Favorites ()
open laptop on a desk

Addressing Skill Gaps with a Graduate Certificate and Business Degree

Do you want to gain specialized skills for your current job, get a raise, or advance your career? A graduate certificate is a great way to learn something new or hone your existing skills to stay on top of the latest trends. You can also roll it into a future business degree.

"A graduate certificate is a wonderful entry point for students," said Marketing Professor Mike Porter '97 MBA, '07 EdD, who teaches the Graduate Certificate in Integrated Marketing Communication. "Each of our certificates is carefully constructed and tailored to their needs."

Earn a graduate certificate as a stand-alone credential or as part of your St. Thomas MBA. You can also continue with the MS in Business Analytics if you begin with the Graduate Certificate in Business Analytics.

"The graduate certificate gives you a baseline in the first couple of classes," said Porter. "Students begin to realize that an MBA can be doable and relevant."

Learn more about the successes of current students and alumni at Opus College who started with a graduate certificate and chose to enroll in a degree program.

Fast Track to an MBA

Erica Jansen was working at a local television station in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. While she loved her job as a storyteller at WCCO-TV, she felt strongly about being prepared for whatever may happen.

"My research led me to the graduate certificates at Opus College," she said. "I was looking for a program to build on my digital marketing skills and be versatile for any career type."

Erica began the Digital Experience Graduate Certificate in the fall of 2020. She learned marketing strategies from faculty who worked with clients like Caribou Coffee and Famous Dave's. A digital marketing class on search engine optimization (SEO) and A/B testing techniques helped her optimize Youtube and Facebook ads.

"I wasn't sure if I wanted to do the full MBA at first, but I really enjoyed the certificate," she said. "The experience was so empowering and inspiring – I didn't want it to be over."

Erica decided to apply the credits from her certificate courses towards the required credits for the Part-time Flex MBA. On average, students complete the program in 2 1/2 to three years. By the end of her first semester of the graduate certificate, she was well on her way to earning her MBA.

Erica is using learnings from leadership courses to advance into marketing management – and her company is taking notice. She recently won the quarterly employee award for outstanding leadership during the pandemic.

I've already hit career goals that I wouldn't have made without these two programs.

Erica Jansen

Erica Jansen

  • Storyteller at WCCO-TV

Gaining New Skills for Career Change

Switching jobs or changing careers has become more common during the pandemic. As the "Great Resignation" continues, many professionals are returning to school for more education.

A graduate certificate turned out to be a stepping stone for Heidi Gamradt. After nearly a decade working in human resources at Cargill, she made a career shift into data analytics. "I was mostly self-taught and knew I needed to ramp up my analytic skills to compete in the market," she said.

The Business Analytics Graduate Certificate reinforced Heid's decision to change careers and test the waters before committing to a full degree. As a working mom with three kids, the flexible format worked so well that she returned to finish her master's degree.

"When people hear I'm in a master's program for business analytics, I think it intrigues them," she said. "It's not a standard MBA program. People see me as a subject matter expert, which places me on projects and opens up more opportunities for my career."

Heidi was recently promoted to a senior global analyst role at Cargill. "I feel like I have the street cred now. I can connect the dots to provide analytics expertise to my clients."

I'm always thinking about how I can use my learnings to make the team more successful. My manager sees that.

Heidi Gamradt

Heidi Gamradt

  • Senior Global Performance Analyst at Cargill
  • '21 MS in Business Analytics

Flexibility for Family And Career

Organizational change is inevitable for fast-growing companies like Polaris Industries, the global leader in powersports. Brian LaVallee was experiencing the change first-hand.

As a program manager in supply chain, he works with different teams every day. From engineering to product development, their perspectives are crucial to developing and implementing robust, long-term business strategies.

To understand how to navigate change management within Polaris, Brian enrolled in the Graduate Certificate in Transformational Organizational Change. "The certificate allowed me to deep dive into a subject matter I could apply immediately to my role."

Brian made an immediate impact within his first semester. Utilizing Excel skills and statistical analysis in a cross-functional leadership project, he helped Polaris capture $9 million in annual savings.

When he started the Online MBA program, he felt prepared, not overwhelmed. "I had taken one course at a time in the graduate certificate," he explained. "It gave me a good sense of the workload I can expect as an MBA student."

Brian appreciates the flexibility and pacing of the curriculum, especially after he and his wife welcomed a new baby. "It gives me peace of mind knowing that I can continue having a personal life while earning my degree."

I've really enjoyed the option of taking hybrid courses for both my certificate and my MBA.

Brian LaVallee

Brian LaVallee

  • Program Manager at Polaris Industries

A Practical Classroom Experience

An engineer by day and entrepreneur by night, Osni Ferreira Fiho, was looking for ways to grow his consulting business for small business owners. "I needed a program to give me a better perspective on marketing and digital when talking with prospects and clients," he said.

The Graduate Certificate in Integrated Marketing Communication gave Osni the skills without getting a full degree in marketing or design. The faculty's industry experience was helpful; he used consulting techniques from Prof + Prof classes to bring prospects to clients.

Osni enrolled in the Part-time MBA program to build functional skills for his entrepreneurial career. His business expertise grew, along with his sense of self. A popular MBA class taught him to harness his personal leadership style and strengths.

"I was always so focused on improving processes and increasing profit margins," he explained. "I only thought about the skills I needed as an entrepreneur." But now, a deeper knowledge of business and emotional intelligence has led to more meaningful interactions with clients.

Eventually, Osni wants to diversify his portfolio with new business endeavors. "I'm grateful for all my professors and professionals who have helped me build my business and grow as a person."

I've learned how to lead teams better.

Osni Ferreira Fiho

Osni Ferreira Fiho

  • Entrepreneur and financial consultant at Thrivent
  • '21 MBA