Lifelong Learning for the Business Architecture Professional

By Brian H. Cameron, PhD., Associate Dean for Professional Graduate Programs, Smeal College of Business, The Pennsylvania State University

 There is no single career path for the business architecture professional today.  Most business architects take various twists and turns in their careers, often winding up in different and even unexpected positions later in their careers.  As the follow graphic denotes, business analysts/architects may take career paths that are more project management focused, more technology focused, more business focused, or even paths that are more innovation focused.

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Today’s business architecture professional requires educational career options that provide the flexibility needed to enable multiple career paths and choices.  These educational programs should allow you to sample different possible next steps and evaluate which path is the best fit for your career interests while providing you the opportunity to facilitate changes along the way as your career interests evolve.

As the following graphic implies, not everyone has the same career goals.  Some want to explore different career options and paths while others are looking for a complete career realignment.  Other people are looking to move up in a chosen career progression while some are looking for more of a lateral move within the same type of position.

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A 2016 survey explored the educational needs of the business architecture communities and found that most business architects have little or no formal education and perceive that a lack of high-quality development options are available today. Survey respondents indicated time, money, a shortage of high-quality educational offerings, and management’s lack of recognition of business architecture’s value all presented significant challenges to furthering their professional development.   For more on this study, please see:

Certificates and Degrees

There are many non-credit, non-university-based certificates in business analysis/architecture related areas available on the market today.  There are far fewer university-based certificates available in the business analysis/architecture related areas today.  It is important to understand the differences in the general types of certificates offered in order to make the choice that is best for your needs and goals.

Non-credit certificates

In general, noncredit certificates are offered either through for-profit training companies or through colleges and universities.  Non-credit certificates are intended for students who want to gain general knowledge, learn a new skill, upgrade existing skills, or enrich their understanding about a wide range of topics. Some certificate programs award a certificate simply by attending the required class or classes while other programs require that students pass some type of exam in order to earn the certificate.  Non-credit certificates are generally not applicable toward a degree.

For credit-certificates

A for-credit certificate is an educational credential representing completion of specialized education typically offered by a college or university.  A for-credit certificate can be awarded by a college of university upon completion of certain coursework indicating mastering of a specific subject area.  For-credit certificates often provide paths for matriculation into degree programs.

Which is better?

This answer depends on several factors including time, money, and educational goals.  In general, non-credit certificates with no required exams often are the cheapest and fastest to complete.  Non-credit certificates with required exams for completion often take more time to complete but may be more highly valued by employers because learning of material is assessed to earn the certificate.

For-credit certificates often involve taking college or university courses which may require 7-15 weeks to complete a given course and approximately a year or more to complete the entire certificate.  For-credit certificates often offer much more material than non-credit certificates and provide a mechanism to explore a topic before committing to a full degree program.  As the following article suggests, for-credit graduate certificates are becoming very popular with many employers:

The following article points to the dramatic growth of the number of people who hold post-baccalaureate certificates and suggests that this demand will continue to rise.

The following article suggests that postsecondary education’s credentials are more complex and multi-layered today than ever before and suggests a role for both credit and non-credit certificates depending on the needs and goals of the student.


A degree program is a course of study leading to an academic degree.  A college or university degree is required for many career fields today.   Many people say that the masters degree is becoming similar to bachelors degree of the past.  Nearly 2 in 25 people age 25 and over have a master’s, about the same proportion that had a bachelor’s or higher in 1960.  In addition, people are getting their master’s degree earlier in their careers than in the past – many directly after their undergraduate degrees – this creates a growing demand for lifelong education beyond the master’s degree.

Challenges (and Potential Solutions) for the Business Architecture Professional

All of these choices and considerations point to a challenging set of career development issues facing the business architecture professional.  The Pennsylvania State University provides a set of online graduate certificates and master’s programs that are positioned to uniquely address many of these challenges.  Many of these career development issues as well as Penn State’s lifelong learning portfolio approach were discussed in-depth during a 2019 podcast on lifelong learning.

The podcast covered two primary areas, Online Graduate Education Trends and Program Decision Considerations.

Some online graduate education trends explored in the podcast include:

  • More demand for personalized education
  • Increasing convergence between resident and online education
  • Shorter, market / career focused experiences that can build toward a larger credential
  • More guidance/counseling needed in (a) selecting programs and (b) in crafting a program of study
  • Increasing rate of change, need for life-long engagement
    • Bachelor’s is the new masters – people are getting masters degrees at younger ages and more and more people have a master’s degree today
    • A degree isn’t always the answer – sometimes a micro-credential (graduate certificate) is needed to provide a drill down into a particular area
    • Work no longer ends with retirement at 65 – everyone is a lifelong learner today

Program decision considerations and Penn State’s strong value proposition in these consideration areas discussed in the podcast include:

  • Reputation & Quality – accreditation, quality of faculty and staff support resources, experience/expertise in online/hybrid education
  • How is this program going to fit my specific needs?
    • What if I need time off?
    • What if I have to take fewer classes?
    • Can I add a concentration? Change my mind?
    • My job changed—now what?
    • I’m moving—what are my options?
  • What are the provider’s capabilities to innovate and keep up with increasing rate of change?
    • How is success and progress measured?
    • When was the last time changes/additions were made?
    • How do I know I’m getting relevant content? Relevant faculty?
  • Beyond the required classes—what else is available ?
    • Course sharing/graduate certificates
    • Concurrent degrees
  • Personalized Learning Outside of the classroom, how will this program support me as a student?
    • Career services/guidance
    • Networking opportunities
    • Personal advising
  • After graduation, what if I need additional education? What opportunities for life-long engagement / learning are available?
  • Alumni Engagement/Services
    • Learning Library of Online Content Modules for Graduates
    • Alumni Educational Events
    • Alumni Career Services

The entire podcast can be found at:

Penn State offers the ability to “sample” different career paths through online graduate certificates that then can be applied to multiple online master’s programs.  Online master’s programs that would be of interest to the business architecture professional include:

  • Master’s of Business Administration (MBA)
  • Master’s in Enterprise Architecture and Business Transformation
  • Master’s in Corporate Innovation and Entrepreneurship
  • Master’s in Data Analytics
  • Master’s in Project Management

Online graduate certificates that would be of interest to the business architecture professional include:

  • Business Analytics
  • Business Architecture
  • Enterprise Architecture
  • Corporate Innovation and Entrepreneurship
  • Management Consulting
  • Project Management
  • Marketing Analytics
  • Negotiation and Influence
  • Strategic Leadership
  • Business Sustainability Strategy

Many online graduate certificates are the core components of online master’s programs and allow students to sample a program before committing to the master’s degree.  Most graduate certificate courses are available as optional electives in the master’s programs.  In this manner, any online master’s student can typically obtain at least one online graduate certificate as part of the degree requirements and apply typically two or three of the shared courses toward a second master’s degree if desired.  For example, a student may start with the online enterprise architecture certificate and then apply those credits to the core requirements of the enterprise architecture and business transformation master program.  From here, the student may apply three of the enterprise architecture graduate certificate courses to the elective credits needed for the online MBA program and pursue a second master’s degree with three fewer courses needed to complete the second degree.   In addition, some graduate certificates share a course in common which facilitates earning multiple graduate certificates.

This unique integration across programs enables much student choice and flexibility and creates opportunities for building a lifelong learning strategy and portfolio for the business Architecture professional.  The following graphic illustrates the range of options available in the Smeal professional graduate programs portfolio with resident and online degree options that span all career stages.  The many online graduate certificates can be earned at any point in the career progression when drill downs in certain areas are needed.

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For more information on these and other educational career options, please visit us at: