Do you want to advance your career but don’t have time or the resources to go back to school full time? An online certificate program may be the perfect solution for you. These programs offer a variety of courses that can help you improve your skills and knowledge in a specific area.
Online certificate programs are typically much more affordable than traditional degree programs, and they can be completed at your convenience.
However, if you want to get the most out of an online certificate program, there are a few things you need to keep in mind. In this post, we’ll discuss 5 tips to help you choose a program that best meets your needs.
1. Do Your Research to Find a Program That Meets Your Needs and Interests
Most importantly, find a credible certificate program. It appears everyone has an online course or certificate these days and not all programs are high quality or from a trusted source. We’ve been doing online education for over 20 years as an accredited university and offer more than 500 online courses to meet the needs of students across the world.
For an online course or certificate program, there are no on-campus or face-to-face meetings. You generally do not need to log into the class on a specific day or at a specific time each week. However, there are assignments and other activities with due dates, including regular participation and contribution on the discussion boards. And depending on the program, weekly live sessions are an option for students to interact with one another, the professor, or attend a presentation from a guest speaker. These live sessions are usually recorded, providing students the opportunity watch it when they have time.
At UVM, you can expect to spend 5-20 hours a week on course-related readings, assignments, and discussions, depending on the type of course or certificate program you choose.
Examples of popular online certificate programs include:
- Artisan Cheese
- Business of Craft Beer
- Cannabis Plant Biology
- Cannabis Science & Medicine
- Complex Systems and Data Science
- Computer Software
- Data Analytics
- Digital Marketing
- End-of-Life Doula
- Global and Environmental Health
- Integrative Health & Wellness Coaching
- Leadership and Management
- Project Management
- Web Development
Regardless of what you choose, you’ll find certificates designed so you can learn on your schedule. That means short, digestible topics, extensive access to instructors and materials, and lots of options for discussion and support.
2. Decide How You Will Use the Certificate to Improve Your Career or Education Prospects
Online certificate programs are often directly connected to achieving a new career opportunity. Identify the job or learning path you’d like to go after once you have your certificate. Many certificate programs help students stand out in job interviews with capstone projects and case studies that demonstrate how they can apply their skills in real-world applications. For example, the UVM Business of Craft Beer Certificate includes a capstone project to create a business plan or a product launch plan with support from craft beer industry leaders.
Some certificate programs also include free career coaching. Through one-on-one sessions, career coaches guide you through a strategy to land your dream job.
3. Stay Motivated Throughout the Program by Setting Goals and Tracking your Progress
Set goals to hold yourself accountable. Example goals might look like this:
By [date] I will be enrolled in an online certificate program to pursue my passion for [industry or education goal]. I will stay up to date on assignments by setting aside X hours per week on my calendar to do coursework. I will post at least [number] times a week on the discussion board to stay engaged.
Plan and track your progress. Be sure to:
- Add all due dates and important course-related dates into your calendar
- Know the day of the week when a new module begins and log in that day to identify your assignments for the week.
- Set aside time in your daily schedule to do course work, assignments and/or participate in online discussions.
- Reach out to your instructor for help as soon as you need it.
- Stay on top of your coursework. It is hard to catch up.
4. Connect with Other Students and Instructors for Support and Advice
Be sure you choose a certificate program that allows you to form connections. You’ll get a lot more out of it when you can network with others. At UVM, our online certificates include discussion forums and other ways to interact including group projects.
Even after your course or certificate program is finished, we have ways to help you maintain the connections you’ve built, while also helping you to forge new ones. Some of our programs offer social media opportunities to connect, while others have online community sites that welcome new members constantly. You’ll also have access to your course materials for 12 months after you finish the course, which gives you ample opportunity to revisit and reconnect as you move forward.
5. Celebrate Your Accomplishments Along the Way!
Studies show when you celebrate your accomplishments it triggers a response in your brain that leads to increased confidence and motivation.
When you sign up for your first course, that’s reason enough to celebrate! Reward yourself for taking the first step in achieving your goals and advancing your career.