So what’s your major?

Meet six little-known certificate programs at Saddleback College (Holly Broxterman/Lariat)

Some students find themselves at Saddleback College either fresh to the college experience or well on their way to a four-year university. With either an associate degree as an immediate goal or a bachelor’s degree as a distant dream, students might also find themselves working through their entire time at Saddleback without exploring the 85 certificate programs offered.

Perusing the requirements of the various degrees and certificates of achievement offered, it becomes quickly apparent that the main difference between degrees and certificates is the inclusion of general education breadth requirements of Western Association of Schools and Colleges, or WASC accredited degrees, otherwise known as the classes that seem to have nothing to do with your major. Certificates can also be a positive stepping stone in the direction of your chosen profession, attracting many returning students looking to broaden their existing career options, according to Eric Hilden, Saddleback College’s career placement officer.

There are also certificates which do not have a coinciding associate degree, such as the Advanced Fashion Design and Apparel Manufacturing Certificate. However, it is not an uncommon opinion that an impressive portfolio speaks volumes louder than an impressive degree when it comes to fashion and the arts.

“[The] certificate prepares the fashion design student to enter the apparel manufacturing field,” the Saddleback website said. “The student who completes the Fashion Design program and then completes this advanced program will not only be able to design clothing but will be able to participate in many of the manufacturing processes.”

This 48 unit program, which incorporates an industry internship, polishes the technical skills of those primarily interested in fashion manufacturing and design, with labs existing solely dedicated to construction, costumes, couture and dressmaking, among others. Special Events Participation (FASH 247) complements other Fashion Design classes allowing a platform to showcases garments and designs made within the program in the annual Saddleback Fashion Show. (Who knew you could live your own personal version of “Project Runway” right here at Saddleback?)

One of the most surprising certificates one can earn from Saddleback College is the Seamanship Certificate. (Yes, you read that right.)

“This program is designed to prepare individuals as boat operators and to take Coast Guard licensing examinations, as well as train marine technicians in the seagoing disciplines,”  the Saddleback website said. “Fieldwork is conducted throughout Southern California and the Channel Islands from Dana Point and Newport harbors. Boats include 28 to 48-foot sailing and power vessels, as well as safety sail training and introductory boating experience on Saddleback’s fleet of 14-foot Capri sailboats.”

Classes required for completion of the program include Coastal Navigation (MST 210), Vessel Command and Organization (MST 215) and Marlinspike Seamanship (MST 201), among others. The program requires a minimum of 23 units to earn a Certificate of Achievement, but beyond the 14 units of required courses students must also select 9 units from elective courses such as Celestial Navigation (MS 211)  and the USCG Master License and Examination Preparation Course (MS 216) among several others.

The program is best suited for those seeking to expand their understanding of nautical terms, marine weather, navigational strategies, sailing maneuvers and basic boating safety and emergency techniques.

Students thirsting to pursue creative endeavors professionally, or those already enrolled in a graphics or art degree program, might find the Biomedical Illustration Certificate particularly intriguing. Best suited for those seeking to expand their knowledge of biology and human physiology as well as their creative and illustrative skills, this program also serves as a foundation to expand and express one’s creative portfolio professionally in growing STEM fields.

“The goal of the program is to train and prepare students for a career in the field as illustrators in various medical, science, and technical presentation areas,” the Saddleback website said. “Among the applications of target skills are textbooks and journals, web, television, patient education, museums, veterinary, dental, trade shows, pharmaceutical advertising, and medical illustration used by attorneys and law enforcement.”

Those working towards a Graphics department degree may already have taken courses required to complete the program such as Digital Animation (GD 150) or Photoshop Skills for Graphic Designers (GD 200). Students recently starting out may find they have also already taken a required course, with introductory courses such as Drawing (ART 80), Introduction to Biology (BIO 20) and Human Anatomy and Physiology (BIO 113) also being among the 29 units required to earn a certificate.

“The Ecological Restoration Certificate trains students for a practical ecological application of appropriate techniques for a variety of ecological restoration projects,” the Saddleback website said. “The projects may be carried out by industry or government agencies and may have specific legal requirements for implementation and proof of success.”

Those pursuing an Environmental Studies degree may have already completed courses among those required for the program, such as Introduction to Environmental Studies (ENV 1) or Introduction to Ecology (ENV 18). The program requires a minimum of 28 units to earn a certificate, but beyond the 15 units of required courses, students must also select 13 units from elective courses such as Natural History of California (ENV 24), Green Living (ENV 202) or the Environmental Studies Internship (ENV 105), among others.

Appealing primarily to those seeking to “identify the regulatory and technical requirements for monitoring restoration sites [and] develop a restoration plan for a specific site,” the Saddleback website said; “Students completing the certificate may be hired by local, county, state, or federal government; private consulting firms; or subcontractors hired by any of these agencies.”

Saddleback offers some other surprising certificate programs, such as those for Cosmetology and Real Estate Sales/Broker Certificates. The courses prepare students for the each of the respective state licensing exams necessary for employment in these fields.

“The [Cosmetology Certificate] program is designed to prepare students for the State Board of Cosmetology examination and, with successful completion of the program, students should be able to enter careers as cosmetologists,” the Saddleback website said. “This program is offered on an open enrollment basis, and a waiting list may be maintained for those students who desire to enroll.”

The Real Estate Sales/Broker Certificate meets state broker license requirements and prepares students for their examination by familiarizing with basic principles of real estate practice, law, appraisal, finance, escrow and investment. Online classes are often emphasized in this program for those wishing to work towards earning a certificate remotely or part-time.

Individuals intent on obtaining these licenses might venture off a college campus to do so, but the college can still serve them in pursuing professions typically unreliant on higher education. You may not need to return to college to earn your real estate license, for example, but the quality of education received at a college as compared to sometimes sketchy online “degree mills” often doesn’t compare. Besides, you may have a better chance of getting FAFSA to contribute to your educational goals if you pursue them at an accredited college.