10 Best Design Thinking Certificate Programs 2021

Although Design Thinking is not a new concept, programs teaching this innovative way of thinking to solve problems have become more prevalent. Design Thinking is not just a mindset to encourage putting users first; it is a practical and actionable methodology, applicable across industries and settings. Design Thinking programs are available as certifications, graduate programs and summer programs to help students learn and implement the Design Thinking process.

This article focuses on Design Thinking certification programs. A Design Thinking certification may set you apart in the job market, ensuring you have the skills and know-how to problem-solve and understand customer needs in innovative ways. This process for innovation includes concept and prototype development that leads to solutions that can be applied across industries. Check out these best Design Thinking certification programs to see if one will help meet your career goals. 

Methodology for Reviewing Best Design Thinking Certificate Programs

A search was made to develop a list of Design Thinking Certification programs that were stand alone programs. The initial pool of Design Thinking Certification programs included 13 certification programs. The programs in this list are varied in completion time and delivery mode. Programs are ranked according to cost. Some programs listed state that their program is graduate level work. Read on to find a Design Thinking certificate program for you. 

  1. IDEO U
  2. Rochester Institute of Technology
  3. University of Virginia
  4. Emeritis
  5. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  6. eCornell
  7. Indiana University
  8. Stanford University
  9. Radford University
  10. Johns Hopkins University
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10. Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD

Executive Certificate in Innovation and Human-Centered Design


Tuition $3800/course ($11,400 for certificate); $3080/course for JHU/JHHS employees ($9,240 for certificate)

Johns Hopkins University offers a number of comprehensive certification programs through the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School, including their Executive Certificate in Innovation and Human-Centered Design. This Design Thinking certification program consists of three 3-day courses.  The program promises students will learn to inspire change and innovation and instill excellence with skills learned. JHU’s Executive Education courses are taught by world renowned expert faculty and are designed to provide insight and teach practical skills to help graduates move to higher levels in leadership, giving them a competitive advantage. If you’re ready to advance your role in leading innovative teams in human-centered problem solving, check out JHU’s website for more information on this robust Design Thinking certification program.  

9. Radford University, Radford, VA

Certificate in Design Thinking


In-State Tuition $8,915

Out-of-State Tuition $17,441

Radford University’s Certificate in Design Thinking is an online program requiring 15 credit hours of graduate level courses. This Design Thinking certification program promises to equip students with the skills and knowledge to strategize, plan, and solve complex problems. The program facilitates mastery of Design Thinking methods, management, teaming, and environment and behavior. Students completing this Certificate may continue their studies and apply credits earned in this program toward the Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree from Radford University if desired. 

8. Stanford University, Stanford, CA

Innovation and Entrepreneur Certificate


Tuition $8,035 (one year access to all 13 classes); $995 (per course)

Stanford’s robust Innovation and Entrepreneur Certificate Program will teach you the Design Thinking skills and strategies to manage innovation across industries, learning by doing from some of Stanford’s best instructors in their field. Students can expect to gain understanding of the tools of innovation, explore the current research on innovation and entrepreneurship, and garner insight into the people served, all while receiving personal feedback and advice from faculty. Participants are taught how to keep learning design thinking skills and how to teach what they learned to others. This certificate in design thinking is intended for professionals and leaders in marketing, sales, finance, project management, engineers, and entrepreneurs. One Continuing Education Unit is available for each course completed. Enrollees should have a bachelor’s degree or equivalent with five years of work experience, a background in management or working in teams, and an innovative spirit. 

7. Indiana University, Indianapolis, IN

Certificate in Design Thinking 


In-State or Out-of-State Tuition $400/credit

This 18-credit graduate level Design Thinking Certification program is offered online through Indiana University’s Herron School of Art and Design, with their $400 per credit tuition the same for in-state and out-of-state students. Applicants are required to submit a resume, a personal statement in 500-750 words of why they want to pursue this certificate, and three examples of professional experience. This program is designed with the working professional and non-design graduate student in mind. Students can expect to expand their skills and learn creative problem solving that can be broadly applied. Opportunities to engage in collaborations across industries and cultures help solidify course information. Graduates of this Design Thinking Certification program can expect to be prepared to drive innovation in their field. 


6. eCornell 

Certificate in Design Thinking


Tuition $3,600 ($650/mo payment plan)

This robust Design Thinking Certificate program is a  six-month 100% online course that students should expect to spend between 3-5 hours working on weekly. This Design Thinking Certification program guides students to master a human-centered approach to designing and improving upon products, systems and experiences. Students work with peers to define a challenge to address and proceed to gather user insights to help develop a solution. Through idea generation and prototype development followed by testing and analysis, students learn to refine their solution using design thinking methodology to generate a viable design solution. 

5. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT),  Cambridge, MA

Mastering Design Thinking Certificate


Tuition $3,300 ( payment plan available)

This online Mastering Design Thinking Certification course can be completed in just three months with 6-8 hours of weekly coursework. The course is designed for those wanting to become skilled in a proven and systematic approach to new product development that puts customer needs at the center of the problem. With 10 modules that include 128 video lectures, three live teaching sessions, three group projects, ten assignments, a Capstone project and seven Real World Applications, graduates of this Mastering Design Thinking Certificate program will have the skills and knowledge to integrate Design Thinking into their work. This certificate is offered through MIT Sloan School of Management, and can count towards the MIT Sloan Executive Certificate. 

4. Emeritus 

Postgraduate Diploma in Innovation and Design Thinking


Tuition $3,000

Emeritus offers a Design Thinking postgraduate diploma in collaboration with MIT Management Executive Education program, Columbia Business School and Dartmouth’s Tuck Executive Education program. This robust online four-module Design Thinking program can be completed in just nine months, requiring four to six hours of study each week. The program is designed for working professionals, welcoming students from around the world wishing to develop innovation and design thinking skills. Participants completing this program will understand the scope of organizational strategy and innovation. With a combination of individual and team assignments and interactive lectures including live sessions, students can expect to graduate with skills needed for a competitive edge in today’s ever changing marketplace. 

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3. University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA

Design Thinking and Innovation Specialization Certificate


Tuition $2,000

University of Virginia’s Darden Executive Education Program offers a Design Thinking and Innovation Specialization Certificate designed to empower top executives to become the creative catalyst when approaching problems. No matter your industry, this Design Thinking Certification training will help you solve the business problems that come your way. Four 5-week project-based courses help students develop skills ranging from the field of human-centered design to solving human centered problems. 

Rochester Institute of Technology

2. Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, NY

RITx Design Thinking MicroMasters program certificate


Tuition $1,495

In RIT’s Design Thinking MicroMasters certification program, students learn to use the design thinking process to collaboratively solve problems creatively and empathetically. This Design Thinking program credential promises to equip students with knowledge and skills needed to solve problems innovatively in today’s workplace. Skills and strategies learned in this program equip students to identify and verify business problems, generate creative and targeted solutions, apply feedback from testing models, and identify solutions to pursue. Students who complete this design thinking certificate are eligible to apply to RIT’s Master of Science in Professional Studies with nine credits towards their degree requirements. The four courses and capstone can be completed in about 36 weeks. Check out their website for more information to see if this design thinking program is for you. 

1. IDEO U 

Foundations in Design Thinking Certificate


Tuition $1198

IDEO U’s online Design Thinking certification program is designed to give students foundational and practical understanding of design thinking skills and an innovative mentality. This online certificate can be completed in two to three months, with most students taking about four hours per week to complete the two cohort courses. Students will gain techniques to better understand their customers, apply methods to turn customer needs into human-centered solutions, use techniques to generate, develop and test new ideas with prototypes, and showcase new skills through projects. 


What is Design Thinking? 

Design Thinking is a process of problem solving that starts with understanding unmet needs of customers. From this understanding emerges the process for innovation that involves concept development and prototyping that leads to a solution. It has been found that when design thinking is applied in business, there is greater success in innovation to solve problems. 

Will getting a certificate in Design Thinking benefit my career?

A  Design Thinking certification can benefit careers across industries. This certification will equip one with skills in innovative problem solving. Design thinking certification can develop the skills that make an employee more valuable in a current role and improve prospects for the future. 

How do I know which program is best for me? 

Check out Design Thinking programs to compare elements such as time to completion, cost, and location/online in order to get started. Design Thinking Certification programs vary greatly, so thoroughly investigate to find a program that suits your aspirations. 

Has design thinking become a sought after skill by employers? 

Employers value people who are skilled problem solvers, creative, think critically and have analytical skills.  These skills help lead companies into a successful and profitable future. Getting a Design Thinking certification helps employees develop these sought after skills, making them more marketable.

Will a certification in Design Thinking give me the competitive edge in the workplace? 

Our rapidly changing world makes having a competitive edge more important than ever. A Design Thinking certification can help you develop the tools necessary to integrate customer needs with technology, inventive thinking, and strategies to enable you to produce goods and services to drive your company into the future. 

I am uncertain if this will benefit me as my company has not been exposed to design thinking and is not innovative. Should I still enroll? 

If you are ambitious to explore design thinking principles and develop innovative solutions and strategies, you would benefit from a Design Thinking certificate program. While your current role and company may not require these skills, the future depends on them.

What kinds of things might I learn in a certificate program in Design Thinking?

Typical skills might include developing strategies to understand customers and determine business challenges, ideation and visualization skills to generate creative solutions to problems, and developing evaluation methods to apply in testing models and prototypes for best solutions are just a few of the skills you would possibly learn.  

Are the concepts discussed in these programs easily implemented across industries and businesses? 

Often courses include steps for implementation, and case studies offer the opportunity to see how companies have been innovative by using design thinking techniques. Tools for idea generation and finding customer needs, experience mapping and other tools could be applied when tasked with improving a product or service in a multitude of scenarios. 

How was design thinking developed?

Design thinking was developed from techniques and processes used by designers that included customer or user understanding and experience. Design thinking is the application of these processes that can be used to address non-product problems, innovating new products and services, implementing a procedure change in a company, as well as determining a new direction for a company. 

Is Design Thinking a skill to include on my resume?

Yes, it is. Recent skills listed in job postings have included things like innovation, creativity, strategic thinking and design thinking. Employers need people with these skills to help lead companies into a profitable and successful future. 

I work with a team. Are there certification programs in Design Thinking that would be applicable for my team? 

There are some programs that can be taught in a group setting. Some certificate programs may even come to your site to teach your team. Check out the programs in this list to find a Design Thinking Certification program for your team.

I am not sure if I should enroll in a Design Thinking Certification program. How can I decide if I should enroll?  

If you’re uncertain about enrolling in a certification program, search the internet for an introduction course or books on Design Thinking to see if it sparks an interest in the subject.  If it does, check out the Design Thinking Certification programs in this article to find one that fits your needs.

By Carol Dolan BS RN BSN CDCES
September 2020

Carol graduated with her BS in Nutrition from Montclair State University and her BSN in Nursing from Rowan University. She is a Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist (CDCES) currently working with adults and children living with diabetes in both outpatient and inpatient settings.


This concludes our coverage of top Design Thinking certificate programs.