Question: What Types of Graduate Certificates Are Offered Online?
Updated: June 3, 2020
Answer: There are many types of graduate certificate programs offered online, including programs in business, communication, education, healthcare, management, nursing, counseling, and technology and data management fields. Accredited colleges and universities now offer a wide and growing array of post-baccalaureate and post-master’s certificate programs in most areas of academic and professional study, including many specialized fields where specific skillsets are in demand, such as biotechnology, business analytics, cybersecurity, data science, e-learning, forensic accounting, laboratory science, nursing education, public health, social media marketing, and substance abuse counseling. In order to increase accessibility to these programs, schools commonly offer graduate certificate courses via distance-learning technologies and structure certificate programs so that they can be completed online or through a mix of online and campus-based classes. As a result, most types of graduate certificate programs are offered in an online or hybrid format.
Graduate certificate programs are generally designed with early- and mid-career professionals in mind, as well as for recent college graduates who are interested in acquiring a competitive edge by adding news skills as they enter the job market. To the extent that it is practical, schools commonly structure these programs in ways that are convenient for students who intend to continue working while continuing their education. One way to achieve this is by scheduling classes at times that do not conflict with traditional work hours, typically in the evenings and on weekends. Some programs also utilize alternative academic calendars with eight- or ten-week terms so that students can take one course at a time and still complete a program in less than one year. Online instruction represents an additional innovation that allows schools to extend the reach of their in-demand graduate certificate programs while offering these programs in a format that meets the needs of working professionals.
How Are Graduate Certificate Programs Offered Online?
Online programs take advantage of advances in digital communication technologies that allow for the effective and reliable transmission of lectures and other educational materials to students located anywhere with a secure Internet connection. Schools utilize specialized learning management systems (LMSs) that are designed to give students and instructors easy access to the tools and applications necessary to hold virtual classroom sessions, facilitate online discussion groups and one-on-one consultations, and engage in a full range of other activities integral to the learning process. In this way, schools are able to offer all or most of a graduate certificate program’s didactic instruction online without requiring students to attend traditional, campus-based classes.
As an additional convenience, some or all of a program’s classes may be offered using asynchronous instruction, which means that lectures and other instructional presentations are pre-recorded and available for students to stream whenever they are available to log on to the program’s LMS. For programs that use asynchronous instruction, students interact with instructors and classmates through online discussion forums. There are also programs that incorporate synchronous sessions into the curriculum. These require students to log into the LMS at specific times for live discussions or lectures. Most programs record these sessions just in case a student needs to miss one due to a personal or professional obligation.
It should be noted that some online graduate certificate programs may require students to attend a limited number of campus-based sessions, such as orientations, seminars, workshops, and/or labs, which can enhance the online learning experience. While such campus-based requirements are not that common for most graduate certificate programs, some graduate certificates, especially those that have a clinical requirement (such as post-master’s certificate programs in nursing), may require limited campus visits. There are also programs that give students the option of taking courses online or on-campus, or which combine online and face-to-face instruction.
Practicums, Internships, and Clinical Requirements for Online Graduate Certificate Programs
Some online graduate certificate programs may require students to complete a practicum, an internship, or another type of on-site, in-person learning experience. For example, post-master’s certificate programs in nursing typically have clinical requirements in their area of specialization, and a post-master’s certificate in addiction counseling may require students to spend a certain number of hours working under the supervision of a clinical counselor in a substance-abuse treatment setting. Online programs typically handle this aspect of a program’s curriculum by allowing each student to complete in-person requirements at a suitable site near their place of residence. Some programs may provide students with assistance in finding a convenient site if necessary; others ask students to find sites on their own.
Examples of Online Graduate Certificate Programs in Common Fields of Study
The sections below provide an overview of some of the types of graduate certificate programs that are offered online in several common areas of study. This overview is by no means comprehensive, and is meant for informational purposes only, to give prospective students an idea of their options for graduate certificate programs.
Analytics: In the field of analytics, there are online graduate certificate programs in applied data analytics, data science, and business analytics, as well as in geographical information systems (GIS) technology and its applications.
Business: There are many types of graduate certificate programs offered in business fields, including programs in various business administration and management specializations, such as project management, supply-chain management, and human resource management (HRM). There are also graduate certificates in digital marketing, social media marketing, and strategic marketing, various accounting and finance specialization, and fields like organizational leadership and Six Sigma Management.
Communication and Journalism: Technical writing, journalism, and communication are all fields in which there are online graduate certificate programs. Some common types of online graduate certificate programs in these fields include programs in scientific writing, technical communication, digital media, public relations, and marketing communications.
Education and Teaching: In education, there are online graduate certificate programs that are designed to prepare teachers for specific professional teaching credentials, as well online certificate programs for licensed teachers who want to add new skills in areas like special education, gifted education, STEM education, and literacy education. There are also graduate certificates in educational leadership and administration, higher education, instructional design and technology, and adult education.
Nursing and Healthcare: Registered Nurses (RNs) with a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) who are interested in adding a Nurse Practitioner (NP) specialty or entering the field of nursing education can receive advanced training through online post-master’s certificate programs in a number of different specializations. There are Nurse Educator graduate certificate programs, as well as NP graduate certificate programs in most NP specializations, including: Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP), Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner (AGNP), Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP), Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP), and Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner (WHNP). In addition, there are online graduate certificate programs in many non-nursing healthcare fields, such as healthcare administration, public health and epidemiology, and clinical research and medical science.
Psychology and Counseling: There are a number of different types of online graduate certificate programs available in psychology, counseling, and behavioral science fields. For students who are interested in earning a graduate degree in psychology but who do not have a bachelor’s degree in psychology, there are online post-baccalaureate certificate programs in general psychology. For psychologists who are interested in expanding their scope of practice, there are post-master’s certificate programs in advanced and specialized areas of psychology, such as forensic psychology and industrial-organizational psychology. For licensed counselors who would like to further specialize their practice, there are addiction and substance abuse treatment graduate certificate programs that are offered online. And for educators and other professionals who work with children, adolescents, and adults in need of special services, there are online graduate certificate programs in applied behavioral analysis (ABA).
Transparency and accuracy form the foundation of all the resources we create. For more details on our sources of data, program classifications, and other important information, please review our Sources and Disclaimers page.