What is an Online Certificate Program?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 18 November 2019
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An online certificate program can mean many different things. It may be some of the highest education possible in certain fields or it could be beginning or intermediate training in others. The expanding number or specifically online universities and those colleges that offer some training online has created significant choice for those people who seek a certificate of some form. Typically, once this is earned from a college that is preferably accredited and has a good reputation, people can use their certificate to prove greater knowledge or experience in a field.

As stated, some online certificate programs are for those with graduate degrees. Occasionally, a student who already possesses a doctorate seeks a specific kind of knowledge or additional training. This could occur in many different fields, and is particularly common in ones like psychology and the liberal arts. By signing up for a program, the student can gain the knowledge or extra concentration on a subject he needs to specialize in it.


People with education at a bachelor degree level may also want to participate in an online certificate program in certain subjects. Nurses might choose to enhance their careers by studying one form of medicine, such as pediatric or geriatric. These programs may only end in a certificate or they might be part of a master’s program certifying study in a particular area. Similarly, those with degrees in information sciences or programming could choose to accrue extra knowledge of new programming tactics through an online certificate program.

Beginners may participate in different types of certificate programs too, doing all of their work on the computer and, perhaps, by email. It’s possible to get beginning training in a number of fields by studying for a certificate. At this stage of college, one point of consideration is accreditation. Schools attended should have units that will be transferable to other schools, so any further education counts the units earned. An online certification program may or may not have transferable units and ascertaining this is worthwhile when people want to advance in their field.

Many types of certificate programs do not offer any form of degree, but this is not always true. Some people can do work that helps them earn a regional teacher’s certificate, for example, and they might earn a master’s at the same time. Another thing to note is that it’s not always predictable how the work world views certain certificates. Especially at the undergrad level, these might not be considered as very valuable. On the other hand, sometimes earning a certificate is necessary to enter a certain field.

Another useful thing to consider is expense of programs. People may forget that community colleges and even local private schools may have certificate offerings too, which are typically far less expensive than online learning. While sometimes learning online makes the most sense because of its flexibility, other times it makes the least sense since any certificates earned don’t translate to salaries that can pay off high student loan amounts. Of course, an online certificate program is typically shorter than degree-based programs, and may thus cost less money than programs lasting several years.



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