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Are Online Certificates Worth It? Pros and Cons of Getting an Online Certificate

A desk with an open laptop, pen, paper, and coffe cup.

Life is busy and finding time to work on professional development or receive formal education can feel hard to impossible. However, more options for continuing education exist than ever before, thanks to the introduction of online courses and certifications.

Online certificate programs have seen increased enrollment, and rightfully so. There are many benefits to earning an online certificate, from convenience and ease to affordability and variety. With that being said, online certificates are not for everyone.

In this article, we’ll help you understand:

  • How online certificates work

  • The difference between certificates and degrees

  • How to pick the best certificate for your career path

Read on to explore the pros and cons of seeking an online certificate.

What is an Online Certificate?

Online certificates are awarded after completing an online course and are great ways to upskill yourself and improve your resume.

Online courses can be found for just about any career path you can think of. There are certificates from software development, to business management, to cosmetology and beyond.

Online education is more accessible and inexpensive than ever before. The amount of online courses means that no matter your career aspirations, there is likely a course you would benefit from.

You don’t have to go to college to receive certifications. Online certifications are offered by organizations across the internet.

Who Benefits From an Online Certificate?

Anyone can benefit from getting an online certification, but it might be different for each person depending on career path, and level of experience.

Working a 9-5, and attending classes in person is not easy, but online courses can be taken anywhere with a computer. An online certification will benefit you more if you are:

  • A busy professional

  • Exploring a new industry

  • A full-time student

  • Seeking a promotion at work

  • Seeking a career change

  • Looking to add a new skill to your resume

Getting a certification online is a great option for those who already have full-time careers. The more certifications you have, the more skills you have, the better your resume looks, and the more desirable you’ll be for hiring managers.

It doesn’t matter if you are a college freshman straight out of high school, or middle-aged and want to obtain a new skill to get into a different career field. Online courses and certifications can be helpful.

Related Article: The Value of Micro-Credentials

A woman wearing headphones and taking notes in front of a computer.

Online Certificate vs Degree

Online degrees and certifications share a method of delivery but are very different. A degree program takes a lot longer to accomplish and more often than not, has a heavier workload. Online certificates take less time and often include less content.

A lot of the time, people who already have bachelor's or master's degrees will get an online certification for something they need or want for their career. Sometimes, a certificate is a requirement for a certain career.

However, it is possible to use online learning opportunities to equip yourself for a career without needing a bachelor’s degree. A great example of this is how computer science boot camps equip students for a career in computer science.

REDC Quest Grant - a Unique Free Learning Opportunity for Arizona Job Seekers

The Regional Economic Development Center (REDC) at Yavapai College is happy to assist people who are seeking continued education with the Quest Grant. The Quest Grant finds free programs for people in Yavapai County with a wide range of certificates for diverse career paths. The REDC can help professionals grow their career for free with the Quest Grant. Apply today to get started.

Pros and Cons of an Online Certificate

Online certificates are wonderful for specific careers and additional career resources, but there are some instances where someone is better off following a degree program, or even getting a certification through an in-person program.

Before committing to an online certification course, it is essential to know the pros and cons. It is important to remember that everyone learns better at their own pace, and has their learning preferences. So it is important to discern whether or not getting a certification on a computer is the better option,

List of the pros and cons of online certificates.

Pros of an Online Certification

It may come as no surprise that there are a lot of pros to getting an online certification. This is because online courses were made to be convenient and approachable.


One of the best things about online certification programs is they are relatively cheap. Aside from what you would be learning, one of the biggest factors that goes into choosing an e-course over an in-person program is the cost.

For most, pursuing online certifications is more feasible than paying for a 4-year or in-person program. You’ll also be saving money on additional expenses like transportation, housing, and in some cases course materials.

As you plan to pursue online education, it is nice to know that you can get the same standard of education you would get from attending in person.


Another benefit of online certificates is they are very easy to obtain even while working a full-time job.

Before online certifications, you’d have to attend courses throughout the week. Needless to say, this isn’t easy for a working adult. Online certifications eliminate these problems.

It is wonderful and convenient that you can access that same certification with the same value, just by logging onto your computer and going at your own pace — anytime, anywhere.


The third big advantage that online certifications have over in-person ones is accessibility. For most certifications, you only need your computer.

In-person certification programs require specific class hours and materials to attend the course. Online certificate programs don’t usually require specific material so you can use whatever you have on hand or whatever works best for you.

Cons of an Online Certification

There are a couple of reasons you would benefit from an in-person program rather than online. For most manual labor careers, an online certification might not be the most ideal choice because those jobs require physical work that often requires in-person training.

Even some of the downsides of online courses could be considered benefits by some people.

Less Human Interaction

The first and biggest con of attending online courses is the lack of human interaction. Some people function better when they can talk to the instructor face-to-face, and interact with classmates in real life.

Sometimes, people feel isolated during online programs. It is more difficult to get insight from other people while taking online courses. If someone is not used to learning online but learns better in person, then online courses won’t be the best idea.

Not Always Necessary

Sometimes, a hiring manager would rather you have the experience or a degree to get a certain job. If you already qualify for the job and have all of the credentials you need, you may not need to get a certificate.

If you’re experienced in your field then many online certifications may be redundant. Finding courses that match your level of expertise may be difficult. However, here at the REDC, we offer several courses for experienced individuals, including multiple courses preparing you for leadership.

A certificate may not be necessary depending on your situation.

They Aren’t Created Equal

It’s important for anyone considering online certification to know that not all certificates are created equal. For example, a certification from a well-known university is often seen as more valuable than one from a company without credentials.

The same is true for different career paths. For example, an online certification is typically better for graphic designers or software developers, rather than a welder or a construction worker. Consider your career path and think about if you would benefit more from in-person instruction.

You have to read the career field and decide whether or not an online certification is good for that career path or not.

Require More Self-Discipline

Another con of attending online programs is that it requires more self-discipline.

Most online courses are self-led, which could be a benefit for some people, but if you struggle with staying on task and self-discipline, then it might not be for you.

Because you are the only person keeping you accountable, you have to make sure you set deadlines and implement the best learning techniques for yourself.

Online Certificates and Grants at REDC

The REDC at Yavapai College helps students find online courses to get the certificates that can benefit their business, or career path. Check out our career resources to see what the REDC has to offer.

Home LinkThe REDC is a Division of Yavapai College.Go to yc.edu

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