Online Graduate Certificate Programs

Online graduate certificate programs are short, focused courses of study delivered through a convenient online format. As non-degree programs, they are usually designed to furnish students with advanced skills and knowledge in a single subject or area of study.

Online Graduate Certificate Programs

Online Certificate programs may help on-the-go individuals build on their undergraduate experience, and expand their professional portfolio. A wide range of online graduate certificate programs are offered by accredited colleges and universities. From analytics and business management to psychology, IT and statistics, the diversity may help those in many industries stay current and competitive.

written by Rana Waxman

About Online Graduate Certificate Programs

In many cases, online certificate programs entail from three to twelve courses. The compact nature means that it may take about a year or less of full time study to complete the requirements. There are also some part-time certificate programs online. These obviously add time to completion but may make it easier to fit your education into a busy schedule.

Online Certificate Structure and Format

There is no hard and fast rule about how online certificate programs are structured. While they all make use of web-based tools and a course management system, format is set by the university. In fact, if you attend a school where they have a campus, you may be able to switch things up and attend lectures on site. In terms of class times, sometimes courses are available through live video conferenced lectures. These are set at predetermined times of day, and recorded sessions are then archived and accessible later. Other times, there might be no set log in times but, deadlines for assignments must be met. This may provide greater flexibility for busy students and working professionals. Some online schools may also have rollling or frequent start

times, allowing students to begin classes faster.

Online graduate certificate programs typically provide students with additional resources to support their education. These could include 24/7 tech support, career services, access to digital databases and libraries, and more. Programs vary, so follow up directly with schools to learn what might be available to you.

Stay Connected

With today’s technology and digital tools, an online graduate certificate might be quite interactive. Group discussion boards and online faculty office hours are typically in place to keep students motivated and on track. Programs may also use tools like video demonstrations, virtual laboratories and social media to bring lessons to life. Also know that some online certificates do mix in some on-site courses, supervised field experiences or other in-person requirements. This is the case with some of the online nursing and counseling certificates. Usually all the details are spelled out ahead of time so you can plan ahead.

Who Might Consider an Online Graduate Certificate?

Online Certificate Programs may appeal to a wide range of learners. Anyone who wants the chance to develop focused knowledge and potentially apply what they learn into a current workplace is a good place to start. Others who might benefit from an online graduate certificate include those listed below.

  • Students who has an undergraduate degree and wants to gain focused knowledge in an area of professional importance or personal interest.
  • Those who hope to quickly gain a specific professional credential because they want to advance in their careers.
  • Professionals who want to eventually pursue a master’s degree but don’t want to commit until they know which area of study is right for them. Or those who don’t want to pursue a full degree if they can derive what they need from an online certificate.
  • Individuals who want to gain new skill sets to transition careers.
  • People who have been out of school and want to refresh their education.
  • Those who need to fulfill continued education credits to maintain licensure.
  • Students who are on track to pursue a teaching endorsement or hope to meet eligibility requirements for state licensure in their field.
  • The busy adult student who needs the convenience of web-based courses.


When surveyed, 12% of management consultants reported they had a post-baccalaureate certificate.i

Types of Online Graduate Certificate Programs

There are essentially two kinds of online certificate programs. Both are offered at the graduate level but one type is typically designed for students who have their bachelors degree. The other is intended for those with a masters degree.

After a Bachelors Degree

Online graduate certificate programs, sometimes referred to as post-bachelors or postgraduate certificates, typically require applicants to have their bachelors degree. This may have to be in a related field as the certificate. But, not always. Take business administration, for instance. Some online business certificate programs introduce a non-business student to basic accounting, finance and managerial concepts. Nonetheless, online graduate certificate students often take part in the same classes as masters degree classmates. And, in many cases, students may apply credit received for certificate courses toward a future, related graduate degree. Just remember if this is your plan, check out requirements with your prospective school.

After a Masters Degree

Students who already hold a master’s degree might consider an advanced graduate certificate program. These may also be referred to as post-masters or professional certificates. This type of program is designed for more experience students and may therefore go straight into more advanced coursework. Students may have the chance to extend their skills in a single area. Or, take in new trends and research, prepare for a career change or licensure.

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Find Accredited Online Certificate Programs

Many regionally-accredited traditional and online universities award online graduate certificates. When a school is accredited, it shows it has undergone a peer review and meets standards. Fiscal stability, student services, faculty and curricula are included in this type of Department of Education ‘stamp of approval.’ On another tier, some individual online certificate programs may hold professional accreditation. This type of approval relates to the field of study. AACSB-accreditation is one example that applies to some business programs. CCNE-accreditation applies to some nursing programs.

Online certificate programs from accredited schools may be found in nearly every field. Below is just a sampling of common offerings. Browse the full list to learn what others might be available to you.

Online Business Certificate Programs

Online Business certificate programs span the full range of general business management and single-area topics. From government analytics and financial planning to sports management and conflict management. Whether you have a business degree and want to refine skills, or get an overview, there are many options to consider.

  • Online Project Management Certificate programs may provide students with a firm grasp of project management theory and practice. Coursework might cover topics such as project control, organizational theory and corporate strategy .
  • Online Organizational Leadership Graduate Certificate programs could prepare students to lead business teams effectively at all organizational levels. Courses may delve into key issues in the theory, research, and application of leadership in an organization. As a result, students might identify their own leadership style.
  • Online Certificate in Nonprofit Management programs may help current and future leaders effectively manage non-profit organizations. Coursework may provide insight into fundraising, philanthropy and fiscal and performance management.

Online Criminal Justice and Legal Studies Certificates

Online Certificate Programs in Criminal Justice and Legal Studies are as diverse as the field. You might pursue one to refresh your current skills and resume. Or, choose a program that may prepare you to pursue a new career path.

  • Online Certificate in Homeland Security programs may address topics in strategy, policy and operations. Students might further tailor their studies with an area of emphasis. Homeland Security Policy and Management, National Security Policy, Emergency Management and Crisis Preparedness, Critical Infrastructure Protection, or Border Security are some examples.
  • Online Paralegal Certificate programs explore how to communicate effectively in a legal environment, conduct legal research, and evaluate legal sources.

Online Certificate Programs in Education

Many online certificate programs in education are designed to prepare current educators for a next step. Programs might help students earn an endorsement or single subject teacher credentials. Others may act as a pathway to eligibility for state licensure.

  • Online Instructional Technology Endorsement Certificate programs are often designed for educators in a specific state. Coursework may help teachers develop and enhance their technological skill base for K-12 classrooms. Applicants commonly need a bachelor’s degree and a valid initial teacher certification to be eligible for entry.
  • Online Autism Certificate programs may suit those students who already possess a master’s degree and are interested in learning more about teaching those with autism spectrum disorders.
  • Online English as a Second Language (ESL) Endorsement Certificate programs might provide teachers with a chance to acquire the expertise and credentials to meet the specific needs of English learners. Students in some online ESL programs might study language, sociolinguistics, cross-cultural competency, cultural diversity, language acquisition and other topics of interest.

Online Fine Arts and Design Certificates

Online fine arts and design certificates may help students take their talent to a new level. Explore programs in web design, multimedia technology and more.

  • Online Certificate in Digital Creation programs could help familiarize students with the digitization process that museums use to document their collection objects. This type of program might delve into courses that may be important to cultural heritage professionals who do or could work with digital collections, exhibitions, and research data.

Online Health and Medicine Certificates

As a vast domain, online healthcare certificates span topics such as food safety, biomedical science, gerontology and nursing. Some programs may be education-related in that they may provide teacher education skills related to a scientific content area.

  • Online Nursing Certificates are usually designed for registered nurses who have already earned their Masters in Nursing and want to change course. For instance an online Nurse Educator post graduate certificate may help nurses build skills and knowledge in lesson design, assessment and instruction. Other online nursing certificates may prepare RNs to sit for nurse practitioner certification exams.

Online Liberal Arts and Humanities Certificates

Online Liberal Arts and Humanities certificates cover topics as diverse as qualitative methods, peace studies, marketing and public relations.

  • Online Certificate in Economics programs may address economic modeling, forecasting and analysis. Some Applied Economics is intended for those who hold a master’s degree in Economics or in Statistics, and who wish to expand or update their know-how.

Online STEM Certificates

Several online STEM certificates may be designed for current teachers who would like to teach math or science. Others may help current professional engineers, statisticians and scientists stay abreast of new research, techniques and technology.

  • Online Post Masters Certificate in Bioinformatics programs might be a great option for scientists with masters or doctoral degrees who want to stay in tune with the rapid advances in topics such as sequence analysis and geneomics.

Online Graduate Certificate Programs in Psychology

Online graduate certificate programs in psychology may cover subjects such as coaching, gerontology and ABA.

  • Online Certificate in Applied Behavior Analysis programs may be designed for those with a graduate degree in special education, psychology or a related field. Many such programs help students meet the coursework requirements that are needed to be eligible to take the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) exam.
  • Online Certificate in Industrial-Organizational Psychology programs are typically designed for experienced practitioners. Coursework may help to build up managerial and technical expertise. Students might learn things such as how to increase productivity, motivate teams and manage change.

Online Religious Studies Certificates

Some online Religious Studies Certificates may be designed for on-the move ministers who want to build leadership skills. Others may be suited to adults with a bachelors degree who wish to deepen their grasp of Sacred Scripture or other topics. 

Online IT Certificates

Online IT Certificates and technology graduate certificates may address topics such as Geographic Information Systems or Library Sciences. They could help professionals concentrate their knowledge or learn about new techniques and technologies.

  • Online Certificate in Geographic Information Systems may expose students to the latest trends in spatial data processing, analysis, and visualization. Coursework might explore topics such as software design, database security and web architecture.

Search Online Graduate Certificate Programs

Ultimately, online graduate certificate programs may help you develop new abilities and build expertise in a focused area. This can be an asset whether you wish to renew your professional resume, reinvent your career, or refresh your knowledge base. The flexible online format and shorter time commitment may make this a great choice for busy adult learners. Find any number of professional or liberal arts graduate certificate programs online. All you do is choose a subject to define your scope and scroll through sponsored programs. From there, send off your requests for more information. Use the filter or start your search below.


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