From 2018 to 2020, I had the opportunity to attend the University of Delaware and obtain a graduate certificate in railroad engineering.
But what is a graduate certificate?
A graduate certificate is a credential, historically provided by a university, for the completion of specialized classes and/or training. Obtaining a graduate certificate indicates that you have mastered a specific subject within a short course of study. These programs are designed for working professionals, have a simpler application process, and do not require a GRE. While graduate certificate programs do not qualify for federal financial aid, your employer may cover the tuition.
Now that you know what a graduate certificate is, you may be asking what some of the benefits are of obtaining one.
Here are some of my top benefits of obtaining a graduate certificate:
- Boost Your Skillset
Courses taken during a graduate certificate program are more specialized than those offered in bachelor’s degree programs. These programs allow you to gain more specialized knowledge in a field and grow your skillset. In some cases, earning a graduate certificate can also pave the way to a high salary and promote professional growth in your field. Depending on the program, students also learn more about their industry’s clients and recent projects.
My program specifically consisted of four classes ranging from “Intro to Railroad Engineering” to “Project Management for Railroads.” Now I use the knowledge obtained every day on the job, whether on a design or consulting project. Obtaining my certification has also opened my eyes to client relationships and has helped me become a better specification and proposal writer.
- Professional Development Opportunities
Some say you are nothing without your network. During your program you will have access to other professionals and the opportunity to expand your network. These opportunities may not exist otherwise, as the courses you take may vary from your day job. These connections can also prove beneficial when applying for a new job or changing fields.
While at the University of Delaware, I had the opportunity to connect with rail professionals across the country and expand my professional network. These professionals included professors, students, and railroad clients. This expanded network allowed me to learn more about different projects and potential clients.
- Graduate Degree Preparation
If you are torn about committing to a master’s degree program, obtaining a graduate certificate may be a good first step. Depending on the university, classes offered for a graduate certificate may also qualify for a master’s program and some students choose to obtain a graduate certificate and a masters at the same time. Graduate certificates also take less time to complete and are more affordable, than a master’s program. This enables a student to balance work and school better.
In conclusion, a graduate certificate program can be an excellent tool for career advancement and offers students the ability to grow their skillsets and network. I encourage everyone to explore a graduate certificate program, whether in engineering or another field, to further their education and career.
Ms. Daprano is an engineer in the rail group in AECOM’s Philadelphia office. Her background includes the review and facilitation of projects impacting railroad facilities and track inspection field work. She has experience in the review of design documents, shop drawings, and construction procedures, as well as site inspection for wide ranging projects including railroad structures, streetscape, and utility relocations. Assunta also has vast experience coordinating projects with railroad employees, project sponsors, Departments of Transportation, and the public.
Assunta graduated from Drexel University in 2016 with a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering and a concentration in Construction Management. She also holds a Graduate Certification in Railroad Engineering from the University of Delaware. Assunta is an active member of the America Society of Civil Engineers, serving as the Social Media Chair of the Philadelphia YMF Section, a Director of the Philadelphia Section, and a Practitioner Advisor for the Drexel ASCE Chapter. Assunta is also a member of the Women's Transportation Seminar (WTS), serving as the Philadelphia Chapter’s Scholarship Chair. In her spare time, Assunta enjoys collecting model trains, gardening, spending time with family, friends, and her cats, and finding new gluten free recipes. She is also an avid railroad enthusiast and hopes to one day learn how to operate a diesel locomotive.
Follow Assunta on Instagram and LinkedIn! She also has a TikTok (TheRailEngineer) that is under construction (no pun intended!), where she hopes to inspire students to choose railroad engineering as a career.