Certificates are awarded upon the successful completion of a brief course of study, usually one year or less but at times longer, primarily in institutions of higher education, university extension programs or nondegree-granting postsecondary institutions such as area career and technical education schools. Certificates are sometimes issued for participation or completion, other times for attainment of competencies. Certificates are used at many levels of knowledge and skills, ranging from foundational skills to learning at the postgraduate level. At NC community colleges, certificate programs are designed to provide entry-level employment training and are offered at all North Carolina Community College System colleges. Certificate programs range from 12 to 18 semester hour credits and can usually be completed within one semester by a full-time student. Associate degree level courses within a certificate program may also be applied toward a diploma or an associate in applied science degree.