Stackable certificates build specialized degrees

Business special section: Trulaske changes the way students, especially alumni, can learn business and earn degrees.

mortar board on a stack of books

The Trulaske College of Business now offers students the chance to earn stackable certificates. Photo illustration by Shutterstock/Blake Dinsdale.

Published on Show Me Mizzou August 19, 2021

Cameron Christian is on track to be among the first class of MU students to earn a Master of Science in business (MSB) from the Trulaske College of Business. Along the way, she’ll also pick up two stackable certificates — recognized credentials that position students to leap straight from graduate school into their business careers.

Introduced in fall 2020, the MSB and the college’s stackable certificates program change the way students learn business and earn degrees. “Students can customize a degree to their particular career interests in significant ways,” says Chris Robert, associate dean for graduate studies and research. “And, because we have gone mostly online, graduate students can propel their career with one-of-a-kind certifications without having to leave their work or home behind to come to Columbia.”

This fresh approach was designed with an eye on the needs of Trulaske alumni — recent graduates, such as Christian, and others who already have a foothold in their careers. “It’s answering the call of alumni wanting to continue investing in their education, and it also answers the call of employers who are searching for potential hires with specific knowledge or experience,” says Ryan Murray, director of graduate studies.

Christian has been enjoying the flexibility of online classes while working part time and progressing toward her degree. She typically works day shifts at a Columbia coffee shop and studies in the evenings.

Whether online or in person, the core of the Trulaske graduate curriculum remains the same. All MSB students take 12 hours of the basics, such as finance, accounting, marketing and management. Candidates also earn two certificates — at least one from the College of Business, with an option to choose an additional credential from a partnering academic unit. Those include the College of Engineering, School of Law, School of Medicine, the Truman School of Public Affairs and others.

Cameron Christian portrait

Cameron Christian is earning certificates in marketing analytics and global supply chain management while pursuing a Master of Science in business. Photo by Bill Greenblatt.

For her two required certificates, Christian chose Global Supply Chain Management and Marketing Analytics. She is also learning several programming languages. Not only is she digging deeper into subjects that fascinate her, but she is also building a stronger resume. “These niche areas will, I hope, make me stand out from other job applicants,” she says.

Earning a certificate means completing four to five courses in a particular area. The list of possibilities is extensive and expected to continue growing. From marketing analytics to financial management and from dispute resolution to higher education administration, the combinations lead to interdisciplinary knowledge and professionally recognized certification.

For students who don’t choose the MSB, stackable certificates can be a stand-alone option. Students can go for one, two or more certificates, stacking them together, creating the building blocks of their business careers. “If someone wants to come to MU just to earn a certificate in financial management, that’s fine,” Robert says. “But once that certificate is in hand, we hope that student would say, ‘Maybe I should take another certificate along with the core courses, and stay for the whole MSB.’ ”

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