Nearly from the moment I began down the path of genealogy research I heard people talking about “The BU Program.” What it was like, who took it, how it could help you, why you should/shouldn’t take it, and so on. After thinking about it for three years I took the plunge last fall.
For those of you who are not sure what program I am refereeing to “The BU Program” was the Certificate in Online Genealogical Research offered through Boston University Metropolitan College Center for Professional Education. The center offers two programs. First, Genealogical Essentials for those genealogist who are still getting their footing in the field or serious hobbyists looking to create better work. The second program offered is the one I took on genealogical research and it focuses on taking those interested in certification and professionalism to the next level.
My goal for quite a while has to become a professional genealogist. Whether that was going to be through writing, lecturing, or taking on clients I didn’t know. What I did know is that I felt like I was floundering. I needed some guidance, with active feedback, and to figure out if my skills were up to snuff.
The price tag for the course was a little daunting (at the writing of this article the course was $2,695) but if you are a member of the New England Historic Genealogical Society, the National Genealogical Society, or the Association of Professional Genealogists you can receive a 10% discount on the fee for either course. Luckily at the time of registration I had one of these memberships plus an understanding and supportive spouse who agreed to adjust the household budget.
Simply by reading the website I knew I was going to be in for a time-consuming and learning intense environment. True, it has been a few years since I attended college, but I know enough people with advanced degrees to know that when I saw this course was accredited for 3 graduate school hours it would take real dedication. Let me say, I got what I expected.
Over 15 weeks we learned the ground work to writing and creating professional level reports. Delved into forensic genealogy and correct source citations. Honed our skills in research and problem solving through case studies and mysteries in our family trees. Then we wrapped it up by learning what it means to be a professional genealogist.
Between online classwork, supplemental reading, and homework I spent an average of 20 hours a week on this course. My usual routine was 3-5 hours, Monday-Friday, working on the class. Of course, since it was a self-paced course for the most part (you did have assignments with hard deadlines which had to be turned in for course credit) I could work when I needed to and around the household schedule.
A few people in the course were taken by surprise by the course load and the work. Some thought it was very easy and breezed through it all quickly without any issue or problem. I think I fell into the middle. There was no way I was going to turn stuff in early nor rush through the assignments. I was going to squeeze every drop of information from the discussion group, readings, assignments, and examples that I could.
What I didn’t expect was the absolute blast I had. Seriously, it was an amazing time and I loved every minute of it. Even when I was cussing the computer and my writer’s block (because apparently you can get stopped cold in your tracks writing reports too) would kick in. The connections I made to others, the sheer amount of information I crammed into my head, and the skills I now have were well worth the time and money I put into it. Not only can I see if a difference in my work but so can my friends and mentors who have helped me in the past.
If you are interested in learning more about what you will learn, the books required, or the faculty you can read all of that and much more on the program website. There is even a quiz you can take to test your skills on the homepage.
Needless to say, I am very proud to be able to say I graduated from the 13th online class (OL 13) and received my official certificate!