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Thread: Online certificate: worth it?

  1. #1
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    Atlanta, GA
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    Online certificate: worth it?

    I'm looking to transition into a career in planning and need a bit of advice. I'm about 6 years out of college and I'm currently in sales, but planning has been something I've been very interested in since before high school. My plan at this point is to enter a graduate program in planning, geography, or public admin/public policy in either Spring or Fall of next year.

    I'm interested in the Community and Economic Development or the GIS certificate that Penn State offers online. My thinking is that earning one of these certificates would be nice to have on a resume, but more importantly might help with getting into a decent grad school. It would also allow me to work towards my goal of becoming a planner without sitting around stagnant for six months to a year. Plus, letters of recommendation have been a real worry for me and I could potentially land a few through a certificate program.

    Would one of these be worthwhile for someone in my position? It's not about the time and effort, but more about the costs for the Penn State programs. Both certificates run at $644 per credit hour which amounts to $7500 for the GIS and about $9500 for the Community and Economic Development certificate. On the plus side, the credits from the certificate would count towards their online masters programs, but I'm not sure I'd be interested in doing a full masters program online.

    What do you think? Can anyone recommend a less expensive online alternative?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian kalimotxo's avatar
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    There are definitely Master's programs that would give you the opportunity to fold your GIS and Econ. Dev. interests into your greater MURP program or go for these certificates concurrent with your MURP. Taking a class or two in GIS to get a head start on the subject might be beneficial. However, if you are sure you'll be getting a Master's in planning, getting either certificate now seems like it would be overkill (both financially and academically). You'll have an opportunity to blow plenty of money when you go for the Master's.

    If you're concerned about padding your resume in the meantime, why not try something that won't cost thousands of dollars? For example, volunteering for Habitat for Humanity, a local non-profit housing authority, the Nature Conservancy, Sierra Club, a local Friends of the River, etc, etc, can look really good on a resume. You don't have to spend a cent and it could help demonstrate that you're driven by passion rather than money.
    Process and dismissal. Shelter and location. Everybody wants somewhere.

  3. #3
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    Thank you. That's good advice. I'm going to look into volunteering for Habitat.

    It looks like the Planning Education at a Distance program at Ohio State could be a less expensive and less time consuming alternative to the PSU program. Does anyone know much about that program?

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