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Job Seeker Trend: Enrollments Up at UC San Diego Continuing Education

LA JOLLA, Calif., March 21, 2012 — Peter Chen, after being downsized from a job in company finance, decided it was time to bridge to a new career in the emerging discipline of data mining. When the construction industry hit the skids, Humphrey Rincon, a general contractor for 20 years, made the leap to become a Spanish/English translator and an interpreter. Leslie Widner, a teacher who was underemployed as a hotel desk clerk, hit the books to find a dream green-collar job in the field of sustainable business practices.

Chen, Rincon and Widner are all examples of adults returning to continuing education programs at the University of California San Diego ( The ongoing economic challenges have led to the number of continuing education students entering certificate programs at UC San Diego Extension increasing 19 percent last year, according to Elizabeth Silva, registrar and director of student services for the university's continuing education programs.

A nationwide unemployment rate hovering above 8 percent, and above 10 percent in California and other states, may explain the trend of why a total of 3,841 students entered continuing education certificate programs at UC San Diego during 2011, as compared to 3,217 during 2010. Certificate programs offer a practical, concentrated study in a specific professional area. Students must complete a set of required courses and electives to earn a certificate.

"In record numbers college grads are enrolling in certificate programs typically taught by a practitioner with workplace experience," says Mary Walshok, dean of UC San Diego Extension, and co-author of the book Closing America's Job Gap ( "Unlike the 1950s through 1970s, when schools of continuing education and extension services were more like second-chance universities for adults who didn't have the opportunity to get a college degree, these programs today are hubs of education and training providing the practice oriented credentials which combined with a solid liberal arts degree make for globally competitive careers."

Walshok noted that peer colleges — such as NYU, Harvard Extension School and the University of Chicago Graham School of Continuing Studies — all report similar profiles to those that are emerging at UC San Diego Extension. About 85 percent of certificate students are college grads and half of the enrollees are funded by their employers.

"For recent and mid-career college graduates facing a still challenging job market and a weak economy, continuing-education certificates remain an attractive way to bridge to employment areas that are in higher demand," said Silva.

Another trend is that more highly paid employees have lost jobs in this downturn than previously. Because these individuals are looking for a quick way to retool for re-employment, demand for certificate programs is being driven by the desire to improve earning potential.

Most of the 102 certificates offered by UC San Diego Extension can be earned in one to two years at a cost of around $1,875 to $3,200.

The certificate programs that experienced the highest percentage of admission growth in 2011, in rank order, were:

New specialized certificates that were added in 2011 include: Career Advising, Clinical Trials Administration in Latin America, Global Service Entrepreneurship, Graphic Design, In Vitro Diagnostics, Mobile Applications Development, Mobile Device Programming, and Video and Imaging Technologies.

Some of the areas of possible study for career changers or those wishing to add new skills to their resume include: Accounting; Business; Digital Arts; Education; Engineering; English Language Studies; Foreign Languages; Healthcare and Behavioral Sciences; Humanities and Writing; Information Technology and Software Engineering; Law; Leadership and Management Development; Life Sciences; Occupational and Environmental Safety and Health; Photography, Art and Music; and Public Service and Social Responsibility.

As the continuing education and public programs arm of the university, UC San Diego Extension educates approximately 56,000 enrollees annually, which translates to more than 26,000 students in over 4,900 courses.

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