Top 10 Most Affordable Online Graduate Certificate Programs 2024

Affordable Graduate Certificate Programs Online

Author: Brenda Rufener
Reviewed by: Melissa Anderson
Reading Level: Grade 10
Original Publication Date: March 2021
Updates: 3

This article profiles the top 10 most affordable online graduate-level certificate programs.

An online graduate certificate program allows students to gain expertise in a subject that complements a degree or job skill. Graduate certificates are a form of specialized training at the university level. They are designed to meet the professional development and educational needs of professionals. Diverse disciplines are available from some of the nation’s top-ranked and affordable institutions.

Featured Programs

10 Most Affordable Online Graduate Level Certificate Methodology

We reviewed approximately 125 schools with at least one online graduate-level certificate program. Our selection was based on accreditation and affordability. We gathered National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) College Navigator data. Accreditation was verified on each 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 10 Cheapest Grad Certificate Programs Online

#10 – University of Maine

Orono, Maine

Graduate Tuition: $9,738

The University of Maine has some of the best graduate certificates on our list. 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
  • Surveying Engineering

There are a total of 23 online graduate certificate options offered at UMaine Online. Most programs offer rolling admission. They generally 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.


  • Excellent alumni network
  • Job placement resources for students


  • Lack of student diversity

#9 – University of Wisconsin

Whitewater, Wisconsin

Graduate Tuition: $8,270

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
  • Strategic Communication

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.


  • They accept AP and dual credit transfers
  • A wide range of academic programs


  • TAs teach many classes
  • High student-to-faculty ratio

#8 – Georgia State University

Atlanta, Georgia

Graduate Tuition: $7,164

Georgia State University has affordable online graduate-level certificates in public health. It allows students to get 16 semester hours of coursework toward the MPH degree. The unique program offers ten core course credits and six electives. Core courses cover topics like:

  • Epidemiologic Methods
  • Epidemiology for Public Health
  • Fundamentals of Biostatistics
  • 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.


  • Offer career services for students
  • Accepts AP credits


  • Acceptance rate is lower than the national average
  • Student-to-faculty ratio is higher than the national average

#7 – University of Maryland Global Campus

Adelphi, Maryland

Graduate Tuition: $9,072

UMGC 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 Analytic
  • Foundations of Human Resources
  • Human Resource Management
  • Global Health Management
  • Information Assurance
  • Leadership & Management
  • Homeland Security
  • Project Management

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.


  • High-quality online programming
  • Offers great career advancement opportunities


  • A lack of veteran support has been reported
  • Some discrimination issues have been reported

#6 – University of Central Florida

Orlando, Florida

Graduate Tuition: $6,916

The University of Central Florida provides a flexible way to advance your career. You can get it while working or balancing other responsibilities. UCF offers a large selection of grad certificates online. The online graduate certificate program is accredited and affordable. 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
  • Theoretical & Applied Ethics

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.


  • Offers credit for life experience
  • One of the top-ranking schools in the southeast


  • Very high student-to-faculty ratio
  • Acceptance rate is lower than the national average

#5 – Liberty University

Lynchburg, Virginia

Graduate Tuition: $7,847

The accredited graduate certificate program online at Liberty University is affordable and diverse. In fact, it 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
  • Theological Studies

Online postgraduate certificate programs are also available in the areas of nursing and education, where professional experience is a must. Liberty University ranks among the top national universities with major publications like U.S. News. Also, the school ranks #340 in top performers on social mobility.


  • Offers one of the widest ranges of academic programming
  • A focus on student success


  • Conservative atmosphere may not appeal to some students
  • Lack of diversity

#4 – Appalachian State University

Boone, North Carolina

Graduate Tuition: $4,839

The online graduate certificate at Appalachian State University is designed to be flexible. It’s 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
  • Special Education

App State is recognized among the 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.


  • Student debt load upon graduation is lower than national average
  • Ranked third-best public school in the nation


  • A lack of student services and support has been reported
  • Some discrimination and bias has been reported

#3 – East Carolina University

Greenville, North Carolina

Graduate Tuition: $4,749

East Carolina University offers an online certificate program. It is open to recent grads and working professionals who have earned a 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
  • Healthcare Administration
  • Marketing
  • Project Management
  • Security Studies
  • Liberal Arts

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.


  • Offers student services like remedial, academic, and career counseling
  • Accepts AP and dual credits


  • Graduation rate is lower than the national average
  • TAs teach many of the classes

#2 – Missouri State University

Springfield, Missouri

Graduate Tuition: $5,760

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
  • Teaching & Learning

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.


  • The flexibiity of online classes
  • Affordable tuition


  • A lack of graduate faculty support has been reported
  • Some sexism has been reported

#1 – Western New Mexico University

Silver City, New Mexico

Graduate Tuition: $3,558

Western New Mexico University is the most affordable school on our list for students looking for a cheap graduate certificate program. 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

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.


  • Small class sizes
  • Diverse student population


  • Limited course options
  • Few research opportunities


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

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.

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 emphasizes business analytics, financial theory, and principles. Earning a certificate can add value to an applicant and help them stand out above their competitors.

Health Informatics

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.

CVO Staff