In this article, we profile the top 30 most affordable online graduate level certificate programs.
An online certificate program at the graduate level allows students to gain expertise in an area of interest that compliments a degree or job skill. Graduate certificates are a form of specialized training at the university level designed to meet the professional development and supplemental educational needs of professionals. Diverse disciplines are available from some of the nation’s top-ranked and affordable institutions.
30 Most Affordable Online Graduate Level Certificate Methodology
We reviewed approximately 125 colleges and universities offering at least one online certificate program at the graduate level. Our selection was based on accreditation and affordability. We gathered data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) College Navigator and verified accreditation on the school’s website. We then selected schools that cost less than $28,500 per year for graduate tuition and ranked them according to raw affordability. We also considered school and program rankings with major publications like U.S. News & World Report. What follows is our picks for the best online graduate certificate programs currently available.
Reviewing the Top 30 Cheapest Grad Certificate Programs Online
#30 – University of New England
The University of New England offers accredited graduate level certificates that can be completed 100% online. For those seeking a graduate certificate, program options are available in areas like applied nutrition, education, health informatics, healthcare administration, public health, and social work. For example, students may earn a graduate certificate by taking online courses in designing learning experiences, data analytics, emergency management, health data quality, or health policy, law, & compliance. What makes the University of New England’s certificates unique is the sheer number of available options. Also, the regional accreditation by NECHE and rankings with U.S. News make the school a top choice for students seeking an advanced degree or graduate certificate online.
Graduate Tuition: $28,778
#29 – University of Connecticut
Accredited online grad certificates are available at the University of Connecticut. Graduate level certificates allow students to take courses in a particular discipline designed to advance their career or hone new skills. Certificates are available in areas like advanced business in HRM, arts leadership skills & cultural management, digital media & design, educating bilingual learners, gifted education & talent development, disability studies, healthcare innovation, and postsecondary education, to name a few. At UConn Online, students with professional experience in engineering and science also have access to online graduate certificates. UConn is fully accredited and ranks with U.S. News as the 63rd best national university.
Graduate Tuition: $17,532
#28 – Southern New Hampshire University
Manchester, New Hampshire
Some say Southern New Hampshire University offers the best online certificate program for professional development and leadership skills at the graduate level. Flexible and affordable programs offer industry expert instruction and dedicated mentorship. Graduate certificates are available online in disciplines like accounting, advanced counterterrorism & homeland security, athletic administration, dyslexia & language-based learning disabilities, finance, forensic accounting, marketing, human resources, software engineering, full stack web development, and public administration, among others. Some programs allow students to earn credits needed for professional exams, such as the accounting graduate certificate. This program also provides a solid foundation for students to sit for the CPA certification exam and to pursue a master’s degree program. SNHU is fully accredited and ranked with major publications like U.S. News.
Graduate Tuition: $18,900
#27 – University of Illinois
The University of Illinois offers graduate certification online in a wide range of disciplines. This online certificate program features affordable graduate certificates at rates much lower than they typically cost. Subjects include advanced data analytics, aerospace, business management, human resources, civil engineering, community college leadership skills, computer science, software engineering, crop sciences, curriculum & instruction, health communication, and more. In fact, University of Illinois has one of the largest offerings for students seeking an online graduate certificate of any of the schools on our list. In addition to being fully accredited, the University of Illinois ranks with major publications like U.S. News as the 47th best national university and 144th best value school.
Graduate Tuition: $14,635
#26 – Franklin University
The online graduate certificate offerings from Franklin University allow students to gain new skills or a long-term competitive advantage in their career in just six months. Similar to Franklin’s respectable degree programs, the online certificate program gives students the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in their current or new career. Certificates are available in criminal justice leadership and instructional design. Both programs may be completed entirely online by taking classes taught by the same professors who instruct on campus. Franklin is fully accredited and ranked with major publications like U.S. News as among the top business schools.
Graduate Tuition: $16,080
#25 – Oregon State University
Another institution that arguably offers the best online certificate program for professional development at the graduate level is Oregon State University. The school offers a large selection of graduate certificates online. Disciplines include business analytics, college & university teaching, data analytics, dual language specialization, energy policy, financial planning, geographic information science, instructional design, rural policy, urban forestry, and wildlife management, to name a few. All programs are accredited and can be completed between six months and two years, depending on student pace. According to U.S. News, OSU ranks #153 on the list of best national universities and #133 in best value schools. Federal student aid may be available.
Graduate Tuition: $13,446
#24 – University of Kentucky
If you’re looking for the best online certificate programs for grad students, you are sure to find something at the University of Kentucky. In fact, UK offers one of the largest selections of grad certificates online. Disciplines include advanced materials characterization, applied environmental & sustainability studies, developmental disabilities, diversity & inclusion, family & consumer sciences, fundraising & development, historic preservation, and liberal studies, to name a few. Certificates are designed to equip students with specific skills that help in career advancement. UK ranks with U.S. News as the 133rd best national university and 169th best value school. The institution is also fully accredited.
Graduate Tuition: $12,311
#23 – University of Arizona
The University of Arizona’s online graduate level certificates for professional development are diverse in scope and discipline. Flexible online certificates are available in areas of study like accounting, applied nutrition, autism spectrum disorder, business intelligence & analytics, human rights & documentary media, statistics, teaching English as a second language, and systems engineering. UA offers one of the largest selections of online certificates designed to aid students in career progression. In addition to being fully accredited, the University of Arizona ranks with major publications like U.S. News. UA ranks #97 in best national universities and #121 in best value schools. Also, several online graduate programs have received top rankings.
Graduate Tuition: $12,106
#22 – Montclair State University
Montclair, New Jersey
Montclair State University’s graduate certificate programs online are both flexible and affordable. The school offers a unique array of graduate certificates with expenses much lower than they typically cost. Areas of study include bilingual & bicultural education (teacher certification), business analytics, child advocacy & policy, computing technology, educational assessment, HRM, project management, and virtual learning for students with disabilities. What makes the Montclair graduate certificate unique is that each graduate program has a dedicated coordinator that assists students. Online classes are taught by industry experts. Also, Montclair is fully accredited and ranked with U.S. News. Rankings include #176 in best national universities and #128 in best colleges for veterans. Federal student aid may be available, even to older adults and nontraditional students.
Graduate Tuition: $12,978
#21 – Tiffin University
Tiffin University, a ranked and accredited institution, offers some of the best online graduate certification available for students who desire professional development. These affordable programs are designed for working professionals looking to advance their career and leadership abilities. Online programs are structured in 12- and 18-credit formats, allowing students to earn their certificate in approximately two terms. Available certificates include crime analysis, crime science, criminal behavior, data analytics, finance, homeland security, human resource management, international business, marketing, and sports management, among others. Tiffin is fully accredited and is ranked with major publications like U.S. News. These rankings include #119-#156 in best regional universities in the Midwest.
Graduate Tuition: $12,600
#20 – University of North Dakota
Grand Forks, North Dakota
Another school with some of the best online certificate programs for graduate students is the University of North Dakota. For an affordable price, students may earn an accredited graduate certificate online. One of the most popular programs available at UND is for educators seeking a special education certificate. The certificate may be completed entirely online, and it only takes one year to earn the 15 credits required to graduate. Within the certificate program, there are four tracks of study. These tracks include early childhood special education, emotional behavior disorders, intellectual disabilities, and learning disabilities. UND is fully accredited and ranked with major publications like U.S. News. Current rankings include #258 in best national universities and #126 in top public schools.
Graduate Tuition: $11,503
#19 – Arizona State University
Our online program evaluation revealed Arizona State University’s online grad certificates can be completed in conjunction with a degree or as a stand-alone certificate. Certificates serving a wide range of interests and career goals can be found at ASU. Certificates include addiction & substance-use related disorders, community development, advanced analytics in higher education, applied behavior analysis, homeland security, corrections management, food policy & sustainability leadership, computer programming, healthcare innovation, and nurse education, to name a few. ASU’s certificates are fully accredited, and the institution ranks with major publications like U.S. News. ASU ranks 103rd in best national universities. Additional rankings include top 50 and top 100 graduate degree programs.
Graduate Tuition: $11,720
#18 – University of Alaska
At the University of Alaska, students may earn affordable graduate level certificates online in specialized areas of study. Graduate certificates available at the University of Alaska include arctic security, business continuity, and cybersecurity management. These certificates are ideal for young professionals and older adults wanting specialized skills in an area of interest to further their career. Financial aid and scholarships make the certificates at the University of Alaska affordable. According to U.S. News, the University of Alaska ranks among the top national universities. Rankings include #298-#389 in best national universities, #389 in top performers on social mobility, and #154-#209 in top public schools.
Graduate Tuition: $11,265
#17 – Western Kentucky University
Bowling Green, Kentucky
Western Kentucky University offers some of the best graduate certificate programs available online. For an affordable price, students may earn graduate certification online in areas that will provide marketable skills. Program areas include addictions education, adult education, biology, business core competencies, college & career readiness, emergency management disaster science, health education, organizational leadership, and strategic sport communications, among others. The sheer number of programs available makes WKU a top choice for affordable online graduate certificates. According to our program evaluation, WKU ranks with U.S. News as the 298th-389th best national university and 154th-209th top public school. WKU is fully accredited.
Graduate Tuition: $12,140
#16 – University of Alabama
Through the College of Continuing Studies at the University of Alabama, eligible students may earn graduate certification online. These programs are designed to prepare graduates with marketable skills to advance their career. Three entirely online certificates are available in app development with Swift (IT), archival studies, and conflict resolution. While the school doesn’t offer a large number of graduate level certificates online, the unique programs offered prepare students in niche studies. The University of Alabama is fully accredited and ranked with major publications like U.S. News. These rankings include #143 in best national universities and #127 in best value schools. Also, UA ranks #100 in best colleges for veterans.
Graduate Tuition: $10,780
#15 – University of Memphis
Our program evaluation uncovered some of the best online grad certificates offered by the University of Memphis, an affordable public institution. The University of Memphis is fully accredited and ranks with major publications like U.S. News. Some of their current rankings are #258 in best national universities, #98 in top performers on social mobility, and #126 in top public schools. UM Global offers graduate programs in a wide range of specialized areas. Students may earn a graduate certificate in liberal arts and science fields like arts entrepreneurship, autism studies, college & career counseling, data science, and educational leadership, among others.
Graduate Tuition: $9,378
#14 – University of Louisiana
The University of Louisiana offers graduate level certificates online that are both affordable and flexibly designed. Three online certificate programs are available in the specialized areas of business administration, cardiovascular nursing, and instructional coaching. Successful completion of all required courses leads to the graduate certificate. Then, the certificate will be printed on the student’s official transcript. Also, recipients of the certificate will receive a printed version for display, which can be shown to current or potential employers. These certificates add value to an employee’s application for employment and aid in career advancement. The University of Louisiana ranks with major publications like U.S. News as a top national university.
Graduate Tuition: $5,511
#13 – Purdue University
West Lafayette, Indiana
Purdue University Online offers online grad certificates at an affordable price. Online certificates are available in specialized areas of study like agriculture, construction management, aviation & aerospace, business & economics, human resources, communication, education, engineering, health & human services, and technology & computer science. Within these specialized disciplines, students earn an even more specialized certificate. For example, engineering certificates online include applied heat transfer, systems engineering, and teaching & learning in engineering, to name a few. Purdue Online is fully accredited and ranks with major publications. The institution and many of the school’s graduate programs have received top rankings by U.S. News & World Report.
Graduate Tuition: $9,718
#12 – Ball State University
Seeking the best online graduate level certificates? Ball State University has affordable options designed to help you get ahead with your career. Graduate certification at Ball State is available online and designed to give you a specialized credential in various professional settings. Available programs include certificates in liberal arts and science fields. Examples include applied behavior analysis (ABA), athletic coaching education, business administration, business analytics, criminal justice, early childhood program administration, finance, gifted and talented education, logistics and supply chain management, and sustainability, among others. Ball State is fully accredited and ranks with major publications like U.S. News. Ball State ranks #284 in best national universities and #144 in top public schools.
Graduate Tuition: $9,482
#11 – Granite State College
Concord, New Hampshire
Granite State College offers graduate certificates online for students looking to advance their careers by gaining a unique skillset in a specialized area of study. Graduate certificates are available online at Granite State in disciplines like health care management, nonprofit leadership, online education for adult learners, and project management. These shorter, focused programs allow students to gain specialized knowledge by taking relevant courses. Then, students can bring their specialized skills into the workplace to meet workforce needs. Granite State ranks with U.S. News as the 136th-176th best regional university in the North and the 50th-62nd top public school.
Graduate Tuition: $9,684
#10 – University of Maine
Some of the best online graduate level certificates on our list are available at the University of Maine. UMaine Online offers 100% online grad certificates in areas of study that can prove useful for employers and employees alike. Programs are offered in disciplines like disability studies, autism spectrum disorders, business administration, business analytics, human nutrition, instructional design, nursing education, and surveying engineering. There are a total of 23 online graduate certificate options offered at UMaine Online. Most programs offer rolling admission and require no GRE or GMAT test scores for admission. The programs, like the institution, are fully accredited. Also, the University of Maine ranks with U.S. News as the 206th best national university.
Graduate Tuition: $9,738
#9 – University of Wisconsin
At the University of Wisconsin at Whitewater, students may earn online grad certificates for an affordable price. These advanced certificates are designed to increase your value to a potential employer. Also, the credits earned can count toward a future degree. Online grad certificates at the University of Wisconsin include those in science and liberal arts fields like applied behavior analysis, business analytics, construction management and safety, corporate finance, cybersecurity management, human resource management, marketing strategy, project management, and strategic communication, among others. Programs are fully accredited, and the institution ranks with major publications. In fact, U.S. News ranks UW Whitewater #58 in best regional universities in the Midwest.
Graduate Tuition: $8,270
#8 – Georgia State University
For individuals seeking graduate level certificates online in public health will find that Georgia State University provides an affordable option. GSU’s online graduate certificate in public health allows students to acquire 16 semester hours of coursework toward fulfilling the MPH degree requirements. The unique program offers 10 core course credits and six electives. Core courses cover topics like epidemiologic methods, epidemiology for public health, fundamentals of biostatistics, and fundamentals of health systems, leadership, & policy. A graduate certificate in teaching English as a second language is also available. GSU is fully accredited and ranked with major publications like U.S. News. Current rankings include 206th in best national universities and third in most innovative schools.
Graduate Tuition: $7,164
#7 – University of Maryland Global Campus
The University of Maryland Global Campus offers one of the best online graduate certificate offerings on our list. For an affordable price, students may select one or more graduate level certificates. Disciplines include acquisition & supply chain management, bioinformatics, cyber operations, cybersecurity management & policy, foundations in business analytics, foundations of human resources and human resource management, global health management, information assurance, leadership & management, homeland security, and project management, among others. The school allows students to pursue a degree and certificate simultaneously. UMGC is fully accredited and ranks with major publications like U.S. News. Current rankings include #136-#176 in best regional universities in the North.
Graduate Tuition: $9,072
#6 – University of Central Florida
The accredited and affordable online graduate certificate program at the University of Central Florida provides a flexible way to advance your career while working or balancing other responsibilities. UCF offers a large selection of grad certificates online. Disciplines include autism spectrum disorders, corrections leadership, crime analysis, cyber risk management, destination marketing & management, gifted education, healthcare systems engineering, instructional & educational technology, project engineering, public administration, community development, and theoretical & applied ethics, among others. Not only is UCF fully accredited, but the school ranks #160 in best national universities and #141 in best value schools. Also, the school ranks #114 in best colleges for veterans.
Graduate Tuition: $6,916
#5 – Liberty University
The accredited graduate certificate program online available at Liberty University is affordable and diverse. In fact, Liberty offers one of the largest selections of online graduate level certificates on our list. Students may enroll in programs like applied communication studies, autism education, criminal justice, general business, global health, health promotion, management & leadership, marketing, school leadership, special education general curriculum, and theological studies. Online postgraduate certificate programs are also available in areas of nursing and education where professional experience is a must. Liberty University ranks with major publications like U.S. News among the top national universities. Also, the school ranks #340 in top performers on social mobility.
Graduate Tuition: $7,847
#4 – Appalachian State University
Boone, North Carolina
The online graduate certificate program at Appalachian State University is flexibly designed for students looking to gain skills for potential or current employment. Online graduate certificate programs are available in areas like birth through kindergarten, college & university teaching, elementary education, instructional technology leadership, nursing education, public health nutrition practice, reading education, school leadership, and special education, to name a few. App State is recognized among top institutions in North Carolina and beyond. The institution is fully accredited to award this graduate certificate online. It is ranked with U.S. News. Rankings include sixth in best regional universities in the South, third in best colleges for veterans, and more.
Graduate Tuition: $4,839
#3 – East Carolina University
Greenville, North Carolina
East Carolina University’s online certificate program is open to recent grads and working professionals who have earned an undergraduate (bachelor’s) degree. Programs are available in disciplines like autism, behavior specialist, business analytics, community college instruction, criminal justice education, deaf-blindness, dual language immersion administration, ethnic & rural health disparities, finance, health care administration, marketing, project management, security studies, liberal arts, and more. While the majority of graduate certificates may be completed entirely online, some programs require minimal campus visitations. ECU is fully accredited and ranks with U.S. News. Rankings include #217 in best national universities, #109 in top public schools, and #33 in top performers on social mobility.
Graduate Tuition: $4,749
#2 – Missouri State University
With over 50 graduate certificates online available at Missouri State University, students looking to upgrade their career have choices. MSU’s 100% online graduate certificate program offers convenient classes and specialized knowledge. Programs may be completed as a stand-alone certificate or as an addition to a master’s degree. Certificates include agricultural business & economics, college teaching, cybersecurity, data analytics, educational technology, elementary curriculum & instruction, family & consumer sciences education, homeland security & defense, literacy, planning & development, school counseling, and teaching & learning, among others. Missouri State ranks with major publications like U.S. News. These rankings include #298-#389 in best national universities, #90 in top performers on social mobility, and #154-#209 in top public schools.
Graduate Tuition: $5,760
#1 – Western New Mexico University
Silver City, New Mexico
The most affordable school on our list of schools for students looking for a cheap graduate certificate program is Western New Mexico University. The school offers several academic areas in which to earn an online graduate certificate. These programs consist of 15-18 credit-hours with courses delivered asynchronously online. Graduate certificates are available in areas of study like border security studies, chemical dependency, criminal justice, digital forensics, educational leadership, English, management information systems (MIS), political science, psychology, rural community social work service, and TESOL. The institution is fully accredited and ranks with major publications like U.S. News. In fact, WNMU’s current rankings include #95-#124 in best regional universities in the West.
Graduate Tuition: $3,558
Frequently Asked Questions
Why enroll in an online graduate certificate program?
By enrolling in an online graduate certificate program, you can expand your knowledge and skills in a specific area of study. Students with a graduate certificate may advance within their current career or qualify for a career change in a new field or industry. Also, online graduate certificates provide students with a glimpse of what they might experience in a master’s degree program. In fact, may graduate degree programs allow transfer credits from graduate certificate programs.
Flexibility is one of the primary reasons individuals complete an online graduate certificate. Many certificate programs are designed with the working student or professional in mind. Depending on how many credits are required for the certificate, you may be able to continue working while completing your program. In fact, it is not at all uncommon for individuals to work full time while earning an online graduate certificate. And since most certificates take an average of 12 months to complete, your schedule should allow for one to two classes per term.
In addition to flexible learning options and transfer credit opportunities, another reason to earn an online graduate certificate is that marketable skills are gained in such a short time. Employers seek out industry experts and individuals with specialized skills. By earning a certificate in a specialized discipline, you offer knowledge and practice that applicants without a graduate certificate do not. In fact, you become more marketable and stand apart from your competition.
What is the difference between an online graduate certificate program and a graduate degree?
Graduate certificates and graduate degrees differ by the number of credits required for the completion of the program. A master’s degree program includes comprehensive coursework in a particular discipline. The coursework is administered on a much broader scale than it is for a certificate program. For example, an online graduate certificate program may require 12-18 credits to complete, whereas a graduate degree requires three times that number of credits.
A graduate certificate program allows students to graduate in one year on average. Master’s degrees, on the other hand, take approximately two years to earn. But as a certificate program requires a smaller number of credits to complete, graduate certificate options don’t cost as much as master’s degrees. Also, since graduate degrees take more time to earn, students are often removed from the workforce for two years. This is not true of earning an online graduate certificate.
Another difference between a graduate certificate program versus a master’s degree are the admission requirements. Graduate certificate programs, even those administered online, require an earned bachelor’s degree, but do not require graduate exams, such as the GMAT or GRE. Also, applicants of master’s degree programs may need to have completed years of work experience, but this is not true of applicants to a graduate certificate program.
What can I do with an online graduate certificate?
With the number of benefits offered by earning an online graduate certificate, it should come as no surprise how versatile a certificate program can be for your current career or career change. Some fields require a graduate certificate in order to meet licensure requirements. Employers may look for candidates with certain qualifications that a graduate certificate program helps prepare them for. By earning marketable skills and gaining specialized knowledge in an online graduate certificate program, you may qualify for career advancement or a new job within a specialized industry.
Below are several different careers that may require an online graduate certificate.
Budget or business analyst: A budget analyst holds managerial and qualitative skills needed to make business decisions. They work in public and private institutions and manage finances. Many in this role hold business analyst certificates or advanced degrees.
Cybersecurity analyst: This specialized analyst monitors and assesses security threats and breaches to companies or organizations. IT certificates are often required for this job.
Education administrator: Education administrators oversee the day-to-day operations of schools, colleges, and universities. Graduate certificates may benefit individuals in this role by giving them specialized skills in management and organizational leadership.
Health informatics analyst: Health information analysts assess the needs, safety protocol, and policy within a healthcare organization. Preparing for this leadership and analytical role can be done by earning a graduate certificate.
What are the admission requirements for an online certificate program?
Fewer requirements are necessary for admission to an online graduate certificate program than a master’s degree program. While admission requirements vary by program and school, you can count on similar criteria in the majority of cases. Most graduate certificate programs online require the following requirements be met for admission consideration:
Letters of recommendation
A graduate certificate program will usually call for letters of recommendation. References or recommendations may be from those who can attest to your education ability. Recommendations may also come from those who know you professionally. Some graduate programs do not require letters of recommendation, but this is a potential application component.
Official transcripts are typically required of a graduate certificate program. Your official transcript will show your earned bachelor’s degree and your GPA. Relevant coursework, if required, will also be stated on your transcripts.
Personal Statement or Essay
Another common requirement of a grad certificate program is the submission of a personal statement or essay. Essay prompts may include your reasoning for enrolling in a specialized certificate program. It is in this essay that you may also share your background in the field and your career and education goals.
While most certificate programs do not require the GRE, GMAT, or other graduate exams, you may be required to show English proficiency before earning a graduate certificate. This is especially true of international or ESL students. To show proficiency, you must submit TOEFL or IELTS scores with your application.
What is the most popular online grad certificate program?
Popular graduate certificates for students with a minimum of a bachelor’s degree can be found across disciplines. They prepare students for careers by providing specialized skills that can prove appealing to potential employers. Some areas of study stand out among professionals and students as the most popular certificates to pursue. Below are some of the best online graduate certificate programs available.
The online graduate certificate in accounting is vital to essential business practices and qualifications for licensure. In fact, some accounting licensures require the completion of a certificate. For example, a graduate certificate often serves as the first step toward CPA certification.
An online program in finance emphasize business analytics, financial theory, and principles. Earning a certificate can add value to an applicant and help them stand out above their competitors.
A health informatics online program resulting in a graduate certificate blends subjects like business, healthcare, information technology, and standards that are necessary for roles in this highly specialized field. Graduate programs prepare students with the knowledge needed in security and information safety, as well as data management.
Human Resource Management
One of the most popular online graduate certificate programs available is the human resources management or HRM certificate. An online HRM certificate covers topics like compensation packages, employment law, ethics, staffing, and training & development in human resources. Graduates of these certificate programs enter the workforce prepared to be leaders and experts in the field of human resources.
This concludes our list of the top 30 most affordable online certificate programs for graduates.