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
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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
Attending online certificate programs is an excellent option for those wanting a fast track to a new career. Students receive practical training that's more narrowly focused and shorter in length than associate degrees or bachelor's programs. Many online certifications only require a high school diploma or equivalent and take two years or less to complete. This can help with accessibility for students who are already working or have additional responsibilities at home. Most programs require 30 credits or less and consist of courses worth one to four credits. Earning a certificate shows that students have learned specialized job skills to work as paralegals, accountants, dental assistants, or nurses.
Online certificates are available in fields like business administration, medical or dental assistance, computer-aided drafting, and HVAC. They are delivered by various institutions, including universities, trade schools, community colleges, and for-profit schools, allowing students to choose how and where they earn certifications for jobs. However, when considering online courses from for-profit schools in particular, students should make sure the programs are accredited. Not only does this mean the professors and coursework have been evaluated for quality, but federal aid requirements state that students must be enrolled in an accredited school to receive benefits.
Professional Certificates vs. Degree Programs: Key Differences
Certificates and degree programs serve different purposes. Vocational certificates usually cost less than a degree and require fewer credits, allowing students to gain the necessary skills for a particular occupation at a quicker pace and without incurring much student debt. 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 area of study is different as well. A certificate program is very targeted and occupation-focused, meaning that core classes or prerequisites aren't usually required. On the other hand, many degree programs offer a broader education, where students not only learn about their field of study but 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. Some careers, such as registered nursing or engineering, require you to complete a degree in order to acquire an advanced skill set and practical training before entering the workforce. Students can also choose a broader degree program, such as liberal arts, which may open the door to a variety of positions. This route may be preferred by those who are still deciding the direction of their career.
What Certifications Can I Get Online?
There are various options to consider when it comes to an online certificate program. Most programs are designed to prepare graduates for specific careers, such as HVAC technician or paralegal. In contrast, others may offer broader training in management and business, allowing graduates to pursue different positions in different industries.
Which Online Certificate Program is Best?
Salary expectations vary based on each individual's experience and education, but the average salary generally lands around $30,000 based on College Scorecard data (as listed in the chart above). Attending an online certification program can either increase the salary of existing professionals by providing advanced graduate-level training or offering foundational knowledge for undergraduate students seeking an entry-level career. Management, business, and CAD offer the highest average earnings at over $35,500 per year. HVAC and paralegal certificates aren't far behind, with salaries of $32,900 and $34,100, respectively. Other certificates, such as phlebotomy, psychology, and counseling, range from $26,700 to $28,300.
How To Get a Certification: Applying to an Online Certificate Program
When applying to an online certificate program, many of the requirements and processes are the same as applying to an in-person program. However, students should check each school's admission requirements to pick a college that meets their qualifications. Sometimes there are fewer application requirements for online certificates.
In general, applying to a certificate program may require the following:
- An application fee, which is usually non-refundable and falls between $25-$50 but rarely exceeds $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 intentthat explains why a student is interested in a particular program and their plans after program completion.
- A copy of any high school and college transcripts that are 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.)
- College entrance exams, which allow admissions counselors to further evaluate their comprehension in specific academic areas.