Certificates Consulting 101: Which One to Have?

Staff writer Pho Vu ’23 provides a helpful guide to certification programs available to Amherst students.

It is evident that we are approaching a stage where access to learning resources is more widely available than ever before. By virtue of the rapid growth in online training programs, preparing for certification exams has become much easier. However, in the midst of a horde of certifications, it can feel suffocating just merely deciding which one to focus your energy and effort on. If that’s the case, let this article be a quick guide to certificates that are cost-friendly, time-efficient, and most importantly, catered to the support provided by Amherst College during our four years here.

Microsoft Office Specialist
Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS) certification focuses on assessing exam takers’ demonstrated proficiency in each of its primary products such as Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, and Microsoft PowerPoint. With no expiration date, MOS is, without a doubt, one of the most valuable certificates that strengthens your confidence with Microsoft tools.

As Amherst students, we are gifted by the college a license to access to Microsoft 365 Pro Plus. This allows us to practice MOS exam problems on the real platform itself before taking the exam. In addition, Amherst also indirectly supports MOS exam training by sponsoring our LinkedIn Learning account. Log in to Linkedin Learning with your Amherst account, and search for “MOS Certification” in the search bar. There, you will be able to find results filtered just for your MOS cert prep journey. Tiny tip for a more beneficial start: Take the “PowerPoint Associate - Microsoft Office Specialist for Office 2019 and Office 365” course first, then Word, then the notorious formula-filled Excel.

Following Covid social distancing protocols, Microsoft made it possible for students to finish the exam from home. This remote version of the exam is still valid after the pandemic, and Amherst students like us probably enjoy this policy the most, given that the nearest authorized testing center from Amherst is Boston-based (which equals two to three hours of traveling)!

Teaching English as a Second Language / Teaching English as a Foreign Language
Yes, you can certainly become an online English teacher while still in college! By earning Teaching English as a Second Language (TESOL) and Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TFL) certifications, you are sure to improve your chances when you apply to accredited English teaching service providers. While both these certifications may require you to pay, there are ways to earn them at no cost.

For starters, you can finish your TFL course, all at your own pace and free, courtesy of Teacher Record. While obtaining TFL sets you up for an international teaching career abroad, TESOL is the preferable of the two because it lets you teach both in other countries and in the States. Complete your TESOL certification for free by applying for financial aid to the total eight courses in Arizona State University TESOL Professional Certificate program on Coursera. All you need are two short statements, one on your reason to file the aid app and the other on how the course will benefit your goals.

Microsoft Learn Free Training and Certification
Microsoft has been working on initiatives that equip the young generation with foundations to climb the tech-savvy career ladder. Besides the rebranded Microsoft Learn Student Ambassador Program that started in 2020, it also offers both training procedures and exam vouchers for eight certificates to all eligible students at no charge until June 2023. These certificates are ideal solutions that help you form an accustomed and acute sense of today’s most in-demand technologies.

The first thing you need to do is create a personal account on Microsoft, select the course of your interest, and verify your Amherst student status on the Cloud Ready Skills platform, an initiative on behalf of Microsoft.

Even in the middle of the super busy spring semester, there is no better time than the present to complete the kind of certifications that will enable you to build up your technical knowledge of valuable skills such as data analysis, security, and artificial intelligence.

Adobe Certified Professional
Formerly called Adobe Certificate Associate, the program redesigned to align with the industry’s expectations can be helpful for many creatives on campus. Once again, Amherst is expanding its students’ choices with software solutions by enabling all students to install and run Adobe CC on their devices. That means you only need to pay for the exam cost, which is around $150, without being encumbered by the exorbitanly priced individual license.

For those who are well-versed in Adobe products, you probably think that your skills are the most legitimate proof already, think again. Nowadays, companies are valuing these credentials more than ever, and come to value candidates who, despite knowing the application like the back of their hand, still manage to take time to study Adobe properly. As soon as you link one of your hard-earned ACP in one of the creative industries to your LinkedIn profile, your chance of receiving offers just becomes doubled.

Harvard Business School Online
You may not have noticed, but Harvard Business School Online’s Credential of Readiness (CORe) does provide financial aid to admitted students from partner schools, and guess what, Amherst College is one of the institutions on the list. Talk to the Office of Financial Aid and get them to approve your need amount upon your admission to the program.

This is an online, self-paced (with deadline-based assignments), three-course-bundle program built to help you master business concepts and accelerate your decision-making skills through case studies of global corporations and organizations across the fields, like Amazon, Apple, and American Red Cross. Building deep-rooted knowledge of business analytics, economics for managers, and financial accounting, you will walk away from the course with the confidence to solve practical problems and think like business leaders.

Circle Keepers Training
Want to become a certified circle keeper and be able to lead restorative circles? The college’s Center of Restorative Justice hosts a three-part Circle Keeper Training Program with each part lasting for about three hours every semester. Based on your study and work schedule, you can save a spot by choosing to commit as a part of one of many cohorts during the time it is offered. Using Indigenous circle methodology, the program is a rare opportunity to build rapport with the community through understanding and sharing values that matter to you and others. The free course is facilitated by Amherst’s experienced staff and powered by group discussions, readings, and visually-engaging presentations. Upon the completion of the course, you have already had one foot in the career pathway of a restorative justice worker.

Liberal Arts Collaborative for Digital Innovation’s Digital Summer Course
Liberal Arts Collaborative for Digital Innovation (LACOL)’s free and asynchronous digital course is an annual exclusive ticket for Amherst students to join force with students from other ten peer colleges in the consortium in unconventional projects concerning humanities. With success in engaging students with workload in Data Science and Digital Humanities utilizing cross-college archives in the previous summers, LACOL 2023 Summer expects to be joined by a new course in Applied Machine Learning.

The only caveat is that slots are limited, so refrain from waiting until the course’s recruitment announcement (usually in March). Raise your chance of acceptance by reaching out to the faculty member in charge and express your interest in participating.

As we graduate from school and enter the workforce, many of us will endlessly study to complete certification programs required for our practice and profession. However, at the college level, the certifications above, and similar programs, are already an important way you can solidify an array of beneficial skills. By adding these, you can improve your immediate productivity and open up yourself to multiple career options at the same time. It is one of the many creative ways to make the most out of our college life by leveraging resources available through the college.