Online Certificate Programs

Ready to start your journey?

If earning a college degree is too time-consuming and costly for you right now, you may want to consider pursuing one of the many online certificate programs that are available.

Online Certificate Programs

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It may help you get started in a rewarding career or help you advance in the field you’re in!

Online Certificate Programs

Certificate programs help students quickly accomplish their professional goals by providing them with targeted knowledge and skills related to their careers. Many colleges and universities offer academic and professional certificates at different degree levels.

Select the program that most interests you to jump to that section of the guide:

Exploring your options may help you determine which academic path is right for you.

Online Undergraduate Certificate Programs

woman taking an Online Undergraduate Certificate Program

Undergraduate certificate programs are designed for students who have high school diplomas. Some students complete undergraduate certificates while also earning their bachelor’s degrees.

Undergraduate certificates may be an excellent option if you aren’t ready to pursue a degree or want to explore a potential career path. Common areas of study include medical coding, web development, cosmetology, hospitality, and auto mechanics.

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In some cases, an undergraduate certificate is beneficial for college graduates hoping to transition into a new field. For example, if you have a bachelor’s degree and hope to become a teacher, an education certificate may help you earn the necessary qualifications.

If you’re currently working in your preferred field, an undergraduate certificate may help you move into an advanced position with your employer. Many schools offer certificates in organizational behavior, management, and leadership skills.

Online Graduate Certificate Programs

woman getting her Online Graduate Certificate Program

Students who hold bachelor’s degrees may pursue graduate certificates, which offer the opportunity to develop high-level skills in particular areas. Earning these advanced certificates can potentially give job candidates a competitive edge.

A graduate certificate program can give you the opportunity to focus on a particular aspect of your career. For example, a business employee who is interested in becoming a logistics manager might complete a graduate certificate in supply chain management.

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Other popular graduate certificate program areas include education, science and engineering, computers and technology, and health sciences. Holding a graduate certificate may help you qualify for a promotion, transition into a new field, or negotiate a higher salary.

For some students, a graduate certificate is an initial step toward earning a master’s degree, but a certificate itself can also be a valuable credential. You may develop specialized skills and gain expertise in an area that you find especially engaging.

Common Online Certificate Programs

student getting an online certificate program

Colleges offer online certificate classes in a wide range of fields, including these popular areas:

  • Accounting: An accounting certificate program covers topics such as taxes, managerial accounting, and financial accounting in preparation for the Certified Public Accountant licensure exam.
  • Business: Business certificate programs cover areas such as finance, accounting, human resources, sales, marketing, and e-commerce and can help you move into a new role or earn a promotion.
  • Cybersecurity: Cybersecurity certificates focus on topics such as data security, hacking, cyber threats, and network security, essential skills for a cybersecurity specialist.
  • Education: Certificate in education programs are designed to help future teachers gain the necessary skills to qualify for a teaching license, add a teaching endorsement, or gain specialized knowledge.
  • Engineering: Engineers may benefit from earning a certificate in concentrated areas such as product development, systems design, and mechatronics.
  • Health Care: Certificate in health care programs can help you enter into a medical profession, such as medical bill or coding, dental hygiene, fitness training, or medical transcription, or help you keep current on important changes in the field.
  • Project Management: Project management certificate programs explore how to develop and oversee project budgets and timelines.
  • Public Health: Public health certificate programs offer courses in subjects such as health science, public health policies, and environmental science.
  • Technology: Technology certificate programs can be taken to learn about specific topics related to the field, such as computer installation and repair, computer software technology, computer programming, database administration, or computer systems security.
  • Skilled Trades: Through a skilled trade certification program, you may learn a specific trade, such as automotive service and repair, HVAC repair, general construction, plumbing, or welding.

These are just a few of the most popular programs. Certificate programs can be found in nearly any field or discipline. The certificate programs that will be the best for you to pursue will depend on factors such as your current skills, career aspirations, and interests.

Is a Certificate Program Right for Me?

man taking a certificate program

Many students find certificate programs worth it, and there are many reasons that certificates are pursued. Some of the things you may be able to do with a certificate program include:

  • Open professional doors in less time than earning a degree
  • Advance in your current career
  • Learn skills to enter into a new career
  • Get up-to-date on the latest technology, discoveries, and advancements in your field

If you are interested in achieving any of these things, then earning a certificate may be right for you.

Benefits of Earning an Online Certificate
college students working on a project together

Online certificate programs grant a variety of potential professional and academic advantages, including:

  • Flexibility: An online certificate program can be taken from anywhere with a computer and internet connection and may be structured around other obligations, such as work or caretaking.
  • Speed: Most certificates can be completed in shorter timeframes than degrees, allowing careers to be started sooner.
  • Skill development: Certificate programs provide opportunities to gain advanced knowledge, learn new skills, and enhance current abilities.
  • Career growth: Earning a certificate is often an effective way to become qualified for a different career or professional role.
  • Degree preparation: Taking a certificate program can help you discover whether or not you want to pursue a degree in a particular field.

For many students, these characteristics make online certificate programs excellent opportunities to develop advanced skills that enhance their careers.

Certificates Online Admissions Requirements

student taking a certificate program online

The admissions requirements for colleges with certificate programs online depend on the academic level and area of study. These are common criteria:

  • Test scores: If required, these may include scores from standardized tests, such as the SAT, ACT, or GRE.
  • Transcripts: You’ll need to provide official transcripts from any schools that you’ve previously attended.
  • Personal essay: This is typically a written statement explaining your present and future goals.
  • Letters of recommendation: These typically need to be from former instructors or supervisors.

Most certificate programs also ask students to submit an official application, and some require a fee.

Online College Certificate Programs Accreditation

Online College Certificate Programs Accreditation

Some organizations claim that their short certificate programs are high-quality, but it’s usually best to avoid any programs that aren’t accredited.

When researching potential certificates, it’s important to look for regional accreditation, which requires schools to meet a high standard of academic quality. Regional accrediting bodies evaluate a program’s faculty and curriculum before awarding accreditation status. Many employers disregard certificates from programs that aren’t accredited and give preference to those that are from regionally accredited institutions.

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If you hope to transfer credits from your certificate to a degree program, it’s especially important to ensure that the college you attend is accredited.

How to Pay for Your Online Certificate Program?

college student searching for online certificate programs

Though online certificate programs typically aren’t as expensive as college degree programs, they still come with a price tag! Luckily, there are many potential ways you may be able to reduce the cost of your education.

The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) can potentially help with funding non-degree programs. There are federal and state loans and grants that cover continuing education courses. Federal loans typically offer lower interest rates than private loans. Many schools also use the information from the FAFSA to determine eligibility for aid.

Scholarships are not just for those earning degrees. There are plenty designed for trade programs, adult learners, and continuing education programs that you may apply for. Many employers also pay for education in areas that will enhance your job skills, so it’s important to ask your employer to see if they offer any education reimbursement programs.

What Is a Certificate Program?

woman taking a certificate program

A certificate program is a program that you may take to gain specific skills. These training programs are shorter than degree programs and typically focus on a specific aspect of a career field.

They may provide training for trades jobs, help you advance in your current career, or help you prepare for a new career or degree program. They may also be necessary for certain jobs to help you stay up-to-date on the latest discoveries, technology, and advancements.

One of the great benefits of online certificates is that they can usually be earned quickly. Most programs take less than a year to complete, and some can be completed in a matter of weeks. Because they are so short and highly specialized, they generally cost much less than traditional degree programs.

What Types of Colleges Offer Online Certificate Programs?

two students taking Online Certificates Program

Many types of schools offer online certificate programs. You may find programs available at any of these:

  • Career colleges, trade schools, or vocational schools
  • Community colleges
  • Online schools
  • Public and private universities

Accredited online certificate programs can be found in numerous career fields and areas of study at schools nationwide.

Can an Online Certificate Program Count as Credit toward My Degree?

student getting an online certificate program in a cafe

Generally, an online certificate does not count directly toward a degree, but you may be able to use it to prepare for a degree program.

Taking a certificate program in the field of study you are interested in can help you decide if you should continue pursuing it or not. Some transfer-friendly programs may also offer you credits based on experiences, in which your certificate program may qualify.

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If you plan to pursue a degree after completing your certificate program, it’s beneficial to look for a program that offers academic credit for prior experiences and speak to an advisor about your plans.

What Can You Do with an Online Certificate?

dental assistant helping a dentist in a clinic

Completing certificate training programs online can potentially lead to a rewarding career. Many people who work in skilled trades, such as electricians, carpenters, and welders, begin their professions after completing certificate programs. Certificates are also common credentials for healthcare workers. Dental assistants, emergency medical technicians, and physical therapy assistants often earn certificates.

Many of these careers pay competitive salaries. For example, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, physical therapy assistants and carpenters earn median annual salaries of $57,240 and $51,390, respectively. These salaries are both above the average for all occupations, which is $46,300.

How Long Is a Certificate Program Online?

Online certificate programs are typically much faster than bachelor’s or master’s degrees. Many certificates can be completed within 1 year, and some require only 3 to 4 months of study.

The length of the certificate program often depends on the complexity of the material. For example, certificates that involve advanced scientific skills and laboratory work may take longer. In contrast, certificates that primarily involve lecture courses, exams, reading, and writing assignments may be completed in shorter timespans.

What Are Short Certificate Programs That Pay Well?

electrician working

Although some people believe that the only way to earn a competitive salary is by completing a college degree, there are a variety of 6-month certificate programs that pay well. Many professionals in business, healthcare, and other fields begin their careers with certificates.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, these are the median salaries for careers often tied to short certificate programs:

  • Electricians: $60,240
  • Heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers: $49,920
  • Bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks: $45,860
  • Fitness trainers and instructors: $45,380
  • Dental assistants: $44,820

These are just some of the careers that a certificate program may be beneficial for pursuing. Your specific earnings will depend on a number of factors, including your location, experience, education, and employer.

What’s the Difference Between a Certificate vs. Certification Online?

student getting an online certification

Although they both offer professional benefits, online certificates and online certifications are different in important ways, including:

  • Prerequisites: Most online certificate programs will require you to have a diploma or degree, while certifications typically involve a certain amount of professional experience.
  • Structure: Certificate programs include a series of courses and educational experiences, whereas certifications are usually based on passing an exam.
  • Outcomes: Unlike a certification, which indicates that you have mastered certain skills, completing a certificate program shows that you have pursued advanced training in your field.

Many people choose to complete both certificate and certification programs to advance in their careers.

What’s the Difference Between Degree vs. Certificate Online Programs?

college student taking online class at home

Online certificate programs provide valuable education and training, but they’re not the same as an online degree.

Here are some ways the two differ:

Online Degrees Online Certificates
  • Focus on a field of study
  • Require general education courses
  • Typically take 2 to 4 years to complete, perhaps more, depending on degree level
  • Typically cost more than an online certificate
  • Focus on the development of specific professional skills
  • Do not require general education courses
  • Usually take less than 1 year to complete, and may be completed in just a few weeks
  • Typically cost less than an online degree

Both online degrees and online certificates have their benefits and can help open the doors to rewarding careers. Which is best for you will depend on your personal goals and interests.

What’s the Difference Between a Diploma vs. Certificate Program?

woman taking a certificate program at home

The terms diploma and certificate are sometimes used interchangeably, but they refer to distinct programs that are distinguished by several features, such as:

  • Length: Many certificates can be completed within a few months to a year, while a diploma may involve 2 to 3 years of study.
  • Training: Certificate programs often feature a combination of lecture courses and practical experiences, but a diploma consists primarily of hands-on training.
  • Cost: Diploma programs are often more expensive than certificates because they require a longer period of training.

If your goal is to rapidly advance your career, a certificate may be ideal.

Are Certificate Programs Worth It?

Yes, certificate programs are worth it for many students. Certificate programs can give you the opportunity to expand your current skill set and gain up-to-date knowledge in your field.

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You may have the opportunity to move into a leadership position and obtain higher salaries. Earning a certificate can also be an effective way to specialize in an area of interest and help distinguish yourself as an expert in the industry. For many students, certificates are a flexible and affordable way to move ahead in their careers.

Getting Your Certificate Online

Student getting his Certificate Online

From changing your career trajectory to qualifying for a role in management, completing a certificate program can help boost your professional standing.

Online certificates allow students to develop a more thorough understanding of their fields while also maintaining their professional lives. Many certificate programs are flexible, so you can take courses at times that don’t conflict with your work schedule or other responsibilities.

A certificate offers a high level of professional and academic value at an affordable price. You can take the first step toward building the career of your dreams by researching accredited online certificate programs today.

Ready to start your journey?
Elizabeth Abner
WRITTEN BY Elizabeth Abner

Elizabeth is pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy in Foreign Policy and earned her master's degree in business administration. For her undergraduate studies, she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration with a concentration in international business. Elizabeth's research is focused on universities offering online degree programs.