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Online Certificates: Program Options and Requirements

Individuals can pursue online certificate programs for credit or non-credit, professional development or continuing education. Some programs require a degree in a related field prior to enrollment, while others require no more than a high school diploma or GED to enroll.

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The prerequisites and features of online certificate programs are discussed. Certificate mandates at various levels are detailed, including technical requirements. Often times online certificate programs allow students to work at their own pace, making it ideal for working-students looking to continue their education.

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Types of Online Certificates

Individuals interested in online certificate programs can choose from undergraduate, post-baccalaureate, post-master's and post-doctoral certificates. Other online certificate programs are offered as continuing education or professional development units. Topics of study vary widely but can include the following subjects:

  • Organizational psychology
  • Basic engineering
  • Computer forensics
  • Information systems security
  • Hospitality management
  • Nursing
  • Digital arts
  • Human resources

Requirements for enrollment vary, depending on the level of certificate. Some prerequisites are a prior degree or minimum education, work experience, and letters of recommendation.

Undergraduate Certificates

Undergraduate online certificate programs generally require students to have a high school diploma or its equivalent. Some programs may require students to be working professionals in a field related to their chosen area of study. For example, an online certificate program in nursing management may require students to be licensed registered nurses (RNs) prior to enrolling. Undergraduate programs may also require a working knowledge of computers and the Internet. Depending upon the program, credits earned may be applicable toward a bachelor's degree.

Graduate Certificates

Graduate online certificate programs generally require a bachelor's or master's degree prior to enrolling. For example, individuals interested in an online master's certificate program usually need to have a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution. These programs sometimes require students to be working professionals in their field. Many graduate certificate programs require students to maintain a minimum GPA. Some institutions may require applicants to provide college or trade school transcripts and letters of recommendation.

Depending upon the institution, credits earned in a master's or post-master's online certificate program may be applicable towards a master's degree. Online post-doctoral certificate programs give graduates the opportunity to expand upon what they've already learned or focus on a new area of study altogether.

Technical Requirements

Because these certificate programs are completed online, similar technical requirements usually apply. These may include having:

  • The latest operating system
  • A minimum amount of memory
  • Multimedia capabilities
  • Access to software programs such as Adobe Acrobat Reader, Microsoft Office, Adobe Flash Player and RealPlayer

Those seeking an online certificate program should familiarize themselves with the requirements. Undergraduate certificates often necessitate a high school diploma and work experience in some cases, while graduate certificates typically require a bachelor's degree and supplemental documents. Students should also make sure they meet the technical specifications.

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