Complete Guide to Online Certificate Programs
Online certificate programs provide students with a means to deepen their understanding of a certain field without committing the time and money to a longer degree program. Certificates may be earned at the beginning of a student's career in order to make a resume more competitive; some professions like medical billing and coding or occupational therapy aides only require a certificate for entry-level positions. Alternatively, certificates are also often pursued by those already established in a career to provide advancement or to open up more specialized opportunities.
Vocational, community college and universities all offer different types of certificate programs. Typically, there are three different kinds: undergraduate, graduate, and post-graduate certificates. Undergraduate, or "non-degree," certificates are geared toward students who haven't earned a bachelor's degree and are at the beginning of their career. Graduate and post-graduate certificates are meant for professionals who already have some experience in their field, and have earned a bachelor's degree as well as either a master's or a doctorate degree, respectively. The courses taken to earn a certificate may also be transferable to an applicable degree program, making it a versatile choice for students who may want to continue their education later.
When considering online certificate programs, it is important to consider accreditation. Selecting an accredited school ensures that the certificate is widely accepted and that the rigor of its curriculum is on par with national standards.
Comprehensive List of Colleges & Universities for an Online Certificate & Diploma
What is an Online Certificate?
Since earning a certificate is often done in lieu of or in addition to earning a degree, going through an online program allows for an even greater flexibility. Certificates usually take several weeks or months to complete, but students often can progress at their own pace. This allows students to earn their certificate while pursuing a full-time career.
Obtaining an online certificate is a great way for professionals to influence their career trajectories. For instance, a human resources administrator could obtain a certificate in employee training and development if he's looking to take on more responsibilities in that area or is seeking a promotion. Earning a certificate is also a less expensive way to start the process of changing careers without having to dedicate a significant portion of time. Since online certificate programs are designed for the working professional to learn new skills and are a smaller commitment of time and money, they can often serve as a better introduction to new fields than longer degree programs.
Admission requirements vary depending on the individual program but undergraduate certificates usually require just a high school diploma or GED. Graduate certificates may require either a bachelor's degree and a number of years within the field although some programs allow students to earn a certificate while earning a bachelor's degree simultaneously. Post-graduate certificates require either a master's or a doctoral degree and several years of experience in the workplace although some programs will allow students to earn a certificate while earning a mater's or doctoral degree simultaneously.
An online certification can actually be more valuable than a degree in some fields. Many medical fields including occupational therapy aids, medical billing and coding, and certified nursing assistants only require an undergraduate certificate for employment. Certificates are entirely skill-based compared to degree programs, which are designed to teach students how to research and ensure general competency. Certifications are also often a single standard, meaning the same certificate program from any accredited institution will be considered at the same value. This gives students the freedom to earn their degree online at almost any accredited institution in the country while being confident that the certification will be considered valuable by future employers.
Salary is highly contingent on the certificate a student earns and the industry they work in. For instance, a certified welder makes an average of $36,700 a year whereas a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer makes an average of $82,000 a year. However, having a certificate can be a bargaining factor during hiring or raise negotiations. Earning a certificate may also improve the chances of a promotion, since the time and money spent can be seen as dedication to learning and advancing one's knowledge in their field.
Popular Online Certificate Degree Programs
Medical Billing and Coding
The AAPC offers the premiere medical billing and coding certification via the Certified Professional Coder (CPC) certification. The certification can be earned with focuses in outpatient physician offices, outpatient hospitals, inpatient hospitals and payer coding. Certification programs to prepare the student for the exam will include study of medical terminology and anatomy.
Students who go through the Certified Professional Biller program and pass the exam will be prepared to work in medical billing at a physician's office, clinic, hospital or other healthcare institution or even as a claims examiner for an insurance agent. Typically, students will already have some experience in medical coding and be familiar with medical terminology and anatomy.
The CPC certificate offered at Everest University Online requires students to demonstrate on-the-job coding experience. If students pass the certificate exam and haven't already worked in the field, they'll be designated as a medical coding apprentice until they obtain at least two years of on-the-job experience. A Certified Professional Coder makes an average of $42,600 a year.
Students looking to earn a certificate in human resources can expect to take courses ranging from workforce training, managing and safeguarding to Microsoft Office. Students will study personnel hiring and evaluation practices, employee benefits administration, and labor laws. However, many programs also include training on a variety of popular computer applications - especially word processing, spreadsheet, database, and presentation software.
Jobs within the human resource umbrella range in salary depending on experience. A Human Resources Assistant makes an average of $36,600 a year while a Human Resources Director makes an average of 128,900 a year. Other job opportunities include benefit analyst, training and development coordinator, and payroll specialist.
The human resource certificate program at San Joaquin Valley College consists of seven months of courses. Students who go through the certificate program are also prepared to take the Microsoft Office Specialist Exam for certification in Word, PowerPoint and Excel, which is included in the cost of the program.
When someone wants to take their career to the next level, no matter what industry they're in, management is one of the most obvious steps to take. But getting management experience before actually becoming a manager is challenging even though an increasing amount of management jobs want to see that experience. A certificate in management is a great way to learn the basics of organizing and leading projects, people, and businesses.
There are many types of management and an equal number of concentrations for management certificates. There are accredited certificate programs for parks management, hotel management, and aviation management. Some certificates focus on one area of management like leadership , revenue, or strategic procurement. Similarly, salary is highly contingent on the type of management and industry a job is in. For example, the average salary for a parks and recreation manager is $38,000 but those with the Project Management Professional certificate earn an average of $110,000 a year.
The online management certificate at Columbia College is an 18-credit hour program that teaches students about business ethics, business communication , and organizational theory. It's designed to be compatible with any industry and can be customized through electives ranging from small business to industrial psychology .
The online graduate certificate for project management at City University of Seattle requires the student to already have a bachelor's degree from an accredited university. Students take a total of 18 credit hours with courses in project financial management, managing risks, and measuring project performance. Courses for the certificate apply toward Project Management Professional (PMP) certification from the Project Management Institute and qualify as PMI Professional Development Credits. The credits are also transferable to many master's degree programs in project management .
Healthcare is one of the fastest growing fields today and there are many opportunities to establish oneself as a leader in the industry. Whether working for a physician's office, hospital, clinic, nursing home, or health department, having a certificate in healthcare administration increases the chances of advancing to the next level. Students earning a certificate in healthcare administration can expect to take courses in healthcare ethics and health policy.
Liberty University Online 's online graduate certificate in Health Care Management is only nine credit hours. Students must already have a bachelor's degree (or be in their last semester before graduating) to enter the program. The certificate is designed to teach students about ethics, grant acquisition, and finances to help them become better prepared for a leadership position in the healthcare industry.
Although job titles and duties vary - from staff nurse administrator to medical director - the average salary for those in healthcare administration is $88,000.
The Importance of Accreditation
When considering accreditation for a certificate program, both institutional accreditation and programmatic accreditation is valuable. Institutional accrediting agencies certify that the school as an organization meets certain standards. However, for certain industries, programmatic accreditation is more valuable since the organizations involved certify the courses and exams prepare you for the workforce. Health certificates from programs that are accredited with the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education or the Council on Education for Public Health will be recognized in the workplace. Human resource or management certificates from programs that are accredited with the Association of Collegiate Business Schools and Programs or the Association of Advance Collegiate School of Business will meet a high standard that is universally recognized in the industry.
- Welder Pay. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Accessed November 20, 2014. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/production/welders-cutters-solderers-and-brazers.htm .
- Healthcare Job Growth. Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration. Accessed November 20, 2014. http://www.doleta.gov/BRG/Indprof/Healthcare_profile.cfm .
- Healthcare Management Pay. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Accessed November 20, 2014. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Management/Medical-and-health-services-managers.htm .
- Programmatic Accreditation. U.S. Department of Education. Accessed November 20, 2014. http://ope.ed.gov/accreditation/agencies.aspx .
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