The higher education industry has undergone an array of changes, innovations, and developments in just a few short years, and colleges and universities are increasing the demands their placing on their faculty and staff. Because of this, the job market in this industry is more competitive than ever before. Students who enroll in certificate programs in higher education often seek out hands-on teaching, university-level research, and courses that will help them become competitive employee candidates in today’s higher education field. Certificate students work to cultivate essential skills in teaching and communication techniques that will help them enter into today’s increasingly competitive job market. In addition to teaching students how to work in university-level classrooms, higher education certificates also discuss leadership, public policy, and instructional design in the education field.

Types of Higher Education Certificates

Pre-Master’s Certificate

Those who want to get a taste of what to expect in a master’s degree program have the opportunity to enroll in a certificate higher education administration program. A pre-master’s certificate is generally sought out by those who want to teach in community colleges, technical schools, and trade schools. Keep in mind, most universities require their professors to have a Ph.D. In a certificate program, students will will learn the history of higher education as well as current issues, trends, and developments that affect its short-term and long-term stability. Certificate programs are designed to teach students the functions of postsecondary teachers and administrators, as well as the dynamics of educational institutions. Pre-master’s certificate programs usually have a handful of admission requirements. Here are some of the most common ones to expect:

  • Bachelor’s degree in higher education or related subject
  • Relevant work experience
  • Current resume
  • Academic and/or professional letters of recommendation

A pre-master’s certificate takes about a year to complete. The courses featured in a pre-master’s certificate cover an array of important topics, such as curriculum planning, student-teacher relationships, and issues in postsecondary schools. Though it serves as an introduction to a master’s degree, a pre-master’s certificate provides students with the knowledge, skills, and competencies required of postsecondary educators and administrators. Most certificate programs allow students to complete their courses online. A certificate higher education administration online offers students the opportunity to complete self-paced assignments, independent projects, and online exams at their own leisure.

Post-Master’s Certificate

Students who wish to expand upon a master’s degree in higher education commonly look to post-master’s certificates. This type of program is designed to aid students in enhancing their knowledge of higher education, modern issues in universities and colleges, and higher education policies and practices. A post-master’s certificate is advantageous in that it allows working professionals and aspiring teachers to flexibly prepare for challenging careers in higher education institutions. Like pre-master’s certificate programs, post-master’s certificate programs have their admission requirements as well. Some requirements worth noting:

  • A master’s degree in higher education or related subject
  • Relevant work experience
  • Current resume
  • Academic and/or professional letters of recommendation

A post-master’s certificate should take no longer than one to two years to finish. One of the primary benefits of a higher education certificate program is that it can usually be completed online, which often serves as a certificate higher education equivalent. Working professionals and aspiring teachers commonly find the certificate higher education administration online option a more appealing one, due to the fact that they can complete their studies over a period of time that coordinates with their schedules.


Students who wish to cultivate the knowledge needed to work in higher education commonly pursue non-degree certificates. One of the benefits of a non-degree certificate program is that it allows students to enroll in introductory undergraduate courses. In doing this, students are able to decide whether or not they want to pursue a bachelor’s degree later down the line. It’s important to note that courses featured in certificate programs may not qualify for transfer credit if a student doesn’t seek an undergraduate program within five years; therefore, it is up to a student to decide whether or not a bachelor’s degree is right for them in a timely manner. The admission requirements to non-degree programs are relatively straightforward and often include:

  • A high school diploma or its equivalent
  • ACT or SAT scores

Depending on the school, a non-degree certificate program usually takes about a year to complete. A non-degree program features basic education courses, such as the history of American higher education, the economics of postsecondary schools, strategic management in higher education, and more. Nowadays, many non-degree courses can be completed online. Since online schools require students to submit their work in a timely fashion, students must be consistently organized and on top of their online studies.

What’s Next for Certificate Holders?

After completing a certificate program, students can pursue additional degrees or careers in higher education. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), both teaching and administrative careers are expected to experience an increase over the next few years, postsecondary administrators by 19% and postsecondary teachers by 17%.

Pre-master’s graduates who don’t want to enter the job market right away are encouraged to look into a master’s degree in higher education. Students who complete a post-master’s certificate and have an interest in university research and postsecondary teaching are encouraged to consider a Ph.D. degree. Many certificate programs also lead to positions as college professors, administrators, policy analysts, and curriculum designers.