be careful about the selecting a program with a solid reputation, preferably from an accredited institution,” she said. “Certificate programs from universities will hold a lot more weight than those from boot camps.”