As many people now look online to learn new skills or achieve certifications, questions about the legitimacy of these institutions often arise.
If you’re studying an online course and have been promised certification, it’s important to know whether it will count for anything when you’re done.
Are online course certificates legit? The legitimacy of an online course (see also ‘What Is An Online Course?‘) and its certification will depend on the course provider and its content.
Before you enroll in a course, do your research on the educational institution to see if it’s recognized and respected by others in the industry.
While it’s admirable to expand your knowledge and study new areas, spending money and time on an online course (see also our article on Ed2Go) that ends up being illegitimate is a waste.
This quick guide can help you determine what’s acceptable and whether a potential employer will count your online course (see also ‘Are Online Courses Worth It?‘) as being worthy.
What is an Online Certification?
Any time you undertake some form of study, whether it’s a short course or a university degree, you usually receive a confirmation of completion, like a certificate or a degree.
Online certification is the type given to someone who has completed their studies online, and it can be used as a form of proof that you’ve successfully done so.
An online certification is a credential earned from completing some form of virtual academic learning. 5
Although they’re not as legitimate as a degree from a prestigious university, they can still be used to prove to employers and other learning institutions that the person with the certification has learned specific skills.
The issues with online certification surround the lack of regulation when delivering certificates, as seemingly anyone can create a certificate and give it out to others.
Although it can be more affordable and practical for professionals to complete these studies and courses online, they might not always be recognized in the way that you hope.
Do Employers Accept Online Course Certificates?
There was once a time when online courses were frowned upon as a lesser-than education, but with the world of e-learning growing larger and online education becoming prominent, that’s no longer the case.
However, with this growing market of e-learning, the number of educational providers delivering subpar course content has grown as well.
There are two types of certifications you can receive after completing a course or studies: accredited and unaccredited.
An accredited course will be immediately recognized by employers and other learning institutions, and if possible, these are the best approach for e-learning.
Although you might assume that only accredited courses are worth anything, many trusted institutions offer unaccredited studies that might be recognized by employers as well.
Furthermore, some course providers offer both accredited and unaccredited studies, so it’s not a one size fits all label.
If you’re unsure about whether a course you want to study will be recognized, speak directly to the employer or educational institution you plan on using the certification for.
There’s a chance that they’ll have specifications on what they deem suitable and may even have a list of course providers that they accept.
The Most Trustworthy Certifications
There are many trusted learning institutions that deliver online course content, including universities and colleges.
These are considered the most trustworthy and would be instantly recognized by an employer or someone reading through your resume. However, other unaccredited providers might also be recognized, so consider them for your next online course.
- Udemy: Udemy has 65,000 courses in all kinds of areas and may be recognized by employers because of its popularity, but none of them are currently accredited.
- Coursera: Coursera offers both accredited and unaccredited courses with over 2,000 to choose from, and is backed by some of the most prestigious learning facilities.
- SkillShare: With over 19,000 courses to choose from and millions of students, SkillShare is seen as one of the biggest providers of unaccredited and trusted online certification.
Is Online Certification Right For You?
The online approach is a practical, affordable, and efficient way to learn skills and information about specific areas, but it might always be the right one. Consider these questions before you sign up for online studies in the hopes of getting certification:
- Do you need a recognized certification? You might simply want to upskill for your own benefit and don’t need a recognized certification at the end of it. as long as you’re choosing a reputable course provider, this can save you a lot of money.
- How much money do you want to spend? Some courses are free and others charge, so think about your budget and whether it will cover the online education you want.
- What is their reputation? A quick Google search of the course provider will tell you everything you need to know about them. Look for legitimate reviews and real people who have studied with them before to get the insider scoop. Ask potential employers if they consider certification from this specific provider.
- What is the time commitment expected? Some courses are self-paced and others follow a strict timeline. The course you choose must meet your time requirements and give you the flexibility needed to complete it.
- What modules and topics are covered? Take a look at the detailed course offering to see what subjects will be covered and in how much depth. Some courses aren’t as comprehensive as they look at first glance.
Choosing Quality Online Courses
The legitimacy of an online course can depend on who you’re asking, as it’s up to employers and educational institutes to determine what they’ll accept.
Before signing up for an online course, check its accreditation and certification processes to see if it seems above board.