Online Certificate Programs


Certificate Programs offer students a quick and easy way to advance, or launch, their career (photo courtesy of The Bacher Family on flickr).

Approximately one month ago an article was published in the New York Times that discussed a recent increase in the popularity of online certificate programs at colleges and universities. Is this true? If so, how are employers reacting? And how, if at all, will this affect the college degree?

Quick and Cheap

Certificate programs allow students to focus on a specialized area rather than a complete degree program that include general education coursework (English, math, history, science, etc.). From an employee standpoint, if a lack of knowledge or skills is preventing one being promoted, a certificate program is probably the cheapest and fastest way to expand a skill set.

“The student adds a skill and gets a stamp of academic approval for the effort,” said Ray Schroeder, director of the Center for Online Learning, Research and Service at the University of Illinois, Springfield. “It can be compared to course work for renewing a license to practice, but more often it is a bridge to an academic degree.”

Certificate programs, because they require less coursework, are generally less expensive than complete degree programs. Berkeley Extension, for example, offers certificates from $2400-$7600, and the coursework can later be applied to a degree program if the student desires. In contract, degree programs at UC Berkeley start at $20,000 and go up from there.

Employer Thoughts

How an employer will react to a certificate depends on the industry, location, and employer. While some employers may appreciate a certificate being earned by a current employee seeking advancement, others may jump at the opportunity to hire someone with the hard skills needed to complete the job requirements. Research is key in this area.

Certificate vs. Degree

Each has its own advantages and disadvantages; what you are hoping to gain post-graduation is the key here. Degrees generally take longer to complete (more classes) and are more expensive; but, a degree offers employers a well-rounded employee. Certificates, while cheaper and quicker, focus on the specific skills needed to “get the job done”.

(Online) Certificate Programs

Below are just a few examples of certificate programs at college and universities that students can enroll in to advance, or start, their career. Not all may be offered solely online, but the following lists can provide a sneak peek into the growing world of specialized education.

Drexel University

  • Advanced Business
  • Engineering Management
  • Adult Education
  • Medical Billing and Coding

Ashworth College

  • Civil Litigation
  • Corporate Law
  • Criminal Law and Procedure
  • Medical Billing
  • Medical office Assisting
  • Medical terminology
  • Medical Transportation Fundamentals
  • Real estate Law
  • Wills, Trusts & Estates

State College of Florida Sarasota-Manatee

  • Accounting Applications
  • Alternative Energy
  • Computer Information Technology
  • Early Childhood Education and Early Intervention
  • Electronics
  • Marketing
  • Network Administration and Security
  • Paralegal/Legal Assisting

Oregon State University

  • Healthcare and Fitness
  • Business and Professional
  • IT and Software Development
  • Media and Design
  • Sustainable Energy and Going Green
  • Hospitality and Service Industry

Ashley Benson is a distance education professional with five years of experience in the for-profit sector. She has worked coast-to-coast within the United States as an academic advisor, an adjunct teaching assistant and, most recently, a campus Registrar. Through formal education and industry experience, Ashley practices staying informed on the current events and changes within higher education and the students involved.

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