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The College of Arts and Science has recently added certificate programs in more than 40 areas, including studio art. (Photo: David Stobbe)

One in 10 USask Arts and Science students now completing certificates

Growing number of students mix and match interests through smaller academic programs


By Chris Putnam

Ten per cent of credentials awarded by the University of Saskatchewan (USask) College of Arts and Science in 2023 were certificates—a milestone showing the rising popularity of bite-sized academic programs.

Certificates are standalone university credentials that allow students to expand their studies or deepen their understanding of a specific subject area. Smaller and quicker than degree programs, certificates can typically be earned in one or two years and can be completed alongside degrees.

In response to growing demand from students for new ways to build their skills and personalize their studies, the College of Arts and Science has added dozens of certificate programs in recent years in areas ranging from creative writing to medical language to water science.

The popularity of certificate programs has grown exponentially. Eight years ago, the college awarded just seven certificates at the USask spring and fall convocation ceremonies. Last year, 131 certificates were awarded out of a total of 1,329 credentials—one out of 10.

Upskilling alumni

Certificate programs have proven popular with alumni looking to upgrade their skills or add new credentials to their resumés.

Susan Shacter (BA’18, Cert’21, Cert’22) returned to USask after completing her Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Sociology to pursue the Certificate in Indigenous Governance and Politics, a 15-credit unit program focused on Indigenous political relationships.

Susan Shacter
Susan Shacter returned to USask to pursue the Certificate in Indigenous Governance and Politics. She now consults for the Métis Nation-Saskatchewan. (Photo: Sidney Shacter)

She found that many of the classes she had already taken for her degree could be applied toward the certificate.

“After completing my undergraduate degree, I learned about the (Certificate in Indigenous Governance and Politics) and discovered I only had one remaining class to take to receive the certificate, so I thought, why not?” Shacter said.

Shacter graduated with that Arts and Science certificate in 2021, then followed it with the Graduate Certificate in Economic Analysis for Public Policy from the Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy. She is now a Master of Arts student in USask’s Department of Political Studies.

Alongside her graduate studies, Shacter works as a consultant with the Métis Nation-Saskatchewan (MN-S). She believes her USask certificates directly contributed to her current position.

“The content of the certificates I completed offered glimpses into career paths that I hadn’t previously considered,” she said.

“I became fascinated about the political framework of my own community, the Métis Nation…. This is an incredibly exciting time for our nation and my curiosity in this area, which took root while pursuing the (Certificate in Indigenous Governance and Politics), has resulted in an opportunity to support the work of the MN-S as a policy analysis consultant.”

Shacter advises students to learn about certificate opportunities early in their studies so they can strategically choose classes that will count towards both a degree and a certificate.

“Certificates provide an excellent opportunity for students to build their resumé along the way and set themselves apart from other candidates when applying for jobs, as well as making them more competitive for awards if they pursue further educational opportunities,” she said.

Across colleges

College of Arts and Science certificate programs are open to students in all USask schools and colleges.

Treyton Zary (BComm’22, Cert’22) was working on his Bachelor of Commerce in the Edwards School of Business when he learned about the Certificate in Global Studies from the College of Arts and Science.

Treyton Zary
Edwards School of Business graduate Treyton Zary obtained the Certificate in Global Studies to gain a better understanding of global business. (Photo: submitted)

Zary’s studies focused on supply chain management, and he realized that understanding the global nature of business would require understanding global cultures, politics and events. That’s exactly what the Certificate in Global Studies offered him.

“It was fantastic. It was always kind of a side interest, and then it turned into more of my focus within my degree program,” said Zary, who graduated with his degree and certificate at the same time. “The certificate really helped me understand how you look at and talk to and consider the needs of different stakeholders and audiences around the world.”

Zary is now pursuing a master’s degree at Carleton University in Ottawa. At the same time, he is working as a program advisor in emergency management for Public Safety Canada.

“It’s an area that that never goes dull. Every day brings a new challenge and something different. That’s something that’s very exciting, and something that programs such as the Certificate in Global Studies have helped me understand how to work on and work with.”

Certificate programs can be a “fantastic push” for students to learn about subjects they never previously considered and to gain exposure to new career paths, Zary said.

“If you’re on the fence about doing (a certificate program), I think just do it. Just jump right in. If you can push yourself outside your comfort zone, you’ll reap the benefits of that decision.”

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