Every year, students strive to pursue higher education, whether through a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree program. However, those are not the only options for students or professionals wishing to advance their careers as online certificate programs offer a quicker, cheaper path.
Online certificate programs are an excellent option for many, including those who wish to advance, change, or accelerate their careers. Online certificate programs are also an excellent option for those who work a full-time job or have other life commitments.
Online certificate programs offer flexibility, affordability, and a shorter time of completion than traditional degree programs. Those who enter an online certificate program will save money and enter the workforce sooner than those who pursue a conventional college education.
To help you choose the best school and program for your online certificate, we have compiled the guide below to what online certificate programs are and where you can find the best programs.
What Are Online Certificate Programs?
A professional certificate is a credential provided following the completion of a specific program in a particular subject. Online certificate programs offer career-oriented, skill-focused classes. This is an excellent option for students who do not believe an associate or bachelor’s degree is the best choice for them.
It is essential to understand that online certificate programs are not the same as academic degrees. However, even though they are not the same, online certificate programs cover many of the same fields as traditional degrees.
Certificate programs are available in very specialized fields that typically include little-to-no coursework. Instead of coursework, online certificate courses focus more on hands-on training.
Some professions that offer certificate programs include electricians, paralegals, and IT managers. Certification programs are also available for different areas of business management and administration, and even project management.
As with any college program, accreditation is essential for online certificate programs. Ensure the program you are applying to is accredited. There are three types of accreditation: national, regional, and programmatic.
A factor to consider when choosing an online certificate program is the school’s location as you may have some in-person requirements. Additionally, you will have to decide between attending a public or private institution. For-profit versus not-for-profit schools is also a choice that you will have to make. Finally, you will have to plan how you are going to pay for the certificate program.
Online Certificate Program Requirements
Many certificate programs often require applicants to have at least a GED or a high school diploma. Specific programs, such as in the field of computer technology, may require completion of math courses.
When applying to these certificate programs, you will typically be required to submit a transcript from the school where you have completed your secondary education. If you are a student who has attended more than one high school, you will typically be asked to submit multiple transcripts.
If you are attending a certificate program in healthcare or education, you could qualify for federal financial aid. This is typically approved for high-need program areas. You will need to complete forms with FAFSA to determine if you are eligible for this assistance.
How Long Does it Take to Complete an Online Certificate Program?
Certificate programs require three to 10 courses, or 20 to 30 credits, meaning most students can earn their certificate in one academic year or less. Additionally, students are often able to learn at their own pace through self-paced programs.
This factor plays into how long a certificate takes to complete. Another factor is the type of certification or field of study you are pursuing. For example, a nursing certificate will take longer than a ventilation certificate.
Should I Consider Enrolling in an Online Certificate Program?
Pursuing online learning through a certificate program is an excellent decision for many reasons. If you have a busy schedule, continuing education with an online program is the best route due to its flexibility. You will be able to study whenever it is convenient for you.
Deciding to pursue an online certificate also allows you to enroll in out-of-state programs without relocating. Other advantages of choosing an online program include shorter completion time and affordability.
Many online programs take as little as one year to complete. Some programs may even take less than that. This added advantage means you will enter the workforce even sooner than if you were to attend college online.
The application process varies depending on the type of program you are interested in. It will usually involve submitting a resume, official transcripts, letters of recommendation, and in some cases, additional testing.
Best Online Certificates: Schools and Programs
There are many factors to consider when deciding which school is best for you, especially when it comes to online certificate programs. To help you out, we have selected the best online programs in the United States. Many factors influenced our picks, including class size, student services, and success rates.
Best Schools for Online Certificate Programs
Coastal Pines Technical College
CPTC is located in Waycross, Georgia. The school offers virtual online certificate programs in business technology, criminal justice, early childhood care, education, and marketing management.
It currently offers 15 online programs, boasting a 60 percent graduation rate. One great resource that CPTC offers its students is a virtual job shadow, an online service that provides career assessments and detailed information regarding students’ career tracks. Students 16 and older who have obtained their GED or high school diploma can apply for admission.
Champlain, located in Burlington, Vermont, offers 19 online programs, including business, healthcare, and accounting. Students attending these online programs have access to internship opportunities and are offered career transition programs. The graduation rate is 64 percent.
Pamlico Community College
PCC, located in Grantsboro, North Carolina, offers some of the best online certificate programs in the country. Its programs on human services technology, criminal justice technology, and early childhood education are particularly good. PCC offers 11 different online programs with a 62 percent graduation rate.
Best Online Certificate Programs
Choosing the correct program is important. Make sure you are choosing the right fit for you. To make the decision a little easier, we have compiled a list of the most standard certificate programs offered.
The need for healthcare workers in various fields is high. Many of these positions require the completion of certificate programs for entry-level employment. Examples of these positions are vocational nurses, medical assistants, and pharmacy technicians.
Construction trades are expected to grow by 10 percent by 2028, which is an excellent rate. Most positions in construction trades are within reach after completing a certificate program, such as construction workers, building inspectors, and electricians.
Computer Information Technology
If you prefer to work in the computer information technology field, many schools offer online certificate programs. Programs in this field include programming, information security analysis, and computer support.
Along with the construction trade, job openings in computer information technology are expected to grow at a rate of 10 percent by 2028, which is twice as fast as other occupations.
Another field that typically requires a certification is precision production. Programs in this field include machinists, welders, and tool and dye makers. As technology continues to advance, so do positions in this field.
For example, demand for computer-controlled machine tool operators is growing. The certificate program for this specific field typically lasts from six to 12 months and includes hands-on training.
Careers that Require a Certificate
Many careers require a professional certificate or certifications. Some of these are listed below, along with salary expectations.
Certified Nurse Assistant
Nurse assistants support patients under the direction of registered nurses. They typically collect patient data and perform routine tests. A nurse competency exam is required in all 50 states to become a certified nurse assistant and regular certifications are also required. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, these professionals make $29,660 per year.
Licensed Massage Therapist
In 45 states, massage therapists must be licensed or certified. Massage therapists must complete an approved undergraduate certificate program and they typically have to also complete an exam. The median salary for a licensed massage therapist is $42,820 per year.
Certified Professional Coder
Coders are not required to be certified, but most employers prefer candidates who are certified through a recognized program. CPCs make an average of $53,000 per year.
Automotive Service Technician/Mechanic
This certification is not required by law. However, in order to be hired as an automotive service technician or mechanic, it is recommended you get certified. The standard for certification is set by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). To be certified, you must have two years of education or professional experience. The average salary for an automotive service technician is $42,090.
Conclusion: Continue Your Education With Online Certificate Programs
Some students may wish to begin a degree program after completion of a certificate. Transferring credits between institutions may be possible in some instances.
Make sure to familiarize yourself with the prerequisites before enrolling in a program if you wish to pursue a degree afterward. General courses typically transfer but specific courses may not. An advertising-supported site could be a great place to start searching for potential programs.