Why This Matters


    The knowledge you gain by taking a professional development class kick starts your career and makes you more marketable and attractive to employers.


    According to a study conducted by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, certificates have grown from 6% of postsecondary awards in 1980 to 22% of awards today and are the second most common postsecondary award in the United States. Approximately 52% of certificates are awarded by public two-year colleges, while technical and vocational schools award 44% and private nonprofit schools award 4%.


    Certificate holders earn 20% more than high school-educated workers, and certificate holders earn more than 24% of individuals with Bachelor’s degrees if they work in their field of study. More than 60% of certificates have a clearly demonstrated economic payoff, including becoming more employable.

Our Research

Certificate programs are postsecondary nondegree awards that confirm completion of schooling or training in a specific field. They are offered for a wide range of professions and industries, offering both an introduction to the field and an opportunity to expand upon existing knowledge in a specialized area. The list that we have assembled here includes programs ranging from six credits to fifty credits, both in-person and online. Many offer the opportunity for flexible learning schedules so that students can access pre-recorded lectures and course materials while continuing to earn a living.

Certificate programs have shorter completion times and greater flexibility than pursuing a traditional undergraduate or graduate degree, but you still want to choose a program that is committed to rigorous standards. The best way to have confidence in the quality of a certificate program is to choose one that has been accredited by a higher education accreditation agency. The most common accreditation that certificate programs seek comes from one of the regional accreditation agencies that oversee the programs offered by public and private postsecondary schools throughout the U.S, though there are also programmatic accreditation agencies that may focus on a specific industry. These accreditations are generally bestowed to curriculum offered within a school that also has a regional accreditation.

We evaluated each program on the basis of flexibility, faculty, course strength, cost, and reputation. Then we calculated the Intelligent Score for each program on a scale from 0 to 100. For a more extensive explanation, check out Our Ranking Methodology.

  • 70 hours to write this article
  • 1,202 universities and colleges we assessed
  • 1,310 education programs we compared

The Top 50 Accredited Certificate Programs

Best Accredited Certificate Programs
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What You Should Know About This Degree

There is a significant difference between a certificate program and certification. A certificate is earned by attending a program and awarded by an educational institution. Certification comes from a professional organization or certifying body within a given industry and is usually bestowed after an individual has accumulated a specified amount of time working within the industry in addition to having taken a standardized professional exam.

Accredited certificate programs open the doors to a wide range of opportunities. The programs that we have included offer options in the fields of healthcare, construction, law enforcement and firefighting, computer information technology, and trade and manufacturing. They represent a cost-effective way of getting a quick education that leads to employment, as well as a method of transitioning into a college education. By selecting a certificate program that has been accredited, you not only have the opportunity for financial aid through the federal student aid program, but also the ability to transfer credits from certificate programs that you have completed into a future baccalaureate program if you choose to pursue that option.

Earning a certificate has been directly associated with higher earnings in several different fields, including: healthcare; business/office work; cosmetology; auto mechanics; construction; electronics; transportation; refrigeration, heating and air conditioning; drafting; and aviation.

What’s Next?

Here are some questions to ask when researching accredited certificate programs:

  • Am I eligible for this program? Applying for admission to an accredited certificate program is much less arduous than the process of applying for a bachelor’s degree or associate degree. In most cases, the school to which you are applying will allow you to complete the process online by providing some basic information, including your contact information, the name and contact information for your high school, the year of your graduation, and information about the classes you took and the grades you achieved if your graduation was within the last ten years. If you have taken any college classes, you will be asked to submit that information, too.
  • Are courses offered synchronously or asynchronously? Almost all certificate programs are offered online and asynchronously, though many colleges also offer the opportunity to attend classes in person. Students who are seeking online certificates for which an internship or a certain number of hours of real-world experience are needed will be provided the opportunity to fulfill that requirement in their own locale.

The application process for entry into an accredited certificate program is generally flexible, although some programs will follow a typical, semester-based calendar.

By selecting an accredited certificate program, you give yourself the opportunity to apply for financial support through federal, state, and local student aid programs. If you need help, be sure to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid in order to determine what kind of tuition assistance you may be eligible for. You may also be able to get tuition reimbursement from your employer.