There can be some confusion when it comes to post doctoral study, research, and work. Sometimes the phrase post-doctoral certificate is used incorrectly to describe study and research that takes place after one receives his or her doctorate degree. The guidelines for a post-doctoral certificate are quite specific, at it includes a certificate that is received from classes or education that was received after one has received his or her doctorate degree, and the certificate program requires that the student already has received his or her doctorate degree in order to qualify for the program. Most areas of study don’t even offer post-doctoral certificates. The most common areas of study that do offer post-doctoral certificates include psychology, neuropsychology, and medicine.
Post-doctoral certificates in psychology usually take 1-4 years to obtain, and they are for psychology professionals who want to switch from a position in research to a position in a clinical practice. There are some circumstances in which psychology professionals pursue a post-doctoral certificate simply to expand their areas of expertise, but usually it’s to switch from research to clinical psychology. In order to qualify for these programs, candidates must go through similar processes that undergrad students go through when applying for graduate courses (proof of degrees, reference letters, interviews, etc.). The curriculum includes both lectures and hands-on-experience. The credits that students earn may be applied toward board certification and licensure. The coursework usually includes the subjects listed below.
- Adult and child assessment
- Clinical psychology practicum
- Intervention techniques
- Personality theories
- Psychology morals and ethics
Post-doctoral certificates are less common in the medical field, but they do exist for those who are already medical doctors or have PhD’s in research and are looking to expand their knowledge in other areas of medicine. Most often the people who earn these certificates are medical doctors who would like to change their area of practice. For example, if a doctor with a family practice decides he would like to become an orthopedic surgeon, instead of going through the same process as someone without any medical credentials, he could do a post-doctoral certificate in orthopedics. Once he completed the program, he would be able to practice family medicine and orthopedic medicine.
Some people confuse post-doctoral certificates with post-doctoral research. Post-doctoral research is research that is done by people who have received their doctorate degrees, but extra credentials aren’t usually given as a result of their work. The research is usually done under the supervision of a superior in the field or by a group of piers in the field. This type of research is expected, if not required, in some fields. For example, in academia post-doctoral research is required, especially for those who are seeking a tenured faculty position. Part of their work includes publishing their research, and some employers require that they continue to publish research on a regular basis.
When searching out a post-doctoral certificate, be sure to do your research. There are a few legitimate post-doctoral certificates that are offered outside of psychology and medicine, but they are few and far between. There are some online schools that claim they offer post-doctoral certificates in education and other areas, so if you are specifically looking for a post-doctorate certificate and not just a post-graduate certificate, be sure to check specifically on the program you are interested in. Make sure that the school or institution is accredited, and make sure that what they are offering is indeed a post-doctoral certificate instead of just a post-graduate or post-maters certificate.
Salary and career outlook data provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
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