In this article, we profile the 30 best online certificate programs of 2021.
Online certificate programs allow students to explore a discipline without having to commit the time it takes to earn a degree. Students may earn a certificate by taking non-degree courses. Undergraduate certificate programs online have become a popular way to explore a discipline before electing to major in the area of study. Students may also acquire transfer credits that can be applied to a degree at a later date.
30 Most Affordable Online Certificate Programs Methodology
We reviewed approximately 110 colleges and universities offering online certificate programs at the undergraduate level. Our selection was based on accreditation and affordability. We gathered pertinent information 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 $30,000 per year for undergraduate tuition and ranked them according to raw affordability. We also considered school and program rankings with major publications like U.S. News and World Report.
Ranking the 30 Most Affordable Online Certificate Programs for Undergraduates
#30 – Lesley University
Undergraduate Tuition: $29,550
Those seeking online certificate programs in art and design will find many options available at Lesley University. Undergraduate certificates are available online in areas like graphic design, user experience, and web design. Lesley also has options for those seeking an online bachelor’s degree in addition to a certificate. Lesley prides itself in offering quality and accredited programs online. In fact, the institution is fully accredited and ranked with major publications like U.S. News and World Report. Recent rankings include #249 in best national universities and #303 in top performers on social mobility.
#29 – Ohio Christian University
Undergraduate Tuition: $21,990
Ohio Christian University offers some of the best programs on our list. In fact, with 18 available certificates, Ohio Christian University has one of the most abundant selections. Certificates are available in a diverse array of disciplines. Accounting, business management, computer literacy, emergency management, health information technology, organizational leadership, and social media are just some of the areas students may earn a certificate in. Certificate programs are 100% online, and they are designed to enhance vocational skills and increase professional development. Ohio Christian ranks with major publications like U.S. News and World Report. The most recent rankings include #119 – #156 in best regional universities in the Midwest.
#28 – Liberty University
Undergraduate Tuition: $21,587
The accredited online certificate programs available at Liberty University include a wide range of undergraduate programs. Students may earn an online certificate in the areas of arts & sciences, business, counseling, education, government, health, IT, law, and religion. Specifically, online undergraduate certificates are available in accounting, autism education, business administration, criminal justice, data networking, information assurance, paralegal studies, and public administration, to name a few. All certificates are available entirely online and flexibly designed to be practical and career-focused. In addition to being accredited, Liberty ranks with U.S. News and World Report among the top national universities and top performers on social mobility.
#27 – Grand Canyon University
Undergraduate Tuition: $17,800
The online certificate programs at Grand Canyon University can be the next step in pursuing your career. Students may earn an undergraduate certificate in cybersecurity foundations and one in Java programming. Depending on the program, the certificate may be earned in just a few months. For example, the cybersecurity certificate requires 16 credits (four classes), which may be earned in 15 weeks, as classes run eight weeks in length. The Java programming certificate also requires 16 credits and four classes. However, since classes run seven weeks in length instead of eight, the certificate may be earned in 16 weeks. GCU is fully accredited and ranked with major publications like U.S. News and World Report.
#26 – University of Massachusetts Online
Undergraduate Tuition: $16,439
UMass offers certificate programs online through their UMass Online institution. Accredited and affordable undergraduate certificate programs are available in 28 disciplines. Some of the available certificates for undergraduates include accounting, business studies, computer assisted manufacturing, film studies, graphic design & digital imaging, human resource management, networking & security, and sustainable business practice. Certificates require anywhere from 12 to 30 credits depending on the program. UMass Online is a fully accredited institution that ranks with major publications like U.S. News and World Report. Rankings include top national universities, best value colleges, and best colleges for veterans, to name a few.
#25 – University of Massachusetts Lowell
Undergraduate Tuition: $15,698
At UMass Lowell, students may enroll in certificate programs online in a wide range of disciplines. Certificates at UMass are designed to improve employability and showcase additional skills to potential employers. Undergraduate certificates are available in areas like accounting, computer assisted manufacturing, graphic design & digital imaging, paralegal studies, security management & homeland security, and digital marketing. For those seeking IT certificates, several are offered in areas like information technology, Java development, and multimedia applications, to name a few. In addition to being fully accredited, UMass Lowell is ranked by U.S. News and World Report as #176 on their list of best national universities.
#24 – University of Illinois
Undergraduate Tuition: $15,150
Some of the best online certificate programs on our list are offered by University of Illinois. For an affordable price, students may earn an undergraduate certificate that complements their degree and/or skills. Affordable online certificate programs for undergraduates are offered in areas like environmental sustainability, global labor studies, horticulture, information accessibility design & policy, and professional development in applied mathematics. Most certificates require six three-credit courses, but requirements vary by program. According to U.S. News and World Report, the University of Illinois ranks #47 in the list of best national universities and #144 in best value schools. Also, veterans seeking certificate programs will find the school ranks #23 on the list of best colleges for veterans.
#23 – University of Minnesota
Undergraduate Tuition: $15,027
Affordable certificate programs online are available at the University of Minnesota. The school offers undergraduate certificate programs in areas of study like agricultural business, applied business, business administration, election administration, finance, sport & recreation management, and health management, to name a few. All certificates are offered at the affordable price of approximately $451.50 per credit. Certificate programs require anywhere from 12 to 32 credits depending on the discipline. The University of Minnesota ranks with major publications like U.S. News and World Report. The most current rankings include #66 in best national universities, #138 in best value schools, and #38 in best colleges for veterans.
#22 – Mount William University
Undergraduate Tuition: $14,400
Mount William University offers online certificate programs designed to help students excel professionally. Undergraduate certificates at MWU require a minimum of a high school diploma or equivalent international education. Depending on the program, students typically complete three courses in less than three months. Study is online and self-paced. According to the school’s website, Mount William is fully accredited and ranked by several publications. The school reports a #3 ranking among top online universities in the United States and a #8 ranking among top global universities online. Due to the affordable tuition, MWU earns a spot on our list of affordable online certificate programs.
#21 – Pennsylvania State University World Campus
University Park, Pennsylvania
Undergraduate Tuition: $13,988
Pennsylvania State University World Campus offers certificate programs online to help students achieve their career goals. Penn State’s undergraduate certificate courses are designed to help students gain useful knowledge by allowing them to take a few courses that they find interesting in a specific area of study. Undergraduate certificates are available in adult development & aging services, digital arts, diversity studies, financial planning, information sciences & technology, nursing management, organizational communication, weather forecasting, and other areas. Programs are offered entirely online with classes taught by Penn State faculty. Penn State ranks with major publications like U.S. News and World Report. The most current rankings include #63 in the list of best national universities, #164 in best value schools, and #35 in best colleges for veterans.
#20 – National University
La Jolla, California
Undergraduate Tuition: $13,320
The programs offered by National University are affordable and designed to leverage your career. For over 20 years, National University has offered flexible online programs for busy and working adults. Their extensive experience has garnered a wide range of programs in various disciplines. Undergraduate certificates are available in the areas of business & marketing, social sciences & psychology, engineering & technology, health care & nursing, and education, among others. National University is accredited and ranked by major publications like U.S. News and World Report. Their current rankings include #95 – #124 in the list of best regional universities in the West.
#19 – Oregon State University
Undergraduate Tuition: $11,858
Oregon State University offers affordable online certificate programs in seven different areas of discipline. Students may earn an undergraduate certificate in cybersecurity, food in culture & social justice, geographic information science (GIScience), medical humanities, organic farming systems, women, gender, & sexuality studies, and urban agriculture. Some certificate programs have prerequisites that must be met before enrolling. Anyone enrolled in an OSU bachelor’s degree program can enroll in an online undergraduate certificate program. OSU is accredited and also ranked with major publications like U.S. News and World Report. OSU’s rankings include #153 in best national universities, #133 in best value schools, and #108 in best colleges for veterans.
#18 – Ohio State University
Undergraduate Tuition: $11,518
The accredited online certificate programs at Ohio State University include areas of study like arts & sciences, education, nursing, and public affairs. Open to undergraduate students and those seeking online undergraduate certificates, the school offers unique programs designed to help leverage employability. Students gain valuable skills in niche areas that can benefit their employer. Areas of study include assistive & rehabilitative technology, core practices in world language education, criminal justice administration, healthcare environmental & hospitality services, and public management, to name a few. Ohio State ranks with U.S. News and World Report as the 53rd best national university.
#17 – Arizona State University
Undergraduate Tuition: $11,338
Arizona State University’s certificate programs online are designed for undergraduates seeking additional skills and knowledge that will make them a valuable asset to any employer. Affordable online certificates are available in areas like geographic information science, homeland security, mathematical concepts of engineering, and veterans, society, & service. Programs can be completed in conjunction with a degree program or as a stand-alone certificate. ASU, a fully accredited institution, ranks with U.S. News and World Report as #103 in the list of best national universities. Other rankings include #68 in best colleges for veterans and #16 in best undergraduate teaching programs.
#16 – Oregon Institute of Technology
Klamath Falls, Oregon
Undergraduate Tuition: $11,269
Some of the best online certificate programs are available at Oregon Institute of Technology. This fully accredited and ranked institution offers certificate programs in clinical and health-related disciplines. Students may earn a certificate in clinical sleep health, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), picture archiving & communication systems (PACS), or polysomnographic technology. Oregon Tech ranks with major publications like U.S. News and World Report as the fifth best regional college in the West. Additional rankings include third in the list of best colleges for veterans and 11th in best value schools.
#15 – Indiana University
Undergraduate Tuition: $11,221
Indiana University’s online certificate programs are designed for busy students seeking additional knowledge and skills in a niche discipline. Undergraduate certificates may be completed entirely online in various areas of study. Disciplines include analog audio electronics, applied computer science, applied mathematics, business foundations, cultural heritage tourism, rehabilitation & disability studies, events management, and e-commerce development, to name a few. Certificate requirements range from 12 to 21 credits, depending on the program. Indiana University ranks with major publications like U.S. News and World Report as the 76th best national university and 136th best value school. Also, IU ranks #47 in best colleges for veterans.
#14 – Ashworth College
Undergraduate Tuition: $11,192
Ashworth College’s certificate programs online are affordable and flexible. For many students, the Ashworth undergraduate certificate is a gateway to a college education. Once you finish the certificate requirements, you have the option of transferring credit to an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. Undergraduate certificates are available at Ashworth in areas like accounting, business management, construction management, criminal justice, early childhood education, marketing, paralegal studies, and security management. Credit requirements vary among programs. Ashworth College is fully accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission. Also, the school is authorized by the Georgia Nonpublic Postsecondary Education Commission to offer instruction in career programs and certificates.
#13 – Kent State University
Undergraduate Tuition: $11,009
The many types of undergraduate certificates offered at Kent State University help prepare students for careers in various fields. Undergraduate certificate programs include business analytics, environmental geographic information science, financial management, health informatics, medical billing, online & blended learning, and web-enabled e-learning knowledge management. Kent State is a fully accredited institution, and it is ranked with major publications like U.S. News and World Report. Current rankings include #217 in best national universities, #109 in top public schools, and #174 in top performers on social mobility. Financial aid awards are plentiful and can reduce the cost of earning an undergraduate certificate.
#12 – Purdue University Global
Undergraduate Tuition: $10,167
Purdue University Global offers certificate programs online that are both affordable and flexibly designed. Undergraduate professional certificates provide skills that can be directly applied to your chosen field. Undergraduate certificates include crime scene technician, human services, legal secretary, medical assistant, medical billing & coding, medical office administration, and various IT certificates. Students may earn a certificate in conjunction with a bachelor’s degree or as a stand-alone program. Purdue Global ranks with major publications like U.S. News and World Report as the 114th best global institution. The school has also received numerous subject rankings in the top 20, 50, and 100.
#11 – Eastern Kentucky University
Undergraduate Tuition: $9,876
Eastern Kentucky University offers online certificate programs that are awarded by either the institution or the individual academic department. Depending on the program, certificates may be earned as part of a degree or independently. Available undergraduate certificates include communication studies, communication studies dispute resolution, correctional intervention strategies, early childhood director, game design, global supply chain management, homeland security, industrial fire protection, veterans studies, and more. EKU ranks with major publications like U.S. News and World Report as the 51st regional university in the South. Additional rankings include #32 in best colleges for veterans and #36 in best value schools. EKU is fully accredited.
#10 – Southern New Hampshire University
Manchester, New Hampshire
Undergraduate Tuition: $9,650
Affordable online certificate programs can be found at Southern New Hampshire University. Flexible undergraduate certificates may be completed entirely online with classes taught by SNHU’s expert instructors. Undergraduate certificates are available in niche areas of accounting, human resource management, and introduction to computer programming. Earning an undergraduate certificate can be a quick way to gain documented progress to a higher-level degree. Certificates are also beneficial in showcasing new skills that can be looked favorably upon by employers. SNHU ranks with major publications like U.S. News and World Report as the 75th best regional university in the North and the number one most innovative school.
#9 – University of Arkansas
Undergraduate Tuition: $9,384
Some of the best online certificate programs are available at the University of Arkansas. These undergraduate certificates are designed to equip students for both their degree and career. Certificate programs are available in child advocacy studies, geospatial technologies, and others. The child advocacy studies certificate consists of nine credit hours and can be completed entirely online. All certificate programs at the University of Arkansas are led by nationally recognized faculty and start during any semester. In addition to being accredited, University of Arkansas ranks #160 in best national universities and #163 in best value schools.
#8 – North Carolina State University
Raleigh, North Carolina
Undergraduate Tuition: $9,101
North Carolina State University offers various associate and undergraduate certificates that are designed to equip students with additional skills in their career. Certificates offered include agricultural business management, agricultural leadership, animal nutrition, business essentials, computer programming, crop science, food safety & quality management, general horticulture, microbiology, renewable energy assessment, and soil science, among others. NC State offers one of the largest groups of undergraduate certificates of any school on our list. Also, NC State ranks with U.S. News and World Report as the 80th best national university.
#7 – Colorado State University Global
Undergraduate Tuition: $8,400
Colorado State University Global’s online certificate programs include a number of undergraduate certificates. These certificates are designed to help students improve knowledge in a particular subject area without having to earn a degree. The undergraduate certificate is a stand-alone program that showcases proficiency in a certain subject area. Online undergraduate certificates are available in areas like business administration, computer programming, cybersecurity, data management & analysis, digital marketing, fundraising, information technology operations, marketing, networking, project management, and web application development. The option is available to earn multiple certificates. CSU Global ranks with major publications like U.S. News and World Report and is fully accredited.
#6 – Boise State University
Undergraduate Tuition: $8,068
Boise State University offers some of the best online certificate programs based on both affordability and flexibility. The accredited online certificates are offered to undergraduates in areas of discipline like applied leadership, business, communication management, cyber operations, media content management, public health, and more. Students can focus their studies by gaining knowledge and skills in a particular subject area. Boise State is fully accredited and ranked with major publications like U.S. News and World Report. BSU ranks #298 – #389 in best national universities, #265 in top performers on social mobility, and #154 – #209 in top public schools. The institution was founded in 1932.
#5 – University of Maryland Global Campus
Undergraduate Tuition: $7,560
The online certificate programs offered by the University of Maryland Global Campus are both affordable and flexibly structured. Designed for working or busy students seeking knowledge in a particular subject area, these undergraduate certificates offer the opportunity for a student to study in a discipline without having to earn a degree. Undergraduate certificates are offered in computer networking, Facebook digital marketing, human resource management, management foundations, project management, public safety executive leadership, and Spanish for business & the professions. UMGC is a fully accredited institution that has earned rankings with major publications like U.S. News and World Report. Rankings include #136 – #176 in best regional universities in the North.
#4 – Montana State University
Undergraduate Tuition: $7,371
At Montana State University, students may enroll in online certificate programs designed to equip them with skills and knowledge in a particular subject area. Without having to commit to earning a degree, an undergraduate certificate can showcase skills gained in a discipline. While the school only offers a limited selection of undergraduate certificates, studies in liberal arts and gerontology are available. The gerontology undergraduate certificate requires the completion of 15 credits and focuses on courses dealing with the issues of aging and gerontology. MSU ranks with major publications like U.S. News and World Report. These rankings include #249 in best national universities and #121 in top public schools.
#3 – Thomas Edison State University
Trenton, New Jersey
Undergraduate Tuition: $7,182
With one of the widest selections of online certificate programs, Thomas Edison State University ranks high on our list of affordable undergraduate certificates. Undergrad certificates are offered in areas of discipline like accounting, communications, computer information systems, computer science, electronics, finance, fitness & wellness services, general management, HR management, organizational leadership, and psychology, among others. Undergraduate certificate programs typically require 18 credits; however, requirements vary among programs. Thomas Edison State University is a fully accredited institution that is recognized by major publications like U.S. News and World Report. For instance, the school is recognized as being among the best nursing schools.
#2 – Florida International University
Undergraduate Tuition: $6,565
Florida International University offers some of the best online certificate programs on our list. Not only are there several graduate certificate programs available, there are also a large number of undergraduate certificates available. FIU’s online certificate programs for undergraduates include African & African diaspora studies, Asian studies, conflict dispute resolution, global Black studies, health and fitness marketing, labor studies, leadership studies, national security studies, and women’s & gender studies. In addition to being fully accredited, FIU ranks with major publications like U.S. News and World Report. Current rankings include #187 in best national universities, #117 in best value schools, and #136 in best colleges for veterans.
#1 – University of Florida
Undergraduate Tuition: $6,381
The most affordable and best online certificate programs on our list are offered by the University of Florida, a top-ranked institution. UF’s online certificate programs for undergraduates are available in disciplines like emergency management, EMS management, environmental horticulture management, geology, geomatics, horticultural therapy, landscape pest management, medical entomology, senior fire official, and urban pest management, among others. The credit for some of these certificate programs may be transferrable towards an advanced degree program. The University of Florida ranks with major publications like U.S. News and World Report as the 30th best national university and 116th best value school. UF is fully accredited.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why earn an online certificate?
Both personal and professional reasons can push students to earn an online certificate. Online certificates emphasize an area of interest. Students do not have to commit to enrolling in a degree program, but can explore their studies by taking only a few courses in an area of interest. Below are several benefits of earning an online certificate.
The online certificate programs on our list are chosen for their affordability. Also, online programs offer a unique set of benefits. Since students are not expected to travel or live on-campus, they don’t incur costs associated with room, board, or transportation. Online certificate programs are much more affordable than traditional on-site programs.
In addition to affordability, online certificate programs are flexible. Online learning includes asynchronous classes that make attendance flexible and convenient. Students earning an online certificate often have full-time jobs as well. Also, online students are able to juggle other tasks, such as family responsibilities, while earning a degree or certificate.
Certificate programs allow students to focus their studies on a specific area. They gain marketable skills in an area of their interest.
Shorter completion time
Online certificate programs are shorter than degree programs. Most online certificates can be earned in less than one year, while bachelor’s degree programs take four years to complete.
What are some popular online certificate programs?
If earning a certificate is something you’re considering, a list of popular online certificate programs that are valued by employers is important in your search. Below, we’ve detailed several popular online certificate programs, as well as some certificates with a favorable earnings potential.
Popular online certificate programs
Computer information technology: Popular computer information technology programs include classes to prepare students for a career as a computer support specialist, cybersecurity specialist, data services specialist, information security specialist, or programmer.
Construction trades: The selection of construction trades is vast, but certificate programs can help individuals hone their skills in a specific area. Certificate programs available in the construction industry include building inspection, electrician, and hazardous waste & materials removal, to name a few.
Healthcare: Well-trained healthcare workers are in demand, as the population ages and current healthcare workers reach retirement age. Popular healthcare certificate programs include licensed vocational nurse, medical assistant, and pharmacy tech.
Protective and safety services: Protective and safety services include firefighters, law enforcement, and private security officers. These individuals often have credentials, such as an online certificate in a specialty area. One of the most popular certificates associated with protective services is the homeland security certification.
High-paying certificate programs
Licensed vocational nurse
Wind turbine technician
Are there admission requirements for online certificate programs?
Similar to degree programs, online certificate programs have particular admission requirements for all applicants. The online certificate programs on our list require a minimum of a high school diploma or GED. Additional admission requirements vary by program.
For example, manufacturing and trade certificate programs typically ask only for a high school diploma or its equivalent. However, some computer technology and IT certificate programs require the completion of specific courses (prerequisites) that must be taken in high school. Computer-related online certificate programs may require that certain math courses are taken prior to enrollment. If you’re unsure which courses may be required, reach out to the program you are interested in to discuss prerequisites. Most programs inform applicants of the prerequisites on their website.
Accredited colleges and universities offering online certificate programs will require the submission of transcripts from each school attended, such as high school or postsecondary schools. Transcripts may need to be mailed directly from the school to the college or university you are applying to.
If you are seeking financial assistance for your online certificate program, you must complete the FAFSA to determine your financial aid eligibility. Also, it is important to remember that federal funds are only awarded through accredited institutions.
Are certificate programs online worth it?
There are several benefits offered by online certificate programs. One of the most significant benefits is that the time it takes to complete a certificate program is less than that required to get a degree. In fact, most online certificate programs can be completed in less than a year. However, certificate programs online are only worth it if you attend an accredited school.
Attending an accredited institution for your online certificate can impact financial aid eligibility, future employment, and transfer credits. Accredited programs like the ones on our list allow you to obtain financial aid to help pay for the certificate, as federal funds are only issued to accredited institutions and programs. As long as you are sure to choose an accredited online certificate program, you will be eligible for financial aid.
In addition to financial aid eligibility, choosing an accredited online certificate program can offer focused learning and valuable skills. Employers value both the accreditation and the marketable skills gained in an area of interest. Certificate programs allow students to gain specific skills required in a job or industry. Upon graduation from one of these programs, students possess valuable training and marketable skills in a specific area.
Does accreditation matter when it comes to online certificate programs?
As with any college program, accreditation matters. Employers value accredited programs, whether they are degrees or certificates. Accreditation from a reputable governing agency means the school or program has met the principles and standards set forth by the governing body.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) classifies a certificate as a non-degree, postsecondary award. A certificate does not mean certification, which is often awarded by a certifying body or professional organization. A certificate is award by the institution or by a department within the institution. The certificate is awarded upon completion of the requirements stipulated by the school or program.
So, why does accreditation matter?
When you graduate from an online certificate program and pursue employment, potential employers consider the school you attended. They often ask if you’ve attended an accredited institution. If your certificate was earned from a school or program with a questionable reputation, or questionable accreditation, you may not be considered a good job candidate.
Another important factor to consider when choosing an online certificate program is whether you plan to transfer credit. If you plan, at any time in your academic career, to transfer credit earned toward a degree, your program must be accredited from a reputable governing agency. No institution will take transfer credits from an unaccredited college or university.
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