The 10 Most Lucrative Certificate Programs You Can Take Online & The Sites that Offer Them

Looking for a non-traditional route to a high-paying career? We've rounded up the online certificate programs with the most lucrative payoffs, plus dive into the price, course length, and availability of each.

Conventional wisdom over the last several decades has been that you need to get a college degree in order to have any chance at having a successful career. 

However, with tuition costs skyrocketing and student debt at an all-time high — class of 2017 graduates have an average of $39,400 in loan debt — many people are beginning to wonder whether getting a college degree is worth the investment. Plus, the typical college degree often doesn’t give you specific training and guidance when it comes to forging a career path. That’s where online certificate programs come in.

Today there are tons of affordable online programs that can teach you the skill sets you need to pursue work in tons of lucrative and growing fields including web development, coding, digital marketing, operations management, and much more. Many of these courses can be completed in under a year, cost significantly less than a traditional degree, and set you up with all the resources you need to find an entry-level position in your field.

That’s why we’ve put together this list of 10 lucrative certificate programs that are sure to get you a job where you’re making great money and steering clear of unmanageable debt. Here we’re going to give you an overview of these programs as well as information on the career outlook and salary you can expect upon completion of your certificate.

Let’s get started!

10 lucrative certificate programs you can take online

1. HarvardX Data Science Certificate Program

This professional certificate program was designed by Harvard University to teach you the fundamentals of data science. It covers the basics of data science including probability, inference, regression, and machine learning and covers the essential skill set you need to use R software programming through nine different courses. 

According to Glassdoor, R programming is a required skill for 64 percent of data scientist jobs, making this incredibly useful knowledge to have as you enter the job market. Students develop their analysis by answering questions related to specific case studies and improve their programming technique with hands-on practice graded by DataCamp’s code-checking technology. 

Course details

This program is available on edX. It costs $441.90 currently, which is a $49.10 discount off the normal price.

Time to complete

Each course requires around two to four hours of work per week and takes two to four weeks to complete. If you take two weeks to complete each course, you can finish the program in 18 weeks.

Career outlook

Data scientists are highly sought after and can make a very high salary. The BLS predicts that employment for data scientists will grow by 19 percent over the next ten years, far higher than the average rate of job growth. You will likely need to have at least a bachelor’s degree in a related field to get a job in this field, so this certificate alone may not be enough to find work. However, if you do have a degree and are looking to get a leg up on the competition in the job market, this course can be incredibly useful.

Salary

The BLS found that the average median salary for computer and information scientists in 2017 was $114,790. According to PayScale, the average entry level salary for this job is $97,337.

2. University of California Irvine (UCI) Mobile App Development Certificate

A part of UCI’s extension school, this program was designed by an advisory team of top app development professionals to give you all of the fundamental knowledge you need to become a mobile app developer. 

Students will learn app development for Apple and Android devices, build skills in overcoming mobile development challenges, get up to date on the latest trends in mobile development and much more. In addition to six required credits that will give you all the base knowledge you need to learn app development, you’ll have the chance to take nine elective credits in topics ranging from java programming to social media to cloud computing. 

Candidates for the certificate can choose between an iOS- or Android-track program.

Course details

This program is offered by UCI and tuition is $5,475. They have a number of discounts available here, plus veterans and AmeriCorps alums can use their benefits towards tuition for this program.

Time to complete

You can choose how many courses you wish to take at a time, and most students can finish the certificate program within nine to 15 months. You must finish within five years of declaring candidacy.

Career outlook

Again, we’ve chosen this program because the career outlook for this field is great in the coming years, with BLS projecting a massive 31 percent growth for app developers specifically. Graduates with this certificate can anticipate finding employment as an app developer at a large company or on a freelance basis.

Salary

The median salary for app developers according to the BLS is $101,790. You can anticipate an entry-level salary of $61,454 based on data from PayScale.

3. Degree in Operations Management

This free certificate course is presented by Alison. Students will spend around six to ten hours studying the essentials of operations management including human resources management, asset management, and cost management. 

You’ll go on to learn important information about facilities layouts and how to process and maintain inventory. In order to complete the course successfully, you’ll need to score at least an 80% on all of the assessments included throughout the course.

Course details

This course is presented by Alison and is completely free for all users. If you want to have a copy of your degree, it costs around €59 for a paper copy or €39 for a digital copy.

Time to complete

Students can expect to complete this course in six to ten hours.

Career outlook

To be fair, this course isn’t going to give you all the skills you need to become an operations manager, and it’s likely that it’s best for people who already have some experience and want to get a leg up in the job search. That said, according to the BLS, the field is expected to grow by 9 percent by 2026, and you can expect to find work with a product manufacturer or a company that provides services.

Salary

The median annual wage for operations managers according to the BLS is $100,410. PayScale estimates that an entry-level business operations manager earns an average salary of $64,455.

4. Springboard UX Design Course

This course from Springboard is designed to help you go from beginner to career-ready user experience (UX) designer in a short period of time. Students will complete a 100-hour expertly-crafted curriculum course and execute a number of projects, including a capstone, that can be used to create a portfolio for potential employers. 

Each week you’ll get 30 minutes of one-on-one time with an industry expert, plus the final unit of the course is entirely dedicated to career resources including building your LinkedIn profile, tips for interviewing, and help with networking. 

Other perks include unlimited access to LinkedIn and Lynda’s course catalog while you’re in the program, lifetime access to the course curriculum, and lifelong access to their community of alums and experts following your program.

Course details

This course is available through Springboard and costs $499 per month, so total cost will vary depending on how long it takes you to complete the course.

Time to complete

Most students finish the course in two to four months, with three months being the average standard.

Career outlook

The BLS doesn’t have statistics available for UX designers specifically, however web developers generally are expected to see a 15 percent employment growth by 2026, higher than the average rate of growth. UX designers appear to be in quite high demand, and people who have completed this course have gone on to work at IBM, Visa, Google, Samsung, and a number of other major corporations.

Salary

According to Glassdoor, the average pay for UX designers is an impressive $97,460. PayScale estimates that you can expect to earn $69,212.

5. Online Certificate in Security and Risk Analysis from Penn State World Campus

Penn State offers online courses through their World Campus program, including this certificate in security and risk analysis. The World Campus employs asynchronous learning, meaning you can complete your readings and lectures on your own schedule, but assignments must be turned in by their respective due dates. 

This certificate program will set you up to move into a career as an information security analyst, a computer network support specialist, a crime and forensics analyst, and more. You’ll develop your analytical skills by working through case studies in bioterrorism, counterterrorism, and critical infrastructure protection to determine the best security options for businesses and government agencies.

Course details

The base cost of tuition for this program is $8,940 and the credits you earn for this course can be transferred towards a Bachelor’s program if you want to pursue further education. Some scholarships are available here, plus veterans and people in the military can apply for grants.

Time to complete

Students in this course must complete 15 credits. Some people can do this within the course of a single school year while others may need more time.

Career outlook

One of the reasons we’ve chosen this program specifically is that information security analysis is one of the employment fields with the biggest projected growth - predicted at 28 percent - in the coming years. In order to be a competitive candidate in the field you may want to pursue further education, however this program can help you get your foot in the door in this fast-growing and lucrative field.

Salary

According to BLS statistics, the annual median salary for information security analysts is an impressive $95,510. PayScale estimates that you can expect to earn an average salary of $65,602 as an entry-level employee in the field.

6. General Assembly (GA) Web Development Immersive

General Assembly is a leader in tech education, and this is their flagship immersive online course. Students will learn all of the major necessary skills for becoming a full-stack web developer, meaning you’ll have a base knowledge of all of the layers of web development.

This includes programming fundamentals, product development basics, front- and back-end web development, and teamwork skills. You’ll have the opportunity to build your own projects which you can use to create a portfolio to share with potential employers. 

All graduates receive career guidance including resume reviews, one-on-one coaching, and access to GA’s exclusive job board.

Course details

This course is presented by General Assembly and costs $13,950. Veterans can have some or all of their tuition covered by the GI Bill, and they do have some scholarships available for people who take their courses in person. 

Time to complete

This program lasts for 13 weeks and requires full-time commitment. You can expect to be in class or doing work from at least 10AM to 6PM each day. 

Career outlook

Taking a class like this is a major investment, but it’s well worth the pay-off. With the major expansion of e-commerce, BLS suspects that careers in this field will grow by 15 percent by 2026, more than twice the average rate of job growth. Graduates of the program have been hired by several major corporations including Capital One, The Wall Street Journal, Publisher’s Clearing House, and many others.

Salary

Full-stack developers tend to outearn regular web developers, and you can increase your income by learning new skills and languages. According to Glassdoor, the average salary for a full-stack web developer is $88,488. Based on statistics from PayScale, you can expect to earn around $49,578 as an entry-level web developer.

7. UCI Applied Project Management Certificate

This certificate is also presented through Coursera and is developed by the University of California, Irvine. The program is designed for people with three to five years of general work experience who want to advance towards a career in project management. 

Through four specialized courses, students will learn the basics of project management by launching, planning, and executing their own projects, culminating in a project management practicum exam. 

This course is highly career-focused, and in addition to instructor-led live sessions, expert feedback on your assignments, and communication with your professors, you’ll receive career assistance through their InsideTrack career coaching services. Although the course has no prerequisites, it’s recommended that you take this intro course to see if project management is right for you.

Course details

This program is presented by UCI through Coursera and costs $2,980 if you pay upfront or $777 per course.

Time to complete

Students take four six-week courses and should be able to complete the course in around six months.

Career outlook

This program prepares you for a number of different careers in which project management is a required skill. The BLS does not offer statistics on project management, however the Project Management Institute estimates that employment in the field will grow by an impressive 33 percent by 2027. 

Salary

According to Glassdoor, the average project manager makes an annual salary of $80,854. As an entry-level project manager in an IT field, PayScale predicts you’ll earn around $69,403.

8. Udacity Digital Marketing Nano-degree

This program is a collaboration from Google, Facebook, MOZ, HubSpot, Hootsuite, and MailChimp. It offers students a full immersion look into the world of digital marketing, teaching you fundamental skills like content strategy, social media marketing, search engine optimization, and more. 

In addition to video lectures and interactive live events, you’ll develop and run your own live campaigns on major marketing platforms to get real, hands-on experience in digital marketing. You’ll receive detailed reviews of your projects from industry experts. The only experience you need is basic computer skills and familiarity navigating social media platforms.

Course details

This course is available on Udacity and costs $999 to complete. 

Time to complete

The course term for this nanodegree is three months. Your tuition covers access to course materials for the span of three months, after which time you won’t have access. You need to complete all eight projects to earn your degree.

Career outlook

Earning a certificate in digital marketing can help you find work in advertising, social media management, SEO strategy, and a bunch of other fields. The BLS groups digital marketing specialists with other public relations specialists and finds that this field will see a 9 percent growth in employment in the next ten years, right around the average job growth rate. Digital marketing specialists are in demand across fields, and you can expect to find work at a large company, a small business, or even as a freelancer.

Salary

According to Glassdoor, the average salary for digital marketing jobs is $67,230. PayScale found that the average entry-level salary for this field is $46,874.

9. Google IT Support Professional Certificate

Developed by Google, this certificate program is designed to give you all the information you need to get an entry level job in Information Technology (IT). 

The program consists of five courses, and each course consists of video lectures, quizzes, and hands-on projects that give you real experience in troubleshooting, computer networking, and the customer service skills you’ll need to be successful in the field of IT. 

Course details

This program is available on Coursera. It costs $49 per month to access the coursework, and because you pay monthly, the faster you complete the course, the less expensive it will be. You can get a free 7-day trial of this course when you enroll to see if it’s a good fit for you.

Time to complete

If you’re able to commit eight to ten hours per week, you should be able to earn your certificate in around eight months.

Career outlook

Essentially every company from small businesses to large corporations has a need for computer support specialists, making it a great career path. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for this field is expected to grow by 11 percent which is faster than the average job growth rate. 

Upon completing the program, you’ll have the option to share your information with hiring managers at several top companies including Bank of America, Walmart, Sprint, GE Digital, PNC Bank, Infosys, TEKsystems, UPMC, and Google.

Salary

Salary for this field varies based on your position, but the median annual wage according to the BLS is $52,810. According to PayScale, entry-level IT specialists earn an average salary of $46,291 annually.

10. Health Coach Institute (HCI) Certification

This certificate program from HCI will give you all the information you need to start your own practice as a health coach. The course is designed around four main pillars, Nutrition, Health & Wellness, Transformational Coaching, Personal Growth, and Proven Marketing & Simple Business Systems. 

In addition to learning the basics behind nutrition and the psychological aspects of health and wellness, students will get invaluable training in running their own business as well. HCI’s program is centered around habit change, teaching you to help your clients improve their health by implementing changes in their unhealthy habits. 

You’ll have the opportunity to get direct counseling from experienced health coaches, and you’ll also receive a free ticket to one of their annual live events upon completion of your course.

Course details

This course is available through the Health Coach Institute and costs $6,450 to complete.

Time to complete

The course lasts for six months, and you can expect to spend around five to ten hours on it each week.

Career outlook

Health care is a massive industry, that just continues to grow. The BLS predicts that health educator employment will grow 16 percent by 2026, much faster than the average rate of job growth. Health coaching is incredibly flexible, and this program could lead to opening your own business, freelancing for corporate clients, and more.

Salary

According to the BLS, the average salary for health educators and community health workers is $45,360. PayScale estimates that the average entry-level salary for health coaches is $42,160. However, according to HCI, some of their graduates earn as much as $5,000-$10,000 per month.

A successful and high-paying career has never been more within reach than with the rise of these certificate programs. In just a few months, you could be on track to start out in a career field with tremendous growth and high earning potential without having to pony up tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars to get a traditional degree. Check out the programs listed here to see what might be right for you.

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