Complete Guide to Accredited Online Certificate Programs
There are many certificate programs available online. The variety of options may be overwhelming at first, but students can conduct research to determine the program that will best meet their goals. With a certificate in hand, students may be able to enter into a relevant career quickly, depending on their goals.
Our extensive list of accredited online certificate programs includes 514 online schools and 8,094 online certificate programs. For each program, we calculated average salaries using earnings in the first year after graduation sourced from the 2020 release of the Department of Education's College Scorecard.
We also show a list of highlighted non-profit schools that offer online certificates and diplomas.
Popular Online Certificate Programs
|a||Online Schools||Programs||Alumni Salary|
|Aerospace Engineering||12||20||Not reported|
|Art & Design||26||35||Not reported|
|b||Online Schools||Programs||Alumni Salary|
|Biblical Studies||17||30||Not reported|
|c||Online Schools||Programs||Alumni Salary|
|CAD/Computer Aided Drafting||3||4||$34,340|
|Chemical Engineering||10||11||Not reported|
|Christian Counseling||6||7||Not reported|
|Civil Engineering||15||30||Not reported|
|Computer Engineering||12||23||Not reported|
|Conflict Resolution||30||43||Not reported|
|Construction Management||29||39||Not reported|
|Counseling Psychology||16||17||Not reported|
|d||Online Schools||Programs||Alumni Salary|
|Data Analytics||85||143||Not reported|
|Data Science||79||127||Not reported|
|Digital Marketing||29||34||Not reported|
|e||Online Schools||Programs||Alumni Salary|
|Early Childhood Education||83||140||$20,870|
|Educational Leadership||216||497||Not reported|
|Emergency Management||53||86||Not reported|
|Engineering Management||32||52||Not reported|
|f||Online Schools||Programs||Alumni Salary|
|Forensic Psychology||3||3||Not reported|
|Forensic Science||24||32||Not reported|
|g||Online Schools||Programs||Alumni Salary|
|Geographic Information Systems||58||85||$42,880|
|h||Online Schools||Programs||Alumni Salary|
|Health Education||63||77||Not reported|
|Healthcare Informatics||91||114||Not reported|
|Homeland Security||59||122||Not reported|
|i||Online Schools||Programs||Alumni Salary|
|Industrial Engineering||6||8||Not reported|
|Information Systems||85||151||Not reported|
|j||Online Schools||Programs||Alumni Salary|
|l||Online Schools||Programs||Alumni Salary|
|Landscape Design||1||1||Not reported|
|Legal Nurse Consulting||2||2||$57,180|
|Library Science||50||72||Not reported|
|m||Online Schools||Programs||Alumni Salary|
|Marriage & Family Therapy||13||33||$28,610|
|Mechanical Engineering||10||21||Not reported|
|Medical Billing & Coding||29||42||$24,230|
|Medical Office Administration||16||22||$24,230|
|n||Online Schools||Programs||Alumni Salary|
|Nurse Practitioner (NP)||95||234||Not reported|
|o||Online Schools||Programs||Alumni Salary|
|Occupational Safety||19||24||Not reported|
|p||Online Schools||Programs||Alumni Salary|
|Physician Assistant||1||1||Not reported|
|Public Administration||111||226||Not reported|
|Public Health||82||150||Not reported|
|r||Online Schools||Programs||Alumni Salary|
|Religious Studies||45||131||Not reported|
|s||Online Schools||Programs||Alumni Salary|
|School Counseling||32||39||Not reported|
|Social Sciences||103||178||Not reported|
|Software Engineering||26||38||Not reported|
|Speech Pathology||10||10||Not reported|
|Substance Abuse Counseling||42||52||$28,610|
|Supply Chain Management||64||76||$35,610|
|Systems Engineering||41||69||Not reported|
|t||Online Schools||Programs||Alumni Salary|
|v||Online Schools||Programs||Alumni Salary|
|Video Game Design||9||9||$36,480|
|w||Online Schools||Programs||Alumni Salary|
Recommended Non-Profit Schools Offering Online Certificate Programs
All schools included in our highlighted list offer the most online certificate programs in addition to being non-profit and regionally accredited. Schools such as Drexel University and University of California - Los Angeles have over 60 online certificate program options. For consideration in our highlighted list, schools needed to meet the following guidelines:
- Non-profit status
- Regional accreditation
- Strong student support services
Schools are listed in alphabetical order.
Dallas Baptist University
This Christian-based university utilizes small online class sizes, expert instructors, and thorough education to provide students with a rich experience. There are 61 programs available, and a 92% student course completion rate. Curriculum is self-propelled, so individuals can complete their coursework on their own time, never having to log in at a specific time. Undergraduate certificate programs include health care management, lay leadership for education or sports ministries, and criminal justice for organizational security or law enforcement, among others. Graduate certificate can be earned in the areas of education, health services, and leadership, just to name a few. One post-master's certificate program is available, school superintendency, which is designed for individual's who hold their master's degree and a principal certification with the desire to become a school superintendent. Applicants to Dallas Baptist University are required to craft a letter of intent that includes which certificate they desire to pursue and why, personal goals, and reasoning behind the decision to apply to the university. In addition a minimum 2.5 GPA is required for undergraduate programs, and a 3.0 for graduate-level coursework.
Professionals are able to engage in nearly 50 online certification courses taught by nationally-recognized and tenured on-campus faculty to assure that the curricula is equal. Drexel University focuses on connecting peers through online forums. Undergraduate and graduate programs cover a broad range of curriculum, including business, computer science, education, engineering, and public health, among others. Courses are taught by industry professionals that bring public and private sector work experience to the highly interactive online learning classrooms. Currently, Drexel University partners with over 500 corporations, school districts, professional associations, and health systems throughout the country to offer employees opportunity for career advancement. With reduced tuition fees and on or off-site events that cater to professional development, earning a certification that meets an organization's needs is conveniently streamlined through Drexel.
Fort Hays State University
For online programs with flexible learning options and schedules, Fort Hays State University is an affordable option. Tuition ranges from $207.24 per credit hour for undergraduate certificates to $272.71 per credit hour for graduate programs. There are certificates available in departments including interdisciplinary studies, management & marketing, nursing, and political science, among others. Students over the age of 21 do not need to submit SAT or ACT scores during the admission process; all students must complete an application and submit their official high school and, if necessary, college transcripts. Programs range from 9-16 credit hours and curriculum is delivered via CD-ROMs, DVD, guided study, the internet, and internet protocol television (IPTV). Certifications awarded to students do not contain information that identifies the program as online or virtual, as the curriculum is equal to coursework that would be completed on campus.
Indiana University - Bloomington
There are over 50 online undergraduate and graduate certificates available to professionals looking to supplement their work experience or degree. Additionally, there is a full resource center available to adult long-distance students to assist with the transition into academia and provide academic and career advisors. Professionals can earn undergraduate certificates in the fields of leadership, human resources, and applied mathematics, just to name a few. Graduate certificates are available in education, business, and public health. The Business Foundations Certificate allows students to complete 21 credit hours of coursework in accounting, operations management, and human resource management taught by business professionals.
Pennsylvania State University - World Campus
Ranked as the No. 1 school in the nation for educating the most well-rounded and best-prepared graduates by The Wall Street Journal, students are prepared for success as they complete undergraduate and graduate programs. Undergraduate programs range from organizational communication to earth sustainability, and financial planning to digital arts. Graduate programs include applied statistics, business analytics, educational technology integration, and philanthropic leadership, among others. The online programs are taught by the on-campus faculty and the curriculum is the same that traditional students receive. Programs range from 12-30 credit hours for both undergraduate and graduate curriculums to facilitate flexible, accelerated learning for working professionals. Students are able to utilize a combination of self-study and peer-to-peer interaction in an online learning network to enhance their education with a schedule that is convenient for them.
Rio Salado College
At Rio Salado University, students can choose between a Certificate of Completion and an Academic Certificate to enhance their professional career. There are programs available in the field of Early Childhood Education, Mobile Apps Programming, Human Development, and Language and Literary Culture of the USA. Students take courses in a variety of language courses, Course duration ranges between 16 and 21 credit hours, and students must maintain a 2.0 minimum GPA. For online learners Maricopa County, tuition is very affordable, at $84 per credit hour, and only $215 per credit hour for out-of-state students. In addition to being cost effective, Rio Salado University offers 24/7 tutoring and online support services to their distance learners so students are able to get the academic and career help that they need.
University of California - Los Angeles
UCLA offers over 60 online certificate programs ranging from business studies to education, entertainment studies to engineering & technology, with a myriad of programs in between. Professionals can earn a certificate in Applied Behavioral Analysis, Parent Education & Training, or Credit Analysis & Management. The competitive pricing and flexible schedules affords students the ability to enhance their career or gain entry into a new one. With over 100 years of continuing education service, UCLA has experienced professors that provide strengths-based learning and the ability to customize programs for corporate certification training. Individuals are able to choose their pace of learning from one day to 12 weeks and engage in project-based curriculum.
University of South Florida Online
Referred to by the University of South Florida as Innovative Education, the online graduate degree program provides students with valuable educational experience in a focused and accessible format. Completing a graduate certificate increases a professional's competitiveness in the workforce, enhances their performance with newly acquired skills, and helps keep them relevant with ever-changing businesses. Most of the certificate programs take one to two years to complete depending on pace and how many credit hours were transferred. Program fields include behavioral, counseling, and community engagement, crime investigation/cybersecurity, engineering and technology, and education. Florida residents can expect to pay $481.43 per credit hour, while non-residents living outside of Florida pay $502.65. The graduate certificate program requires applicants to hold a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited institution, have a minimum GPA and GRE scores, and meet individual program specifications.
University of Washington - Seattle
The University of Washington offers over 50 online certificate programs to give working professionals the ability to advance in their career. From business to social sciences, to liberal arts, the certificate programs utilize novel technology and user-friendly e-learning tools to ensure that students are absorbing the material and taking advantage of practical application opportunities despite the fully online curriculum. Some unique certifications include applied animal behavior, business intelligence: building the data warehouse, cloud data management & analytics, and drug discovery & design. Program duration ranges from 4-15 months, with the majority being completed within 8 months. Students are able to attend many of the course sessions in real time by using Adobe Connect Web conferencing software, which affords them the ability to ask questions and interact with peers or professors. The sessions are also recorded to give students the opportunity to review the material at a later time.
Overview of Online Certificate Programs
Enrollment in a certificate program may be an excellent option for those wanting a fast-track to a new career. Many certificate programs require only a high school diploma or equivalent and take two years or less to complete, which can help with accessibility. They may take up to 30 credit hours to complete and are made up of courses ranging between one and four credit hours. Earning a certificate shows that a student has completed a specific course of study to learn specialized job skills, such as business communications or accounting.
Enrollment in a certificate program may be an excellent option for those wanting a fast-track to a new career.
Individuals can earn an online certificate in fields like business administration, medical or dental assistance, computer-aided drafting, and HVAC. Online certificates are available from various institutions, including universities, community colleges, and for-profit schools. However, when considering online courses from a for-profit school, students should make sure the school is reputable and that the school and/or program are accredited so they can use any financial aid they may qualify for.
Certificates vs. Degree Programs: Key Differences
Certificates and degree programs serve different purposes. Certificate programs usually cost less than a degree and require fewer credits than degree programs to give students the necessary skills for a particular occupation quickly. A college degree takes longer because it provides a more general, theoretical education. Both programs can help students meet professional goals, but in different ways.
The curriculum of each course of study is different as well. A certificate program is very targeted and occupation-focused, meaning that usually, core classes or prerequisites are not required. On the other hand, many degree programs offer a broader education, where students not only learn about their field of study but they may also be required to complete courses in other areas to graduate.
A certificate may be a good option if you are looking for faster results and have a specific job in mind that only requires a certificate. On the other hand, some careers, such as nursing or engineering, require you to complete a degree in order to acquire a unique, advanced skill set. You can also choose a broader degree program, such as liberal arts, which may open the door to a variety of careers. It's ultimately up to you and your career goals for the future.
The Online Learning Format
While course content is usually the same for online courses as it is for their in-person counterparts, the delivery of instruction and engagement can differ significantly.
Online programs are delivered through a learning management system requiring a reliable broadband connection and computer or tablet with word processing software. Students may engage with peers and instructors via cloud-based video platforms increasing the need for diverse communication skills and in writing through emails, chats, and posts. Classes are usually asynchronous, meaning that while assignments are due at a specific time each week, students can set their schedules. Other online courses may be synchronous with students attending virtually at the same time. Digital literacy and netiquette are a must for students completing these programs.
Other certificate programs may be hybrid, partially online, and partially on campus. This may be more typical of classes with lab requirements or experiential learning. Some on-campus programs may be considered hybrid because even though students meet in class, the course is web-enhanced with online supplemental learning materials or online discussion groups.
Accreditation is essential. If an institution or program isn't accredited, it may not be covered by financial aid and may not be recognized by employers. Accreditation signifies excellence and quality in education and can be awarded at the national, regional, or program level.
If an institution or program isn't accredited, it may not be covered by financial aid and may not be recognized by employers.
Both schools and programs can hold multiple accreditations. For example, a school may be regionally accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education, and their engineering programs may also be accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Accreditation is usually awarded by private, non-profit organizations that specialize in some area of education and are recognized by the U.S. Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.
Which Online Certificate Program is Best?
Students can determine which certificate program is best for them based on a variety of factors, including how well the program will set them up for a particular career, the length of the program, and the costs they can expect to incur. For example, if students are looking for programs that can be completed quickly, the best options may be those that take a year or less to complete. Examples of such programs include computer-aided design (CAD), fitness and personal training, and phlebotomy.
The cost of an online certificate program is often at the top of students' minds, and can be a factor in deciding which program to pursue. Tuition does vary by school and program. For example, annual tuition rates for certificates in the medical field, including office administration and medical billing and coding, range from about $1,140 to $15,000 per year.
Here are some other things you can do to determine whether a certificate program is right for you:
- Read program websites: Study them thoroughly following as many links as you can and start writing down your questions.
- Check the occupational requirements and jobs outlook: Make sure employers accept certificates and that there is sufficient job growth in that field.
- Read student reviews: Research to see if students have reviewed their experiences and outcomes regarding a program.
- Speak with graduates: Schools will often connect you with current and former students to ask questions about the program. You can also search the networking site LinkedIn by looking for the school and clicking on the "alumni" tab to find program graduates.
- Speak with instructors: If you have questions about the curriculum, ask to speak with an instructor or department chair.
Applying to an Online Certificate Program
When applying to an online certificate program, many of the requirements and processes will be the same as applying to an in-person program. However, students should check to see if schools have different application processes based on their particular program. Sometimes there are fewer application requirements for online certificates.
In general, applying to a certificate program may require:
- An application fee, which is generally non-refundable and is usually between $25-$50, but not more than $100.
- A completed FAFSA to determine financial aid eligibility. Students can then work with their school's financial aid office to see what other assistance they may be eligible to receive.
- An essay or letter of intent, which explains why a student is interested in a particular program and their plans after program completion. Most schools will also require copies of any high school and college transcripts that may be available.
- Math and reading assessment scores. Some certificate programs, such as dental assistance programs, require that students have passed math and reading assessments to enroll in the program.
Cost of an Online Certificate
According to our internal analysis of 228 programs, the median annual tuition of an online certificate is $7,772.
While tuition is the largest cost to consider, some schools may charge additional technology or student services fees for online students. Some are calculated into tuition costs, while others are not. These can range anywhere from $25 to $500 may include accessing materials online, library services, and databases for research. There may also be lab costs associated with classes or additional supplies that need to be purchased by the student.
Funding an Online Certificate Program
As an online student, you may be eligible for financial aid just like your on-campus peers. Financial assistance can come from many sources, including federal financial aid, private scholarships, grants, and GI Bill benefits for those currently in the military and veterans. The best place to start is by filling out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine federal aid eligibility. Sometimes, employers even offer tuition reimbursement as a workplace benefit.
If you decide to apply for a private loan from a bank or other lender, always do so with care. Loan repayment through a private lender can be more restrictive than a federal loan.
Scholarships, which don't have to be repaid, are good sources of aid but may have restrictions. Here are some scholarships worth looking into:
Army Scholarship Foundation
Scholarships range from $500 to $2,000 and can be renewed annually. Children of current and former Army service members and spouses of current Army service members are eligible.
Porch Skilled-Trade and Technology Scholarships
Porch awards four $2,000 scholarships annually to students 18 and over pursuing vocational and technical training. You must have a GPA of 3.4 to qualify.
Keep Going Forward No Essay Scholarship
Scholarships are $500 and are awarded to students pursuing any field of study.
Entrepreneur Calvin Rosser offers several scholarships starting at $500. Some include gender and industry-focused awards, mental health awareness funding and helping first-generation students.
Career Choices for Certificate Holders
A professional certificate program can open the door to many career paths that pay relatively well for those interested in getting ahead without getting a four-year degree. Many occupations requiring a certificate have a median annual salary between $30,000 and $60,000. Some pay even more, for example, electrical and electronics repairers earn a median annual salary of $80,000. We provide information about additional careers below. Median annual salary and job growth information is provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Median Annual Salary: $61,660
Job Outlook: 3%
- Court reporters take accurate and secure records in trials, hearing, and other legal proceedings. Many online schools and some community colleges offer certificate programs and associate degrees in real-time transcription. Some students can complete a court reporter program in six months or less online and earn certification through an association, such as the American Association of Electronic Reporters and Transcribers, to demonstrate skill and credibility.
Median Annual Salary: $41,180
Job Outlook: 11%
- Students can earn their certificate at both non-profit and for-profit schools specializing in dentistry. Dental assistants support dentists by ensuring patients are comfortable while preparing them for procedures. They make sure dental equipment is cleaned and sterilized and maintain patient records.
Median Annual Salary: $45,240
Job Outlook: 9%
- Medical billing and coding specialists often earn their certificates at community colleges or from for-profit schools specializing in medical arts. Professionals in medical billing and coding review and maintain patient record integrity. In addition, they use a clinical code classification system for insurance reimbursements and data collection.
Median Annual Salary:$36,320
Job Outlook: 22%
- Students can earn their phlebotomy certification from community colleges and for-profit schools specializing in medicine. Phlebotomists draw blood for lab work and donations and maintain lab equipment inventory. In addition, phlebotomists take patient information and reassure those who may be anxious about having blood drawn.
Median Annual Salary: $56,230
Job Outlook: 68%
- Wind turbine service technicians install, maintain, and repair wind turbines. Most students attend a two-year technical school or community college program to earn their wind energy technology certificate. Because of the nature of this job, technicians are often required to earn additional safety, first aid, and CPR certifications.
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