Alumni Survey Shows University of Washington Certificate Programs Help Accelerate Careers
Alumni Survey Shows University of Washington Certificate Programs Help Accelerate Careers

Motivated by the belief that everyone deserves the opportunity to keep learning and advance their careers through education, the University of Washington Professional & Continuing Education offers 94 certificate programs to help professionals keep up with the latest industry developments.

If you want to join our programs to help broaden your skills or get a new job, check out our 2020 survey of students who completed a certificate program in the past 18 – 24 months. You’ll discover how our programs impacted their careers and how they can put you on the path to success.

An Interest in Growing Skills and Launching an In-Demand Career

In 2020, our survey had the highest response rate in its three-year history, with 1,685 students completing the questionnaire. The majority of graduates who completed a certificate program between 2018-2020 said their reasons for enrolling were to advance or change careers.

Primary Career Plan



This finding comes as no surprise. Experts say new technologies, changing job roles and requirements mean that further education is necessary for people to advance their career or transition to a new role or industry. Even if you aren’t looking to change your current career path, upgrading your skills and adding new ones is crucial to stay competitive in your respective field.

Moving Careers into the Fast Lane

This year, a whopping 66% of certificate graduates said they experienced advancements in their careers due to their certificate program. Rather than a complete career change, the largest group of certificate graduates focused on advancing at their current organization, with 48% increasing their responsibilities and performance or moving to a new position. On the other hand, 32% of graduates switched roles entirely, using the skills from their certificates as selling points to land a new job at a different company or in another field.

Career Advancement Changes

uwpce career advancement changes chart


Some industrious professionals pulled off a combination of the two – saying they first advanced to a new role within their company, then pivoted to a new position at a new company. Many noted the skills they learned during the programs gave them the confidence to make the switch.

In addition to experiencing advancement in their careers, 42% of graduates received a change in compensation after completing their certificate program. Professionals who earned a salary bump say their new skills and continuing education were factors that set them apart and helped them flourish, gain recognition and advancement.

Prepping for Advanced Degrees

Often, you need specific credentials or advanced degrees to secure licensed or technical jobs. As a result, master’s and doctorate degrees have long been flagship credentials for these professions. However, getting into these programs can be challenging if you have no formal training in the subject, especially if you’re considering changing careers.

To get a leg up when applying to graduate school, many professionals are turning to certificates. Of the survey respondents who said earning a certificate made other changes in their career, 24% said their program helped inspire or prepare them for a master’s or Ph.D. program. The students also mentioned the certificate programs were integral to pursuing advanced degrees. The certificates gave them the knowledge and skills to get accepted into graduate programs or helped them get back into the mindset of learning in a classroom environment.

Gaining Valuable Skills

While some professionals enroll in certificates to advance their careers, others are more interested in enhancing specific skills in their field. Of the graduates who said earning a certificate made other changes in their career, 18% said the abilities and knowledge gained through their programs helped improve their job performance.

Through their certificates, they developed invaluable skills, increased their subject-matter knowledge and confidence, and improved efficiency in high-demand fields like programming, accounting and project management. Most importantly, they’re taking significant steps toward achieving their dreams by keeping their skills fresh and continuing to draw on concepts learned.

Branching Out on Their Own

Of the 72 professionals who said earning a certificate made other changes in their career, 18% left their current roles to start their own companies or for freelance opportunities. These professionals cite the skills they learned and the chance to network with students, instructors and guests in class as key factors that enabled them to gain the customers or contracts needed to be successful.

If you want to make a change, the UW Professional & Continuing Education offers various programs that can help you move into a role or career that’s meaningful to you. We have certificates for career transitionsnonprofit and public sector programs and, of course, options in a range of other areas — from marketing, communication and design to programming and technology.

Or, if you’re an alum and want to be involved with our community and certificate programs, consider becoming an advisory board member and offering your input on the content of our curriculums. Contact our enrollment services team at and they’ll connect you with the right person.


For more career tips and industry trends, visit the News & Features section of our website, and subscribe to our email list. To learn more about UW Professional & Continuing Education certificates, degrees and courses, explore your options or contact us.

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