If you're looking to boost your income and career prospects, earning a professional certification could be a good move. There is a wide variety of online certifications, and some you can earn in just a few hours.
Certifications can range from free, unaccredited courses you take at your own pace to graduate-level, graded certificates. They differ from professional licenses, which are typically renewable credentials required by a governing body.
Earning a professional certification may provide just the edge you need to move up in a job or land a new opportunity.
How Much Do Certifications Cost?
Some certification programs provide certifications for free online, while others charge a set tuition or monthly subscription fee, such as online course provider Coursera.
When considering whether to pay for a certificate, it's important to investigate and see if the program is industry-recognized and from a legitimate institution such as a well-known business or university.
Also find out whether your employer might pay the cost for your certification. If you're seeking a certification to explore a new career path, that may not be an option, but if you're looking to improve your skills in order to move up at your company, your employer may be willing to foot the bill.
Part of choosing the right certification is picking ones valued in your field. Speak to your employer (or one you'd like to work for) or people in your desired position to learn the skills needed as you explore positions or entirely new fields.
7 Common Online Certifications
Investing time and money in a certification program doesn't guarantee an immediate boost in income—but it can lay the groundwork for advancement in your field or a new career path. Here are seven common online courses designed to do just that.
1. Google Project Management: Professional Certificate
Over those six months, students take six courses that range from "Foundations of Project Management" to a practical capstone project that helps them build a portfolio. By logging about 10 hours a week to view video lessons, complete assessments and participate in hands-on activities, students can earn their certificate in project management and be ready to apply for project management jobs.
Coursera memberships start at $39 per month. Students finishing the Google project management certificate in around six months will pay under $300.
2. FreeCodeCamp Responsive Web Design Certificate
Have you always wanted to learn to code? Put yourself through free courses to earn completely free certificates from FreeCodeCamp, including its Responsive Web Design Certificate.
Spend 300 hours tackling the HTML and CSS programming languages. Composed of seven courses broken down into individual lessons, students work at their own pace to master coding techniques.
You'll complete five projects for the certificate, arming you with a valuable multi-project portfolio once you complete the Responsive Web Design Certificate.
3. HubSpot Academy Social Media Marketing Certification
Even if you don't plan to use HubSpot's marketing and customer relationship management platform anytime soon, you can still benefit from its HubSpot Academy, an extensive series of free courses and certifications that includes the Social Media Marketing certification.
Get an expert overview of best practices for social media marketing through the video lessons and knowledge check quizzes in the course. At the end, pass an assessment with practical exercises. You'll then earn your certification, which can be easily integrated into platforms such as LinkedIn.
4. Salesforce Trailhead: Salesforce Administrator
Dive into the Salesforce Trailhead certification platform, where you can earn credentials such as a Salesforce Administrator certification. This certification gets you familiar with configuring elements of the Salesforce platform and prepares you for advancement if you're already using Salesforce in your role.
An administrator certification takes around 70 hours to earn, meaning you can expand your understanding of Salesforce in a month's worth of evenings.
You can get started for free on Trailhead, and then pay $200 to take the certification exam.
5. Google Analytics Individual Qualification
Does your role expect you to be familiar with Google Analytics? The Google Analytics Academy hosts free courses, starting with "Google Analytics for Beginners" to bring new users up to speed on these highly popular measurement tools and prepare them for the Google Analytics Individual Qualification.
After studying via the free academy courses, you can sit for the free one-hour Google Analytics Individual Qualification Exam. This tests your familiarity with best practices for digital analytics and provides a downloadable certificate.
6. eMarketing Institute Blogging Certification
Aspiring bloggers may find just the instruction they need to get started by completing the eMarketing Institute's free Blogging Certification.
You'll start off by downloading a free book, "Blogging for Beginners." This is yours to keep and also provides the bulk of the course materials. After reading through the book, you can view sample questions to help prep you for the exam. When it's time to take the free exam, you have an hour to answer 50 multiple-choice questions. For those who pass, certificates are available for download for free.
7. Meta Blueprint: Community Management Certification
If you find yourself spending lots of time on Facebook, why not channel some of that time into Meta Blueprint's Facebook career program? It offers a certification in Community Management to educate those who want to grow online communities.
For those looking for a career in moderation, the free Community Management Content Library offers materials so you can work through the self-paced study guide, practice test and online course content all for free. Then you can register for the exam, pay and earn your certification.
Pricing varies depending on home country, but exams cost up to $150.