Earning a professional certificate can be a great move to gain new skills and boost your career. Depending on your background and interests, you might even be eligible for scholarships to help cover some costs.
Colleges, businesses and community organizations offer a wide range of scholarships, including support for noncredit certificate programs. And unlike student loans, scholarships don’t have to be paid back. Set aside some time to search and apply, and you might discover a few scholarships that are right for you.
Scholarships From Your School
When colleges and universities offer need-based scholarships — sometimes known as institutional scholarships — they’re often designated for students in degree programs.
That’s part of what makes the UW Certificate Scholarship program a rare find among accredited U.S. universities. Recipients can enroll in one of more than 20 eligible noncredit certificate programs offered by UW Professional & Continuing Education.
With awards from $3,000 to $8,000, these scholarships are helping more Washington residents access UW education that can help them gain skills and advance their careers, says Rovy Branon, vice provost of UW Continuum College.
“The ‘skills gap’ is an urgent problem facing American employers,” Branon says. “We’re working with companies to make sure we know what skills are in demand.”
UW certificate program students who live in the state of Washington may also qualify for a Rotary Scholarship for up to $5,000 from the Rotary Club of the University District.
Sifting through thousands of scholarship listings takes time you probably don’t have. A search engine may be a quicker way to find scholarships tailored to your interests, says Kevin Ladd, chief operating officer and vice president of business development of Scholarships.com.
“The trick is finding the ones you qualify for,” Ladd says.
Look for scholarships based on the diverse facets of your personal background. Consider attributes such as your age, gender, abilities or field of interest. For example:
▸ Adult learners will find hundreds of scholarships for students age 30 or older.
▸ Consider going for scholarships with award amounts from $100 to $1,000, which may be less competitive than big-ticket programs, Ladd says.
▸ Members of military families may be eligible for a variety of programs, including scholarships for returning students or adult learners. For example, the American Legion Auxiliary Nontraditional Student Scholarship offers $2,000 awards that members may use for noncredit certificates at accredited universities.
Some college-search sites offer frequent sweepstakes-like scholarships. Many require only a few clicks and some personal info (as well as a bit of luck) to apply. For instance, winnings from the $2,000 “No Essay Scholarship” from niche.com can apply toward noncredit certificate programs, including those offered through UWPCE. (Note that these sites may require you to create an account or profile, and your personal information might be sold or shared.)
Scholarships for certificate programs are less common than awards for degree programs, Ladd says, so save yourself time by reading the terms and conditions before applying.
Scholarships in Your Field
Look online, or ask around at midsize companies in your community, and you might be surprised to find a wealth of corporate scholarships, says Ladd. Businesses offer scholarships to promote their work and recruit employees, but he says the awards can mean real cash for students.
“Just because they’re advertorial doesn’t mean they’re not valuable,” Ladd says.
For example, Chee, a New York-based custom web development studio, offers a $1,000 scholarship for students seeking a certificate in computer science, programming, web technology, or web design and development.
“It doesn’t matter to us whether that certificate program is credit or noncredit,” says Lars Faye, Chee’s co-founder and technical director. “We simply want to encourage aspiring devs who may not otherwise be able to afford courses to get the vocational training they’re seeking.”
Wherever there’s a shortage of skilled workers, professional organizations may be looking to support aspiring employees. For example:
▸ People who want to provide better care for pets or captive animals might be eligible for one of three scholarships for the UW Certificate in Applied Animal Behavior.
▸ The nonprofit Child Care Aware of Washington provides select scholarship funds for the UW Certificate in Practice-Based Coaching, which trains professionals who support childcare providers.
▸ Students interested in healthy aging might be eligible for a scholarship to advance their careers in senior care by earning the UW Certificate in Gerontology.
▸ To help more women build and launch new business ventures, the Seattle Finance Collective has provided a scholarship for the UW Certificate in Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership.
If you live in the Northwest, consider the cultures, causes and communities that influence your life and education goals. You might find scholarships from organizations close to home. A few examples:
▸ The PRIDE Foundation annually offers more than 60 scholarships to LGBTQ+ and allied students who are residents of Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon or Washington. Eden Shore, PRIDE’s scholarships program officer, says the foundation welcomes applications from students interested in noncredit certificates.
▸ Check out scholarships from local philanthropic organizations. For example, the Seattle Foundation now offers several funding opportunities in partnership with ScholarshipAmerica, including the Atsuhiko Tateuchi Memorial Scholarship, which supports students of Japanese or Asian ancestry seeking support to continue a certificate or degree.
▸ King County residents who have recently arrived in the United States might be able to get help paying for a UW certificate program or course through the Refugee Women’s Alliance (ReWA). The nonprofit’s Day 1 program is designed to help immigrants or refugees with professional backgrounds access U.S. educational credentials, so they can build a career in the United States.