Online Certificates

In short: A certificate from an accredited college or university answers the need for a practical education that will get the student "out the door" and into the workplace. Certificate programs vary widely, but all offer focused study leading to a professional credential that US News calls the new "mini-degree."


Online Undergraduate Certificate Programs

Though an undergraduate certificate is sometimes described as "less than an associate's degree," the certificate is intensive, fast-paced, and skill-centered. Working students in online certificate programs are nearly twice as likely to finish as degree-seekers, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Time to completion for certificates varies greatly from eight weeks to one year or, in rare instances, more.

Acceptance of certificates by employers has increased greatly in the 21st Century, especially among those who have taken online classes. Corporations themselves have turned to online training programs; for instance, online lessons offered by Caterpillar leapt from 30,000 in 2001 to 200,000 in 2004.

A student needs a high school diploma or GED to pursue most undergraduate certificates. Some certificates offer academic credit which can be applied toward a degree; others are noncredit credentials of achievement. Additional licensing beyond the certificate may be required for some professions.

Here are the highlights of the undergraduate certificate programs offered by our online university partners:

Strayer University Offers flexible, goal-oriented business education in both real time and self-paced 24/7 courses. Undergraduate certificate programs require 27 credit hours.
Kaplan University Provides flexible, highly interactive courses in business, finance, and health care. Financial support. Scholarships assist students who take accelerated study.
University of Delaware Highly rated by US News, UD offers self-paced online study, as well as courses on CD-ROM. Certificate programs are designed to be completed in 9-12 months.
Villanova University Offers award-winning professional certification through the Department of Continuing Studies. Many certificate programs take 8 weeks to complete.
Regis University 12-18 credit hour certificates; credits can be applied toward a graduate degree in management, IT, nonprofit management, education, or accounting. Term-based study.
University of Maryland University College Requires 2.0 GPA and diploma or GED. Offers 16-21 credit undergraduate certificates in business & management, communications, computing, fire science, and 60-credit paralegal certificate. Awards credit for prior learning. Term-based study.


An online undergraduate certificate can enhance an undergraduate degree, adding an additional area of expertise to the student's resume. Some students opt to earn the degree and certificate at the same time.

Online Graduate Certificate Programs

Online graduate programs help working professionals who want to advance in their careers, earn new credentials, enhance existing skills, and update the credentials they already have.

In 2002, US News & World Report wrote that "graduate certificates offer professionals a quick way to learn skills and have a credential to show for it, a combination that's a big bonus for people seeking new careers." Since many corporations now do their own online training, they readily accept online credentials. Corporations also support their employees in seeking online graduate certificates, and six in 10 online students receive partial or complete tuition reimbursements from their current employers.

Online certificate programs present the latest knowledge in the field in a self-paced learning environment that flexes to fit the busy graduate student's work and family life. Certificates are excellent for managers hoping to advance or add an additional area of expertise.

Each graduate certificate program has its unique requirements, pace, and potential. Many offer credits that can be applied toward a graduate degree.

Strayer University Requires bachelor's degree with a 2.75 GPA in junior & senior year coursework and graduate test scores of 450 on GMAT or 1000 on GRE. Twenty-seven credit hours earn executive graduate certificates in business, accounting, and CIS.
University of Maryland University College No graduate test required; does require admissions essay. Offers 30 graduate certificates in distance education, management, homeland security, and IT. Twelve-to-24 credit hours of self-paced study.


Information Technology Certificate Programs

Online tech certificates allow students to study where they'll work--online and on the computer. IT certificate programs run the gamut from basic computing skills to the latest applications. Online information technology certificates provide the up-to-the-minute certification in programming, database, e-commerce, and web development and management.

Students can update existing skills or learn new ones, proving their abilities and improving their marketability.

Strayer University Offers flexible six- to 12-course certificates and diplomas in both real time and self-paced 24/7 programs. Undergraduate CIS certificate and executive graduate certification programs for IT managers.
Kaplan University For-credit certificates in IT, Web-site development, and computer languages, designed to be completed in less than a year. Interactive courses and financial support. Scholarships for accelerated study.
Regis University Offers 12-hour undergraduate, for-credit graduate certificates in networking, Java, database, software engineering and more. Credits can be applied toward a degree. Term-based study.
University of Maryland University College Offers a variety of undergraduate and graduate IT certificates in internet, database management, e-commerce, and programming, among others. Eighteen credit hours. Can be applied toward a bachelor's degree. Term-based programs.


An online certificate--undergraduate, graduate, or technological--testifies to the holder's specialized skills. Whereas degree programs include generalist courses and background study, certificate programs focus on field-based knowledge only. At many online universities, certificate students and degree students enroll in the same courses.

A certificate, like a degree, enhances its holder's professional standing and income potential.


  • "Going the Distance," by Sherry Reuter and Rosalind E. Schwartzberg. Applied Clinical Trials 13.10 (October 2004).
  • National Center for Education Statistics
  • "The new mini-degrees. Practical classes," by Ulrich Bosner. US News online. (April 15, 2002).
  • "Online degrees," by Holly Dolezalek  Training 40.5 (May 1, 2003).
  • Online-Education Survey Finds Unexpectedly High Enrollment Growth," by Scott Carlson. Chronicle of Higher Education 51.14 (Nov. 26, 2004).
  • "Picking Up the Pace," by Lindsey Gerdes. Business Week 3956 (Oct. 24, 2005).
  • "Sink or Swim?" by Alana Klein. University Business 7.4 (April 2004).
  • "Taking the E-Train," by Doug Bartholomew. Industry Week/IW 254.6 (June 2005).
  • U.S. Department of Education