Associate, certificate degree programs offer faster path to career opportunity

When most people hear the word “college” they think about advanced degree programs that require a

pretty sizable financial and time commitment. But at University of Hawaii Maui College, there are a number of associate or certificate degree programs that don’t take as long to complete and offer specific skills for careers here in Maui County, all for an affordable rate.

Interested in cybersecurity? You can get a Certificate of Competence in Cybersecurity after completing six classes (18 credits). Have a penchant for pastry? A Pastry Cook Certificate of Competence can be yours with just four classes (16 credits).

All told, UH-MC offers 52 certificate degrees spanning agriculture, health care, business, culinary arts, electronic and computer engineering technology, early childhood education, automotive, Hawaiian studies, fashion . . . well, the list is long. And that’s in addition to 24 associate degrees and three baccalaureate degrees for those who want to take their education to the next level.

For many, a short-term degree is enough to get their career started. A Certificate of Competence in Dental Assisting can be earned in two semesters and offers a rewarding career with responsibilities like assisting dentists during treatment procedures, taking and developing dental radiographs (X-rays), and taking impressions of patients’ teeth for study casts (models of teeth).

Dental Assisting program coordinator Joyce Yamada notes that employment of dental assistants is projected to grow 25 percent from 2012 to 2022, much faster than the average for other occupations. “On Maui, there is a high demand for dental assistants,” said Yamada. “All 2015 UH-Maui College Dental Assisting program graduates are working in dental offices or pursuing additional training in the dental field.”

A recent addition to UH-MC’s certificate degree offerings is the Community Health Worker/Health Navigator 1 Certificate of Competence that requires 15 credits and will allow participants to finish in less than a year. Community health is another growing field, and a good match for those who want to become a valuable member of a health care or social service team. Responsibilities can include outreach, assessment, health education, supportive counseling and care coordination to help people access services and improve their health.

Don’t be surprised though if your experience at UH-MC inspires you to reach higher, even after you’ve found a job in your field. Dutch Akana earned his associate degree at UH-MC in electronic and computer engineering technology, got hands-on experience as an intern and now works on campus as an IT specialist and computer and technology instructor for EdVenture. This fall he’s also pursuing his bachelor’s in engineering technology, and plans to continue on with a master’s degree in education through the UH Center, Maui.

He recommends others get their start at UH-MC too. “Whether you want to earn a degree or to learn a new skill, it’s a great place to learn,” said Akana. “Small class sizes, dedicated staff and resources are available. If you’re an employee, it can prepare you for the workforce, or if you’re an entrepreneur, you’ll be ready to contribute to the growing economy here on the island. That’s what I hope people will really take away from my experience. Pursue your interest, find your own path in a career that you enjoy, and continue your education without leaving Maui. It’s all right here.”

To learn more about UH-Maui College’s certificate programs, visit maui.hawaii.edu/programs-of-study. Registration for fall classes is now underway.

* Lui K. Hokoana is chancellor of the University of Hawaii Maui College. Ka’ana Mana’o, which means “sharing thoughts,” is scheduled to appear on the fourth Sunday of each month. It is prepared with assistance from UH-Maui College staff and is intended to provide the community of Maui County information about opportunities available through the college at its Kahului campus and its education centers.