By Barb Merrill

The rapidly changing Southern California economy and the approaching new millennium have stimulated businesses, organizations, and individuals to re-think their current position and future direction in today's challenging corporate milieu.

There a many diverse educational options for today's working professional, particularly in Southern California, with our abundance of community colleges, state universities, private institutions, and the like. The Internet has added yet another accessible dimension to education. Consequently, when considering continuing one's education, today's toughest choice is more likely to be "where and how" rather than "should I or shouldn't I."

While most people are familiar with traditional academic undergraduate and graduate degree programs, some have yet to get acquainted with the benefits of professional development programs which do not carry degree credit, but are extremely valuable in terms of their relevancy and practicality. For those looking for a concentrated way to acquire a solid core of knowledge in a specific field, practical up-to-the minute skills and information for job improvement, quality curriculum taught by outstanding instructors, and a permanent record of accomplishment, certificate programs or professional designations may be the way to go. You can typically find these types of programs offered through the extended or continuing education divisions at colleges and universities.

Designed specifically for practical application in today's workplace, certificate programs and professional designations not only "look good" on a resume, but they provide the knowledge and skills necessary to maximize job performance and proficiency. For example, University College and Extension Services (UCES) at California State University, Long Beach has more than 50 certificate programs and five professional designations to choose from, including programs in 3D animation, computer graphic design, human resources management, marketing, travel and tourism, costuming for film and television, concert promotion, computer networking, geographic information systems, global logistics/transportation, nonprofit management and fundraising, and many more. Many people who have taken certificate programs and professional designations through University College and Extension Services have actually received promotions and/or acquired new jobs as a result of successfully completing the program and having it on their resume.

Professional development courses are also conveniently scheduled to meet the needs of working professionals, so they are most often offered on weeknights or weekends. They do not have the long admission process or requirements of degree programs, plus the people enrolled are more likely to be representative of the non-traditional student in terms of age and experience in the workplace. As a result, a dynamic networking component is frequently present in professional development courses, and the alliances formed in these types of programs is often just as valuable as the curriculum itself!

For those who want to explore the world of professional development, a useful web site for working adults seeking both traditional and non-traditional education is, which serves as a type of clearing house for many different educational options.

Barb Merrill is Marketing Communications Manager with University College and Extension Services, California State University, Long Beach.

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