Sometimes all the work you put into earning a bachelor’s degree still isn’t enough to get you that dream job you've been pining for. For many jobs, you need to earn a certificate to work in a specialty area or qualify for a professional license. Certifications are especially common in teaching, engineering and health care, but you can bump into this requirement in any occupation. So if it’s back to school for you, you’ll be glad to know you can still get student loans as a post-baccalaureate student.
Federal Student Loans
To get Uncle Sam to help you pay for a post-bachelor’s-degree certificate, submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Provided the information on the FAFSA shows financial need, you may take out a federal student loan if you are a US citizen or eligible noncitizen, have a Social Security number, and you are not in default of a prior student loan. You have to be enrolled at least half time and make satisfactory academic progress. If you are a male under age 26, you also have to be registered with Selective Service.
A post-baccalaureate certificate program must be approved for federal aid for you to get a federal student loan. Check with your particular school and program; not all certificate programs are approved. As of July 1, 2012, graduate students are no longer eligible for Stafford subsidized loans, but can still get unsubsidized federal student loans. You are charged interest on an unsubsidized loan while in school, but payments are deferred until after you leave school. You may pay the interest as you go or allow it to be added to the balance of the loan. You can qualify for federal student loans only for courses that are required for the certificate program.
Transition to Teaching
If you choose to switch to teaching as a career, you can get federal student loans to pay for teacher’s certification training. You must enroll in a state-approved program leading to certification as a primary or secondary school teacher and meet the student aid eligibility requirements discussed earlier. What makes this an especially attractive option is that you may not have to repay the loans if you meet certain conditions. For forgiveness of a Perkins loan, you must teach for five years in a school in a low-income area or as a teacher in a field that has a demonstrated shortage of teachers. Qualified fields are mathematics, foreign language, science, or bilingual education. Training as a special education teacher or in another field with a teacher shortage also qualifies. If you work for less than five years as a teacher in an approved area, you have to pay back part of the Perkins loan. Stafford loans may be forgiven up to $5,000 if you work for five years in a school in a low-income area.
Private Student Loans
Sometimes the certificate you need isn’t eligible for federal student loans or you might need additional money. In this case, you may be able to get a private student loan from a commercial lender. Typically, private student loans work much like unsubsidized federal student loans. Payments are deferred until you leave school, and you may be able to have interest charges added to the loan balance while you are in school. You do have to have good enough credit to meet the lender’s requirements. Note that interest rates for private loans are often higher than for federal student loans.