Graduate Nursing Certificate Programs aim to help experienced nurses expand their practice, hone their care, and enhance their careers. These post degree nursing programs may be designed to support your current role by helping develop additional expertise. Or they could help you learn what you may need to move into a new professional area. Nursing certificate programs are generally focused on clinical, education-related, academic, or technological roles and responsibilities. Often, they’re designed around a specific care area or role, making it possible for nurses to identify programs narrowly tailored to their interests and educational needs. Certificates in nursing may be offered in several convenient formats, at levels ranging from post-baccalaureate to post masters certificate programs.
What Are Graduate Nursing Certificate Programs?
A graduate certificate in nursing is a non-degree program focused on advanced nursing practice and subject-matter expertise, as related to any of a variety of nursing roles and responsibilities. A certificate, in this context, is a credential earned by successfully completing a specified academic curriculum within a given program. It generally requires fewer courses than a degree program and might be used to demonstrate objectively a specific expertise or skill-set—for example, treating patients with certain issues, or working in a specialized area like anesthesia or labor and delivery. Graduate certificates are post degree programs, meaning that programs build on prior undergraduate or graduate education. As such, students might be required to submit proof of having earned a certain type of degree in order to attend. However, graduate nursing certificates might be offered at a few different levels, appropriate to nurses at various levels of education.
Post Baccalaureate Nursing Certificates: Also referred to as masters certificates in nursing, these programs are designed for nurses who hold a bachelor’s degree, but might not have earned their masters yet. The course program would be at the masters level. In some cases, students might be able to leverage these courses later, by transferring the credits toward a compatible masters degree.
Post Masters Nursing Certificates: These nursing certificates are designed primarily for nurses who have already earned their MSN or comparable nursing credential. Often, Post MSN Certificates focus on advanced nursing roles, from nurse practitioner specialties, to nursing education, and even leadership.
In addition to the above, some post graduate nursing certificate programs might be a little broader, open to graduate students at a variety of levels. In a program like this, you might study alongside nurses with education anywhere from BSN to doctorate. Because the type of student targeted is so broad, many of these programs focus on nursing specialty areas in which one might hold a doctorate. For example, a program might center on the particular responsibilities nurse practitioners might hold, and be open to aspiring nurse practitioners at multiple levels.
Nurses might have a number of compelling reasons to consider earning a graduate certificate in nursing. Here are just a few of them!
To Support Current Roles: As a nurse, your patients are your priority. Earning a graduate certificate could do more than just enhance your education. It may be your opportunity to hone the skills your patients might need in a caregiver, so you could provide the best care possible.
To Move Into A New Area: Interested in working in a different care setting, or moving into a new area? Graduate certificate programs could help prepare you with the skills and knowledge you might need to have on hand, wherever your goals lie.
To Maintain Certification or Licensure: The requirements for earning and maintaining a nursing license may vary by state. On top of that, some nurses might seek additional certification in certain professional areas, which may also require maintenance. Nursing graduate certificate programs could be one avenue to get continuing education to keep your credentials active, all the while advancing your own expertise.
To Work Toward A New Certification: Interested in adding a new credential? While certificates and certifications aren’t quite the same thing, pursuing a graduate nursing certificate could be a great way to prepare for that certification test in a supportive academic environment.
To Get A Taste Of Graduate School: Think you might want to earn your masters, but aren’t quite sure if you’re up to it? Earning a graduate certificate could be a solid introduction to graduate life. You could earn a certificate to support your career in a shorter program, and use that experience to inform your choice of masters program later on.
Potential Concentration Areas
Graduate nursing certificates may vary in design from program to program. However, as a trend, many of them have a few important elements in common. For one, they are often more concise in design than a full degree program. Many of them are also aimed a professional, active nurses. Because of these two qualities, many certificate programs center fairly narrowly on the knowledge, skills, and responsibilitiesoif specific professional nursing roles.
Consider the following concentration areas.
Midwifery: Nurse midwifery is a type of advanced practice registered nurse or APRN. As such, graduate nurse certificate programs may take one of two tracks. They could focus on learning more about non APRN roles in labor and delivery or neonatal nursing, or cater to nurses who already have graduate education sufficient to practice as an APRN (such as a Nurse Practitioner), but are interested in moving toward midwifery.
Nurse Anesthetists: A nurse anesthetist is a type of APRN focused on the administration of anesthesia to patients. While the specific requirements may vary by state, generally, nurse anesthetists must hold a relevant graduate degree to practice. As such, most nurse anesthetist graduate certificate programs are aimed toward students who hold at least a masters degree.
Nurse Education: Postgraduate certificate in nursing education programs examine how professional nurses could take their skills and experience, and leverage them to help new nurses grow. This could be in the context of professional development, teaching nursing students, and more!
Nurse Practitioner: A few different types of NP graduate certificate programs could be available. For example, some programs might cater to nurses holding an MSN interested in moving into a Nurse Practitioner role. Others might be aimed toward current nurse practitioners who want to expand their practice or move to a new specialty area.
Post MSN Certificates: This broad category may cross over with other concentration areas. One example of this is in post msn nurse practitioner programs. Post MSN certificates are often, but not always, clinical in nature. They’re aimed toward nurses who already hold an MSN but want to build on that education, often in a new care area or technical skill.
Nurse Administration & Leadership: Whether you’re already a leader on your unit, or are interested in moving in that direction, nurse administration graduate certificate programs could have what you’re looking for. These programs examine the ins and outs of managing teams of nurses and making important organizational decisions.
Nurse Informatics: This complex specialty area brings together the care oriented practice of nursing with information management technology. These certificate programs examine the relationship bedside nursing and nurse leadership have with data management, on a day-to-day basis. They also may look at how a nurse informatics specialist might act to address any challenges that arise.
Nurse Specialties: Many nursing certificate programs focus on specific types of patients or care settings. For example, one might opt to earn a postgraduate certificate in mental health nursing, adult gerontology, pediatrics, or critical care.
Remember that different programs may have different prerequisites, relating to education, certification and professional experience. If you want to learn more about these and other types of graduate nursing certificates that might be offered, reach out to the school or program in question.
Graduate Nursing Certificate Program Formats
Nursing encompasses a wide variety of types of positions, schedules, responsibilities, and types of people. So it’s not surprising that each nurse seeking a graduate certificate in nursing might have unique learning needs when it comes to choosing a program. Luckily, graduate programs know this. That’s why nursing certificate programs might be offered in several convenient formats, each with its own advantages.
Graduate School Nursing Certificate Programs: Prefer the stability of learning on campus? Graduate school nursing certificate programs are anchored in the local community, meaning you could learn from instructors with experience in the hospitals and care centers you might work in. That local perspective could add a personal touch to your graduate education! Plus, you’d have access to the resources of a campus program, like lab spaces, simulated clinics, and more!
Online Graduate Nursing Certificates: Want to earn a nursing certificate, but need a program that can fit into your hectic schedule? Online graduate nursing certificate programs may offer the flexibility to accommodate any shift. You could access and complete your courses from your own computer, from home, work, or on the go, learning alongside dedicated nurses like yourself from across the country!
Hybrid Graduate Certificates in Nursing: Need that flexibility, but don’t want to give up on studying in a graduate school setting? Hybrid nursing certificate programs could be the compromise you’re looking for. By offering online courses anchored from a campus, nurses could personalize their schedule and still be there for their patients, while still maintaining the local perspective and taking advantage of the resources of the campus setting!
Things to Consider When Choosing A Nursing Certificate Program
Deciding where to apply to earn your graduate nursing certificates is a big decision. After all, you’ll want to find a program that not only teaches what you need to know, but also works in your schedule, supports your goals, and makes you feel at home. Here’s a short list of questions to ask yourself when comparing programs, to help make your search a little easier.
What are the prerequisites to apply? Double check if the program in question has specific application requirements. This could include the minimum education you’ve earned (and potentially what you studied), GRE scores, professional experience, an active nursing license, and more, depending on the school and what you’re studying.
What type of student is the program designed for? Graduate nursing certificate programs are a pretty diverse mix. Where some programs might be designed for nurses near the beginning of their careers with a bachelor’s degree, others might be aimed at experience nurses with a solid resume and a graduate degree under their belts.
Does it align with your goals? Think carefully about what you want to get out of your graduate nursing certificate program—other than a certificate, that is. Are you trying to set yourself up to move into a new care area? Or do you want to earn or maintain a professional certification? Or do you want to develop specific skills to enhance your current practice? Take a look at the concentration (if any) and the curriculum, and make sure the content aligns with what you need to learn. Then make sure it complies with any unique requirements in the state where you intend to work.
Nursing Certificates vs Certificationsi
One important note to keep in mind is that a graduate nursing certificate is not the same as a certification. While a variety of professional credentials or certifications might be available that align with some of the concentration areas listed above, earning those would entail a few more requirements.
The specific steps you’d need to take in order to qualify for a professional certification may vary, depending on the specific certification in question. For example, to earn a nursing certification, you may need any or all of the following.
A minimum amount of work experience in that area (e.g. in a pediatrics setting)
Specific courses or education background
A passing score in one or more certification exams
For more information about a specific professional certification, and how your specified graduate nursing certificate might support earning or maintaining that certification, reach out to the school in question and/or credentialing organization for details.
Search for Graduate Nursing Certificates
Start your search for graduate certificate in nursing programs right here! If you already know what you want, you can use the menu to narrow the field. Simply select your preferred concentration area and format. Then read more about those programs and the sponsored program listings. Click on the ones that sound like a match, and reach out to them to learn more!