The intersection between college degrees and professional certifications is becoming more pronounced as more employers look for both in today’s fastest-growing skilled professions. As part of ensuring academic excellence and career preparation for all our students, American National University builds preparation for key certifications into appropriate programs based upon the recommendation of employers and workers in the field. For ANU graduates like Randi Lee, a Certified Surgical Technologist, and Sylvia Allen, a Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) – having that professional certification paired with their degree was key to their ability to work in their fields.
After thirteen years of working in medical records as an Electronic Medical Record (EMR) Content Specialist, “[My employer] started requiring that you have the RHIT to stay in the particular job that I was in,” Sylvia explained. Although her options included taking courses online or at a local community college, she opted to enroll in the health information management associate’s degree program at the ANU $$Louisville Campus, where she could earn her associate’s degree and be prepared for her certification at the same time.
[img]“National was the best fit for me,” she stated simply about her choice. “I wanted some hands-on. I knew [National] was smaller classes.” The success of her coworkers reassured her of her decision. “We actually, in our department, have had managers and supervisors – graduated from National – who have gone here and work in the field,” she shared. Sylvia graduated earlier this year in February 2015, and then passed her RHIT exam with time to spare within the five year deadline her employer had set for her to get certified.
For Randi Lee, finding a surgical technology program that prepared her for the Certified Surgical Technologist (CST) exam was important when she moved from Delaware to Virginia. “Once you have that certification, it’s that one thing that says you’re absolutely prepared to do the job you’ve trained for,” Randi stated. As a surgical technologist in a busy hospital, she explained, confidence in your training and knowledge is absolutely necessary in order to do your job well. “You’re basically on the front lines in the operating room,” she shared about the responsibilities of her job. “You’re the right hand person assisting the surgeon.”
National’s surgical technology program gave her the experience she needed through her classes, hands-on labs, clinicals, and externship to have that assurance in the operating room, but it also prepared her for the certification that would indicate to her future employers that she had the training needed to fulfill her responsibilities as part of the operating team. After graduating from the $$Danville, Virginia Campus and successfully passing her CST exam, Randi had three interviews within a two-week period, and job offers from all three interviews. “Certification is the shining beacon on your résumé to get the job interview,” she said about what set her degree from ANU apart from the competition.
Like many of our graduates, Sylvia and Randi found that the ability to earn their degree and prepare for their certification at the same time only strengthened their educational experience at ANU. “Studying for the certification exam gives you better preparation in your program of study,” shared Randi about how studying for her certification went hand-in-hand with her degree. “It gets you that much more prepared for your career field.” Looking ahead to the next ten years, Randi plans on building upon her certification with more training and advanced certification as a Certified Surgical First Assistant (CSFA). For Sylvia, although her main goal was to prepare for the certification required by her employer, she was glad that she could simultaneously earn her degree because, “You can only improve yourself. It can only be an advantage.”
Although college education remains a “minimum ticket to ride” in an employer’s consideration for hire, says Matthew Sigelman, chief executive of Burning Glass (a company that analyzes job ads), more and more studies are finding that companies are requiring certifications in addition to the college degree as validation of specific competencies in a career.1 “Certification shows that you have the skills – you have what is needed. It’s not just that you have been to school,” shared Dominic Boamah, vice president of ANU academic affairs for information technology. “Certification is a stamp – that you’ve actually done it, you can do it, and you are here to do it.” In responding to the workforce demands, American National University continues to incorporate those key professional certifications as a way of providing our students with an education that not only provides academic excellence, but prepares them with all the necessary qualifications required for a career in their field.
A- Certified Surgical Technologist Randi Lee received three job offers upon completing her program and passing the CST certification exam.
B- Sylvia Allen enrolled in the health information management program so she could work toward her degree and certification at the same time.