University Headquarters (HQ) is an industry-leading, independent educational organization that provides independent college rankings using a proprietary formula to create first class unbiased rankings. The team at University HQ strives to provide accurate and trustworthy rankings that highlights the best certifications for each industry.

Compare Popular Online Certification Programs

How Certifications Can Help You Get Ahead

Certifications are a terrific way for professionals to get ahead in their career. They also help workers take their careers in new directions within the same general field. Holders also benefit from higher salaries and gratifying promotions. This is because a certificate proves that you have worked hard to learn new skills or information that informs your work.

Certifications also pay dividends the longer they are held. Many certification programs require that professionals keep their credentials up to date with ongoing learning, referred to as continuing education units (CEUs). Thus, when a professional can boast of holding a certificate for, say, five years, their fellows and employers will understand that they have not been static that whole time. The certificate is a testament to ongoing professional growth and development in the area the certificate covers. Such growth is not only personally gratifying, but it often results in rewards in the form of bonuses, raises, and new, exciting projects.

This page is dedicated to the various sorts of certificates that professionals can earn, why they earn them, and the benefits thereof.

Why Learn with a Certification Program?


Develop Skills

Develop new skill-sets about a career you are interested in with a current curriculum to help you succeed.


Get Specialized Training

Further your education and training in a field you are currently in and impress potential employers.


Maintain Relevance

Make yourself stand out, certifications can help you stay up-to-date and relevant in your current field.


Cost Efficient

Certifications are a cost-efficient way to start a new career or advance your current education without traditional degree costs.

What is a Certificate Program?

Typically, a professional certificate program is a series of courses or other educational materials that lead to an examination. Upon passage of that exam, students receive a certificate that serves as proof that they have successfully completed the program. These programs are often run through professional associations rather than colleges or universities and thus do not associate with academic credit.

Once a professional has completed a certificate program, the work is not over. Most certificate programs require that professionals maintain their credentials by logging a set number of hours in continuing education during a certificate period. For example, a typical requirement to maintain a certificate is 40 hours of CEUs in a two-year period. Thus, the longer one holds a certificate, the more employers and others will recognize their dedication to professional growth and development that entails.

There are similar sorts of requirements for professional licenses. While certificates don't carry the same sort of weight as licenses, the holders of these licenses are often bound by similar rules. To maintain a certificate, holders often are required to adhere to certain ethical standards for professional conduct.

Certificates may also be a requirement for certain jobs. Some employers will want to see one or more certificates that attest to competence and professional standards before they hire an employee. A certificate can also be helpful when a person applies to a master's degree program. These sorts of standards tend to vary depending on one's job sector, industry, and other factors.

It should also be noted that many professional schools and academic institutions also offer certificate programs. Often a professional school certificate is earned after one year or less and correlates with a specific job type. Colleges and universities also offer both undergraduate and graduate certificates. When a person earns a certificate from a college or university, they typically don't have to maintain the credential with CEUs and they can use the credits later on if they desire a full degree.

Accounting Certifications

Accounting is a field rife with certificate opportunities. Bookkeepers and accountants, starting with those holding an associate degree, can earn certificates that will help them land great jobs, earn promotions, and take home top salaries for their job description. One of the top certificates is that of the certified public accountant.

CPAs generally must have a college degree and even more credits beyond their undergraduate requirements in order to take the AICPA examination. The exam is comprised of four sub-tests, all of which must be passed in order to earn the title CPA. While the exam is required for state licensure, many are satisfied to hold only the certificate, which is still held in high esteem in the business community. In fact, state licensure is primarily used for the purposes of filing tax returns.

Accounting students and professionals should note that the AICPA also offers many other accounting certifications in areas such as management accounting, financial forensics, entity and intangible valuations, and financial specialist, among many others.

Business Certifications

Depending on one's area of specialty, a certificate can help one's business career. There are certificates available for those who specialize in logistics, information technology, and more. There are also industry specific certificates that give professionals the credentials they need to thrive. For instance, real estate agents and brokers have a wide range of certificate options that they can add to their licenses.

Other business professionals, such as supply chain managers and logisticians, can earn certificates that attest to their expertise. These credentials are a great help when professionals want to stand out from the pack and further bolster their academic degrees and professional experience.

While many of these business certificates are not required by law, they may be a prerequisite that an employer can expect for new hires. For instance, when hiring an IT manager, an employer may want to see proof of expertise in certain programming languages, database technologies, and networking solutions.

Cybersecurity / Computer Science Certifications

Computer science is one field that still doesn't necessarily require a college degree. In fact, there are many top computer science experts who are self-taught and still attain top positions in the NSA and corporations worldwide. However, even those computer science experts who hold a degree may desire a certificate in order to reach the next rung on the ladder of success.

For instance, there are innumerable certificates that will attest to proficiency in computer programming languages. Many of these certificates are available from very affordable outlets online. There are also academic certificates available for those who think they may wish to return to college later on. With that in mind, there are non-credit certificate programs available from colleges and universities in addition to those that come with credit. Note that college credits can be rather expensive, but they retain their value over time.

Though these credentials are not required by every employer and there may be other ways to impress a hiring manager with skills, computer science professionals with certifications from reputable outlets will have an easier time landing an interview and then a job.

Many cybersecurity certifications are highly sought after credentials that are conferred by non-academic, though reputable and accredited, outlets, such as CompTIA or

Counseling Certifications

Counseling is a career that is highly regulated by every state. Counselors typically have to complete a master's degree, complete a period of closely supervised work, and even pass examinations before they can work as independent counselors. Even so, there are a variety of certifications for counselors that can be achieved which will only enhance their work. For instance, special training that leads to a certificate in family and marriage counseling can help attract that sort of clientele. There are also certificates for adolescent and child therapy, among others.

Find Online Certification Schools

Even those without a master's degree can earn a certificate on the way to becoming licensed addiction counselors. They may not yet be able to conduct one-on-one therapy sessions, but they can work in rehabilitation centers and help the clients overcome their difficulties. There are also counselors who are certified for other fields such as career counseling, school counseling, or church-based counseling.

Criminal Justice / Legal Certifications

Certificates in the criminal justice or legal field can be very handy when it comes time to earn a promotion or a raise. Those in criminal justice may desire a shift into private industry. These professionals might look for a certificate as a private investigator which can lead to licensure and a whole new, independent career. There are also a variety of certificates available for those in the legal field.

One such certificate is for paralegals. While this career is one that does not require any specific degree or credential, it is very helpful to complete a certificate program. Not only is it important to complete a program through a community college or some other academic institution, credentials from a professional association such as the NALA, the paralegal association.

NALA offers certificates for paralegals and advanced paralegals. While the CP credential will help a legal professional gain entry to the field, credentials as an advanced paralegal will help take their career to the next level. Paralegals might also become certified as private investigators, according to the needs of their law firm.

Education Certifications

Educators as a whole need to attain not only degrees but also state licenses to teach at the primary and secondary levels, at least in public systems. These credentials are earned by completing undergraduate degrees for their elementary grade level or secondary subject area. However, once a teacher has earned their state licensure they can return to school and earn certifications in other education areas. For instance, some high school teachers wish to work with special education students, thus they will complete the necessary coursework and then pass the requisite PRAXIS (or equivalent) exam to earn the new certificate.

At the post-secondary level, college instructors typically don't need to earn any more credentials than their academic degrees. However, some fields may reward instructors who add certificates to their resumes. For instance, a computer science instructor who earns new credentials in a new programming language may be able to start teaching that language based on their graduate degree and the certificate.

Healthcare Certifications

When we think of healthcare certificates, we usually are thinking of nurses, medical technicians, and medical providers, including physician assistants. However, there are also certificates for those in healthcare administration. One key area of certification is in technology. Healthcare informatics, for instance, is a growing field and a certificate that reflects that specific training will help set any IT professional apart as a specialist in healthcare systems. Healthcare informatics experts can receive certifications from the AMIA.

Allied health professionals should also seek out certificates to qualify for licensure or to simply land a job interview. Medical assistants, pharmacy technicians, and the full range of radiology technicians can earn these credentials and either launch a career or achieve their next goal. There are also certificates available that licensed healthcare professionals can add to their resumes in order to work in a new field or to add new skills to their existing workload. For instance, a medical assistant who becomes certified as a phlebotomist might open up new opportunities.

Project Management Certifications

Project managers can boost their credentials with a certificate in their specialty area. There are a number of certifications that professional project managers can earn to bolster their credentials. The path to attaining these certificates involves continuing education units which help to inform every project manager's leadership qualities, organizational abilities, and technical acumen.

These credentials come from a variety of professional associations for project managers. Thus, members in these organizations may take the classes and examinations for a reduced rate, depending on the terms of their membership. Plus, these associations provide benefits such as conferences, webinars, publications, and career building tools for their members. On top of that, association membership provides many fellowship and networking opportunities that help make the career less of a job and more of a fulfilling lifestyle. Project managers should seek out certificates and associations that match their career path, whether that be in software development, consulting, or information security, to name a few.

Psychology Certifications

Psychology is a very broad and deep field. A such, there are a wide variety of certificates available for those who make their career from trying to understand human behaviors. For those who pursue psychotherapy as a career, there are psychology certifications that attest to expertise in, say, Jungian psychotherapy. There are also certificates available for those who wish to specialize in psychological testing (psychometrics) or various forms of therapy, such as marriage counseling.

Since counselors must continue learning in order to maintain their licenses, they often pursue new credentials such as specialty areas like happiness studies, persuasion, or well-being. They can also pursue their spiritual background and sublimate that into their counseling practice. There are certificates that help counselors integrate Buddhist, Christian, or Hindu principles into the therapeutic space. Therapists might also learn enough about art or music therapy to warrant new credentials. While they may not be required to have these certificates in order to implement the learning in their practice, the sense of completion will give counselors the confidence to provide this to their clients.

Religion Certifications

Pastors, priests, and chaplains often don't need any specific degrees or certificates to work as spiritual guides and counselors. However, certain states want their pastoral counselors to have certificates from reputable schools or agencies before they allow them to practice independent, one-on-one counseling sessions. Individuals also need certificates in order to perform ceremonies, such as weddings. These credentials are often rather easy to obtain and are more a matter of fees and paperwork than added professional development.

However, anyone who wishes to become a minister or pastor should seek out some form of a certificate, if not a degree. Having credentials from a reputable institution will help add credibility as experts in their field. Different religious traditions may have their own systems for approving spiritual leaders. That can involve years of training and apprenticeships, or the equivalent.

Skilled Trade Certifications

Skilled trades such as engineers, electricians, and plumbers often need certifications to work in certain areas. Mechanical engineers, for example, can earn certificates in areas such as project management, amusement operator, six sigma, manufacturing, or energy management. Engineers can receive these credentials through the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) as well as from a college or university.

Search Programs Offering General Majors

Electricians can also earn special credentials that will help them raise their status in their company or independent business. Some achieve certificates in low voltage systems so that they can specialize in the installation of security systems, computer networks, or similar jobs. They can also earn credentials to work on high voltage systems such as municipal transformers or to work as linemen who ensure that power is delivered throughout the grid.

Other trades including auto mechanics, commercial drivers, carpentry, and masons can elevate their careers with a professional certificate.

Benefits of Certification

Certification can have many benefits for those who wish to expand their knowledge and professional skill sets. Certificates can be earned as part of a CEU program that helps professionals maintain their licensure or they can be part of a plan to alter one's career path. Some earn certificates as a consequence of their desire for more knowledge and understanding in their field.

Some professionals may enter their field with a degree or even a license and practice under those credentials for several years. Yet, at a certain point, they may decide to earn a certificate simply as a way to expand their knowledge or to add a new dimension to their work. Many professionals pursue the added credentials without a money or status motivation.

Others must continue learning in order to maintain a professional license. Along the way to satisfying their CEU requirements, many professionals find that they gravitate toward certain topics. Eventually they may even earn a certificate which they can use as a way to expand their practice or even to land a whole new job. Teachers, for example, might choose a number of courses in special education and then discover that they have enough credits to qualify for that certification. They can then pass the required examination and make the transition into a SPED classroom.

Certificates can also be used as a way to simply prove proficiency in certain areas. Computer programmers may even already know a specific language, such as Haskell, but decide to earn a certificate as a way to not only solidify their knowledge for themselves but to add a credential to their resume. Once they can back up their knowledge with a certificate from a reputable institution their clients or employers will have more confidence in their abilities. The credential may also help them negotiate for a higher salary or a promotion to project manager, or some similar position.

Ultimately, any professional can consider earning new certificates. They can enhance a career in many ways. Even if the certificate only provides personal gratification, the effort will be worthwhile. Along the way to the certificate, they may discover new interests or ideas that can result in any sort of outcome. The added learning and accomplishment may help them keep their work fresh and thus stave off any potential burnout or other negative outcomes.

Search All Programs