Programs of study to earn certificates require less time for completion than traditional two- or four-year programs that lead to college degrees. Students who plan to enter higher education programs complete the Federal Application for Federal Student Aid to apply for financial assistance from the Federal Student Aid program. Federal student aid includes grants, loans and work-study. Education and training programs that lead to certificates qualify for federal student aid when the school and the program meet requirements set by the U.S. Department of Education.
The Federal Student Aid program requires attendance at accredited schools. Accrediting agencies certify that the schools meet certain standards. The Federal Student Aid program also requires attendance at schools that participate in Title V, which is federal education reform legislation. The U.S. Department of Education maintains a list of eligible schools. College Navigator, the agency’s online searchable database, allows you to search by state, award level and institution type to check for eligible schools. A College Navigator search for schools offering certificates results in a list of more than 500 schools.
Federal student aid pays for certificate programs that meet the qualifications to obtain employment or advance in a field or career. The absence of the general education courses required in degree programs means it takes less time and money to complete certificate programs. Certificate program courses, which often include instruction and practical experience, focus on the skills and knowledge needed to perform a specific job. Certificate programs are offered at many types of schools, including traditional colleges, trade schools, career schools, and technical and community colleges.
Trades and Professions
Federal student aid pays for certificate programs in the trades, such as welding, machinist, plumbing, electrician, carpentry and other construction jobs. Student aid pays for certificate programs in culinary arts, hotel service and cosmetology. Also eligible for federal student aid are computer training programs that lead to certificates in programming and information systems management. Eligible certificate programs for professional careers are paralegal, marketing, counseling and business management.
Health, Education and Child Care
Students may choose from a wide range of certificate programs in health care, including counseling, nursing assistant, paramedic, medical coding and billing, laboratory technician and dental assistant, and activity assistant for elder-care facilities. Also eligible for federal student aid are certificate programs for jobs in child care and education, such as teaching assistant, child care assistant, early childhood education and teaching English as a second language. Students may also use federal student aid for certificate programs required for employment in residential child care facilities, such as group homes.
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