free online certificate programs

Free online certificate programs have seen a massive rise in demand during the pandemic. Across the world, professionals have enrolled in various courses to upgrade their knowledge. The focus is to gain knowledge and expertise in their field to make their resumes impressive. Many people have used their spare time that the stay-at-home orders generated to learn something new. Opting for these certifications is a smart way to do so. They are affordable and recognized by the industry. Since they are flexible and self-paced, professionals can study at their own pace as they continue to work. 

Free online certifications help bump up a resume by adding some valuable credentials. They reflect the experience and expertise one has in a field. It also shows the hiring manager that the candidate has gone the extra mile to gain these certifications. It shows the true potential of a future employee. It shows that one hasn’t stopped with a college degree or a GED but has become a lifelong learner. Many notable websites offer free certification courses, all of which are industry-recognized. 

Some of the leading higher education institutions also offer these programs for free. They often collaborate with learning portals to do so. It is an excellent way for students and professionals to get a certificate from universities that lead the global education sector. They add considerable weight to one’s resume and improve career prospects. Renowned academicians and industry experts teach these courses and programs. They offer students a wonderful opportunity to learn from the masters. 

Are you considering free online certifications to give your resume an impressive boost? Then exploring some of the programs listed here is a good idea. 

A few notes about the listings :

  • The online programs listed here are designed for professionals who wish to add some additional qualifications to their resume. 
  • They are flexible and mostly asynchronous, allowing students to study at their own pace as they continue to work. 
  • The programs are simply listed, not ranked in any order.

#25 MIT – Biological Engineering

Massachusetts Institute of Technology offers a series of free online programs through the MIT OpenCourseWare platform. Students who wish to gain advanced knowledge in Biological Engineering can choose from a list of specialized courses. These free courses blend engineering and biology technologies. They explore physical and chemical sciences from both molecular life science and an engineering perspective. They learn to interweave major biological engineering concepts with focus areas that match a student’s area of interest. 

#24 Stanford University  – The Finance of Retirement and Pensions

Stanford Graduate School of Business offers a free online course in The Finance of Retirement and Pensions via NovoEd. Students get comprehensive training in the financial concepts behind various plan investments. They learn the principles of financial economics that support retirement pension fund management. It teaches them to assess economic policy discussions that affect public pensions. They also become more informed decision-makers about their portfolios. 

#23  Harvard University – CS50’s Introduction to Artificial Intelligence with Python

Harvard University ‘s introductory course on AI is among the many free courses offered via its HarvardX platform. Students can choose from a list of programs and learn from an excellent faculty. The demand for expertise in AI and machine learning is growing rapidly. While the course itself is free, they can get a certificate from the prestigious institution by paying a nominal fee. The ‘Introduction to Artificial Intelligence with Python’ class teaches students to apply these new technologies in their work.

 #22  UC Berkeley – Marketing Analytics: Competitive Analysis and Market Segmentation

The University of California, Berkeley offers a course called Marketing Analytics: Competitive Analysis and Market Segmentation. While the course is free, students can get a verified certificate for $249. It teaches them about competitive analysis and market segmentation. Analytics-based marketing skills are in demand. Students learn to segment markets for greater customer satisfaction. They learn to bring about company profitability and predict competitor action. They can apply their knowledge right away and see practical benefits in the workplace. 

#21  Microsoft – Introduction to C++

The experts at Microsoft offer a brief introduction to the C++ language. The course is free, but students have the option to add a verified certificate for $99. It teaches individual programmers to write good programs more efficiently. They create applications that will run on various hardware platforms and programs for small form factor hardware. They also learn to create models such as object-oriented programming and generic programming. 

#20 University of Cincinnati – Innovation and Design Thinking

The Innovation and Design Thinking course offered by the University of Cincinnati is a popular choice among students. It teaches them to harness the power of their ideas and innovate with confidence. They are equipped with various tools, skills, and knowledge that will help in this endeavor. They learn to use a step-by-step process to generate new ideas and act on them. They learn from experts in the field and prepare to become the next generation of entrepreneurs. 

#19 University of Washington- Portfolio Management, Governance, & the PMO

The University of Washington offers a free course on Portfolio Management, Governance, & the PMO. Students have the option to add a verified certificate for $199. It teaches students various governance techniques to monitor projects. They learn about the Project Management Office (PMO) works and how to control the delivery of projects and programs. They explore the different kinds of PMOs and learn how to keep a project portfolio healthy.

#18 University of Notre Dame- Data Science Readiness Assessment

The University of Notre Dame ‘s Data Science Readiness Assessment course is free, with an option to add a verified certificate for $49. It is an excellent choice for students interested in data science but unsure of their programming and math skills. It helps them check how much they know about these subjects fundamental to a career in Data Science. Students can identify their readiness in three core areas of Data Science – Linear Algebra, Calculus, and Programming. Based on this, they can pursue further studies.

#17 University of Texas at Austin – Machine Learning

The University of Texas at Austin offers a free course in Machine Learning. Students have the option to add a verified certificate for $1000. It is an in-demand course that focuses on the fundamental statistical and algorithmic concepts in machine learning. Students explore the various tools and techniques in machine learning. They learn to apply them in various fields like engineering, biology, manufacturing, and computer vision. They do so by using programming examples on different data sets. 

#16  University of Massachusetts Boston-Coasts and Communities

The University of Massachusetts Boston offers a free online course called Coasts and Communities via Open Education by Blackboard. Students explore how human and natural systems interact with each other. They learn to look through the lens of coastal systems and the human communities dependent upon them. It helps them understand how to engage local communities by using natural and social sciences. They can go on to aid in creating sustainable solutions to environmental challenges. 

#15 Johns Hopkins University – Introduction to Genomic Technologies via Coursera. 

Johns Hopkins University offers a free online course via Coursera. It is called Introduction to Genomic Technologies. Students learn the fundamentals of modern genomics’ biology and the experimental tools we use to measure it. The course explores the key concepts in computing and data science and the Central Dogma of Molecular Biology. They gain an understanding of the ways data from next-generation sequencing experiments are generated and analyzed. They learn to use these to measure RNA, DNA, and epigenetic patterns.

#14  University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign-Marketing Management

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign offers free Marketing Management via Coursera. Students learn the major elements of marketing and how to use them to create value for customers. They gain a thorough understanding of buyer behavior and align them with the various processes of marketing. They learn to analyze these processes to add value to all marketing campaigns. Finally, they report their findings via data that is useful to managers. Students can get a certificate after a paid exam. 

#13  New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT)- The Strategic Communicator’s Toolkit 

NJIT ‘s The Strategic Communicator’s Toolkit teaches cutting-edge communication strategies. The free online course is offered via Canvas net. Students learn proven presentation methods and advanced media technologies. The program revolves around the core principles of communication, leadership, simplicity, and feedback. They use their knowledge and skills to build a strong and productive team. The course explores various techniques, principles, and media technologies. 

#12 Oxford Home Study – Leadership & Management Course (International) 

Oxford Home Study ‘s Leadership & Management Course is developed by noted academics and industry experts. Students learn to define leadership from an organizational perspective and become exceptional managers. They learn new skills, build on their existing knowledge, and learn both hard and soft skills. They also learn to examine the differences between management and leadership. Once completed, students will be awarded the OHSC course completion letter that is issued by the College.

#11 University of Michigan – Anatomy: Human Neuroanatomy

The University of Michigan offers a free online course on Anatomy: Human Neuroanatomy. Students have the option to add a verified certificate for $49. They learn about the different parts of the central nervous system and how it all works together. Students understand how sensory information enters the brain and the cranial nerves’ names and functions. The course also touches upon how the brain and spinal cord control the muscles. The program blends lecture videos and quizzes to help expand one’s knowledge of the nervous system.

#10 Udacity – Intro to Data Structures and Algorithms

Udacity ‘s Intro to Data Structures and Algorithms is developed and taught by industry experts. Students are introduced to common data structures and algorithms in Python. By the end of the course, students learn to follow technical interview patterns, which helps them stay ahead of the competition. They will review the frequently-asked questions and phrase appropriate responses. By thoroughly practicing the problems and quizzes, they will be prepared for advanced courses and exams.  

#9 Yale University – Environmental Politics and Law

Yale University ‘s Environmental Politics and Law is a free online course offered by the ‘Open Yale Courses’ platform. Students examine environmental laws through case histories. They explore whether these laws can affect human behavior and lessen ecological damage. Students review the structure of law and check its strengths and weaknesses. Case studies include urban growth and sprawl, land use, environmental effects of national security, pesticides, and air pollution. 

#8 University of Pennsylvania – English for Career Development 

University of Pennsylvania ‘s English for Career Development course is designed for non-native English speakers. It helps them improve their vocabulary and language skills to advance their careers in the global marketplace. It teaches non-native speakers about the job search process in the United States to achieve their professional goals. They learn the strategies for identifying the jobs that match their interests and skills. They also learn to create impressive resumes and develop interview skills. 

LinkedIn offers many free online courses that are highly recognized in the industry. The Marketing for Small Business course teaches students how to run a successful small business with a solid marketing plan. They learn the tips and tricks to market their services or products effectively. Instead of relying on budgets and team size, students learn to plan and optimize resources. They learn about branding, identifying the target market and competition, marketing channels, advertising options, and ways to measure results. 

 #6 Lynda – SEO: Keyword Strategy

Lynda.com offers a series of free online courses in collaboration with various platforms. The SEO: Keyword Strategy course is offered via LinkedIn Learning. Students learn essential marketing skills like formulating a keyword strategy, using keywords, and optimizing a website. The course covers all these, along with the basics of marketing.  Once they gain fundamental knowledge, they will know how to find and analyze the right keywords for different channels. The course covers all the important topics like customer intent, trends, analytics, and how to measure the results.

#5 Columbia University-Financial Engineering and Risk Management Part I

Columbia University ‘s Financial Engineering and Risk Management Part I course offered via Coursera. Students learn to use simple stochastic models to price derivative securities in various asset classes. The program draws from various fields like mathematics, statistics, finance and economics, engineering, and computational methods. They also learn about asset allocation and portfolio optimization. At the end of the course, they consider how some of these assets affect the economy and the financial crisis. 

#4 Alison – Management Skills for Business Professionals

Alison offers a wide range of online courses, free of charge. They are popular and recognized by the industry. The ‘Management Skills for Business Professionals’ teach the essentials of business management in a concise manner. They learn about knowledge management, meeting management, and crisis management. At the end of the course, students are equipped to understand project management basics and apply them to business. The course covers all essential aspects of business, which paves the way for advanced studies. 

#3 Google – Fundamentals of Digital Marketing

Google offers a series of free courses through its own learning portal and other platforms like Coursera. The Fundamentals of digital marketing is accredited by Interactive Advertising Bureau Europe and The Open University. Students master the basics of digital marketing to help their business or career. Created by Google trainers, there are 26 modules to explore. These are packed with real-world examples, practical exercises, and solid theoretical knowledge. They are also prepared to apply this knowledge into action right away. 

#2 Udemy – ‘Learn Amazon Web Services (AWS): The complete introduction’

Udemy has been the source of many free online courses that have helped professionals around the world. The ‘Learn Amazon Web Services (AWS): The complete introduction’ course covers every AWS service. Anyone with a basic IT background will find this course very informative. They learn how AWS fits into the Cloud model along with the basics of cloud computing. The course is updated regularly and is a good fit for anyone who wants to start using Amazon Web Services. 

#1 Skillshare – E-Commerce Essentials: How to Start a Successful Online Business

There are many free online courses from Skillshare that offer excellent training. The ‘E-Commerce Essentials: How to Start a Successful Online Business’ is one such example. It covers all the essentials of starting and running a business in the digital age. Students explore how to identify marketable products and create a service or a store. They can then build a successful marketing strategy to drive traffic and sales. They learn the foundations of business as well as the manageable step-by-step process for long-lasting success.

More about free online certificate programs/courses 

Who should take the online course?

Anyone interested in learning new skills and gaining additional knowledge should opt for these courses. Students can come from diverse backgrounds, age groups, and professions. They join these online courses for a variety of reasons. Some wish to advance their skills which will help them look for a new job. Some want to present the certification to their existing leadership and make a case for promotion. Many students who have started working early in their lives use online courses as the next step in their formal education. Some just love learning and wish to explore new subjects.

There are professional courses that help with one’s wish for life-long learning. There are several undergraduate certificate courses, as well. They help ease the transition before entering a full-time academic program. Whatever be the reason, these online courses offer a flexible way of learning new subjects without disrupting the work-life balance. Students who are organized, independent, motivated, and have good time-management skills typically excel in online courses.

Are these programs or courses?

Most of the free certifications come in the form of courses. They are offered via modules that cover important topics. These topics are selected by academicians and industry experts who have designed the courses. Depending on the nature of the course, these topics can cover the essential aspects of the subject or offer the fundamentals for advanced studies. These are designed in sequential order, and students have to complete one module to go to the next. However, some courses can be taken simultaneously as well. If you are new to online learning, then taking one course at a time is recommended. Most of these courses are offered frequently throughout the year so students can continue at their own pace. They are offered free of charge. Students can choose to pay a nominal fee and get a shareable or a downloadable certificate.

Are there any prerequisites to enrolling for a certificate program or course?

Most learning portals and schools require applicants to have at least a high school or GED diploma. Submission of a transcript from the school where applicants completed their secondary education is enough in most cases. If the courses are technical in nature or technology-based, then they may ask for some foundation courses in math or science. These prerequisites are listed on each website in detail.

How does one select an online certification course or program?

When there are many courses to choose from, the decision may not come easy. The most obvious criteria will be to see if the course is free or not during your research. From there, you can begin shortlisting the courses. Here are some tips that may help you with your search. 

  • Make a list of courses or programs that appeal to you most
  • Divide them into sections that fit with your requirements 
  • Choose from courses that best align with your career path 
  • Also, make sure that they match your skills and interests 
  • Then begin your research 
  • Find out if the program is accredited or industry-recognized?
  • Ask yourself whether you are looking for an entry-level course, an undergraduate-level course, or an advanced certificate
  • Before you make a selection, try and read through everything these courses offer
  • Ask yourself – is this going to help me in my career? Is it worth my time?
  • How much time will you need to invest? Take a look at the syllabus and try to figure out if you would have enough time to complete the course on time
  • Find out the Professional credibility of the program 
  • If you are looking to change your job or get into one, try to figure out if the certification will help you in your job search
  • Try to gauge is the certificate will lead to any salary and growth potential 
  • Will it give you an advantage during the hiring process?
  • Will the course enhance your knowledge and help you establish yourself as a subject matter expert?
  • How does it link to your career path? If you are already in a job, find out how the new technologies or skills you learn help you advance in your role
  • Discuss a variety of certification options with friends, family, and experts in the field 
  • Find out what the requirements to get into the program are?
  • What is the format, and how soon can you graduate? 

Online certification is a great idea for professionals who wish to gain more knowledge without spending too much. They can attend and learn for free but pay a nominal fee for a certificate. The flexibility of the online format makes it easy for professionals to study without leaving their day job. Since the programs are online, one can learn without worrying about geographical constraints.  

Are these courses accredited?

Most certificate courses are not accredited. However, there are many higher education institutes that offer free online certificate courses that have institutional accreditation. Any degree or certificate provided by them is highly respected.

Are these online courses recognized by the industry?

Most of the free online courses are recognized and accepted by the industry. The learning portals or websites that offer them are authority sites. They have established their expertise in online learning. They collaborate with various universities, colleges, and trade organizations to deliver these programs and veteran professors and industry experts develop them. Many short-term courses prepare students to apply for specific licenses and industry certifications. This means that students receive the precise content they need.

How does one receive these certifications?

Once a course is completed, then students can download their completion certificate. Most are available for a nominal fee. When a student enrolls, he or she gets a unique login and ID. There is an achievements or profile section that holds the downloadable certificate. Students can download and save them as a PDF. Some websites offer a shareable certificate as well. This means that students can click on them and showcase them on their own social media pages, like LinkedIn.

How do free online certificate programs work?

The online certificate programs are a series of courses that are offered via modules or sections. They are designed by experts to enhance critical professional skills that are in demand by most fields today. They meet the specific needs of both the industry and the students, thus helping them stand out and succeed at work.

The courses are very practice-oriented, so students can apply what they learn in their work immediately. It leads to a healthy growth path and opens one’s mind to multi-dimensional thinking and performance. These flexible courses can easily be accessed on a computer, tablet, or phone. Students can use their knowledge to drive impact at work as they showcase their key skills.

What methods are used to teach an online course?

The online courses are offered through a specific learning portal. Methods vary by website, course, and instructor. In most cases, these are taught via pre-recorded or asynchronous lectures. Students can log in at their convenience at different times and study at their own pace. This helps them maintain work-life balance as they study. 

Some courses, especially the technical or healthcare ones, may require some synchronous classes. They often have a project where the students collaborate and work. Students can do so via the interactive chat rooms and discussion boards. The institutes use specific software that students are given access to. The lessons include videos, PowerPoint slides, podcasts, interactive chat rooms, reference notes, and blog posts. 

Students will receive a syllabus for the course once they enroll. The lessons follow the syllabus. All students are given a unique login and password. At the end of each lesson, there may be a quiz or small assignments. The criteria for grading also differ by websites, but they are all outlined in the syllabus. Grades are offered right after the quiz is taken. Once the course is complete, students will get their downloadable and shareable certificate. 

How are students supported through the course?

Students should allocate time for questions just as they should for their lessons. Though they learn in a virtual classroom, they need to be proactive when they have questions. They should make appointments with faculty, reach out with questions, and get clarifications. One should also keep in mind that one-two hours of homework is needed each day as well. 

What equipment is needed for these courses?

All online courses require a fast internet connection, a laptop, a tablet, or a PC. They are offered via web-based learning systems like Canvas. Other than this, there are no special software or hardware requirements. Students can interact with their professors via email, video conferences, and phone. They can interact with other students via discussion boards and interactive chat rooms.

How can online courses improve career prospects?

Earning an online certificate, even free ones, shows future employers that the candidate knows current topics provided by a trusted institution and expert teachers. Students can showcase their newly learned skills through a shareable badge or post the Certificate of Completion on online profiles.

What do these online courses teach?

The course content and style of presentation vary between websites and programs. Typically, all certificate programs blend theory, practice, and peer interactions. They are packed with information offering sage guidance for professionals to refer to and apply in their line of work. It prepares students for various fields, equips them with some hands-on training and fundamental knowledge. Students are trained to be creative and adaptable.

What is the value of free online certificates?

There is immense value in certificate programs, even the ones offered for free. Employers these days are looking for workers who can fill the employment and skills gap. These certificates offer the exact technical and skills-based training that they are looking for. Since they face an acute shortage of trained workers, they are happy to recognize and accept employees with certificates. It also shows them the employee has put in the effort to acquire the much-needed skills. 

Free online certificate programs are great for students and professionals who do not have the funds to pay for an expensive program. These courses help them gain fundamental knowledge and launch them into a new field. They can choose from courses depending upon their skills, interests, educational backgrounds, and career goals. Students can choose to pursue advanced level studies once they start earning or growing their roles. 

These online certificate courses are a great attraction for professionals. It helps them add specific skills or upgrade their skills as they continue to work. High school diploma holders or undergrad students often enroll in a certificate course to stack more credentials and improve their job prospects. They have become very popular because they allow people to find jobs faster to begin earning right away. Many employers have entry-level roles that need to be filled by skilled workers. High school diploma holders who have a specialized certificate are a great fit for these roles. 

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