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Best Online Information Technology Certificate Programs

Learn about the different types of information technology (IT) certificate programs along with common specialization areas and coursework. Also, get tips on how to choose the right program and explore different IT career paths.

Best Online Certificate Programs in Information Technology

The top online information technology (IT) certificate programs are flexible, affordable, and offer unique concentration areas. Read on to learn why the schools on our list offer the best online IT certificates.

1. University of Maine

Location Undergraduate Tuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
Orono, ME $11,170 100%

The University of Maine offers an online Graduate Certificate in Information Systems that requires 5 courses (15 credits) and includes the study of information systems design, law, and programming. Students in this online certificate program benefit from both asynchronous and synchronous learning, with recorded videos that can be viewed anytime and a 2-hour interactive, live class session that is scheduled each week. The cost per credit for this online certificate program was $450 for in-state students and $563 for out-of-state students in the 2019-2020 school year.

2. Missouri University of Science and Technology

Location Undergraduate Tuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
Rolla, MO $9,440 97%

At Missouri University of Science and Technology, students can earn a graduate-level information technology certificate in a specialized IT area, such as a:

  • Graduate Certificate in Information System Project Management
  • Graduate Certificate in Mobile Business and Technology
  • Graduate Certificate in Human-Computer Interaction and User Experience
  • Graduate Certificate in Electronic and Social Commerce
  • Graduate Certificate in Cybersecurity and Information Assurance Management

All graduate certificates require students to complete 4 classes, and the cost for online graduate certificates is $1,200 per credit for all students. Students that earn a 'B' or better in their online IT graduate certificate program courses can choose to pursue a full Master of Science in Information Science and Technology or a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree at Missouri University of Science and Technology with the credits they earned transferring towards their master's degree.

3. University of Cincinnati-Main Campus

Location Undergraduate Tuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
Cincinnati, OH $11,000 83%

The University of Cincinnati-Main Campus has an online Graduate Certificate in Information Technology that covers important IT concepts such as information security, programming, and system administration. This online IT certificate program requires that students complete 12 1-credit courses, and students are able to earn their IT certificate in only 1 year of study. The University of Cincinnati-Main Campus is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

4. Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis

Location Undergraduate Tuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
Indianapolis, IN $9,465 88%

Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis offers several information technology certificate programs, including a 15-credit Undergraduate Certificate in Applied Information Science and an 18-credit Undergraduate Certificate in Information Technology (Web Development). These two undergraduate certificate programs only cost $286.01 per credit for in-state students and $986.31 for out-of-state students. Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis also has the following graduate-level certificates:

  • Graduate Certificate in Clinical Informatics (18 credits)
  • Graduate Certificate in Health Information Management and Exchange (18 credits)
  • Graduate Certificate in Information Privacy Law and Policy (12 credits)

5. Central Michigan University

Location Undergraduate Tuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
Mount Pleasant, MI $12,960 95%

At Central Michigan University, students can earn an online Graduate Certificate in Information Resource Management or an online Graduate Certificate in Cybersecurity, both of which require 15 credits. The information resource management certificate features courses in software engineering, project management, and computer systems. The cybersecurity certificate has classes that focus on cybercrime forensics and cloud computing security, and it also prepares students to earn the Certified Information Systems Security Professional credential. These two online certificate programs cost only $637 per credit hour for all students regardless of their residency status.

Rank School Name Location Undergraduate Tuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
6 New Jersey Institute of Technology Newark, NJ $17,338 92%
7 Valley City State University Valley City, ND $7,626 99%
8 University of Virginia-Main Campus Charlottesville, VA $17,653 59%
9 Coastal Carolina University Conway, SC $11,716 99%
10 The College of Saint Scholastica Duluth, MN $37,212 100%
11 Kennesaw State University Kennesaw, GA $6,347 91%
12 Marist College Poughkeepsie, NY $39,600 92%
13 Stevens Institute of Technology Hoboken, NJ $52,202 99%
14 Santa Fe College Gainesville, FL $2,563 68%
15 Seminole State College of Florida Sanford, FL $3131 74%
16 Randolph Community College Asheboro, NC $2,373 77%
17 Indian River State College Fort Pierce, FL $2,764 71%
18 Daytona State College Daytona Beach, FL $3,104 73%
19 College of Central Florida Ocala, FL $2,570 81%
20Pasco-Hernando State College New Port Richey, FL $3,155 72%

All statistics provided by the National Center for Education Statistics, tuition based on 2018-2019 school year

Learn.org's school ranking methodology categorizes and assesses data from schools and other reliable sources, such as the U.S. Department of Education, and weighs the information based on quality, cost, value and other factors critical to students' academic decisions.

Overview of Online Certificate Programs in Information Technology

Online certificate programs in information technology (IT) are focused solely on helping students develop their computer systems, programming, databases, and computer security skills and knowledge.

Online IT certificate programs can have a general focus on IT or center on the study of one specific area of the field. Below are some examples of specialization areas for online IT certificate programs:

  • Information systems
  • Information privacy law and policy
  • Health informatics
  • Cybersecurity
  • Technology systems support
  • Information system project management

There are two levels of IT certificate programs: undergraduate and graduate. Generally, for undergraduate certificate programs, students need only a high school diploma or its equivalent to apply, while graduate certificate programs require that students have already earned a bachelor's degree. While most IT certificate programs have no requirement regarding the type of bachelor's degree, some require students to have a bachelor's in the field of engineering, technology, business, or a related area.

Length of Online Information Technology Certificate Programs

Online IT certificates programs are designed to be completed in a short amount of time, usually in about 1 year or less. Typically, these programs require 12 to 18 credits, which means students take about 4 to 6 total courses.

Common Courses in Information Technology Certificate Programs

The curriculum of IT certificate programs is hyper-focused on IT subjects, and students are not required to take any general education coursework. Although your exact coursework depends on the type of IT certificate you are earning and its area of focus, below are common class topics found in IT certificate programs.

  • Database Design - This course teaches students about the techniques for designing and operating databases. Specific concepts that are disused are data storage, relational and object-relational tools, and structured query language (SQL).
  • Web Design - This course teaches students about the fundamental techniques for designing and implementing websites.
  • Data Communication and Networks - This is a course that covers the basics of data communication, including the design of network architecture and the transmission of data signals. There is usually an emphasis on network management and security.
  • Information Security - This class focuses on how to protect computer systems and networks from threats. Students also study recovery and prevention techniques.
  • Programming - This course introduces the fundamentals of computer programming, including various programming languages. Students learn how to design, develop, and code software.

Information Technology Certificates vs Information Technology Master's Degrees

IT certificate and IT master's degree programs are similar in terms of their academic focus on IT concepts and knowledge. Like certificate programs, IT master's degrees also offer students the opportunity to specialize in one area of IT, such as cybersecurity or project management. Similarly, IT master's degrees can be completed 100% online just as certificate programs can. However, there are key differences between the two.

For one, IT master's programs require more credits. This is usually about 30 to 36 credits compared to the 12 to 18 for certificate programs. That means students take a broader range of courses that cover more IT topics. Generally, master's programs take about 2 years to complete. Yet some programs feature an accelerated semester schedule that allows students to earn their degree in about 10 months. Last, IT master's programs prepare students for more advanced management-level careers compared to certificate programs.

How to Choose an Online Information Technology Certificate Program

Choosing an IT certificate program that fits all your needs can be a challenging task. To help you through this complicated decision, we suggest that you consider the total cost of a program, school accreditation, and whether you want to one day attend an IT master's program.

Cost

The first factor to consider is the cost of your IT certificate. Tuition for certificate programs depends on several factors, including whether it is an undergraduate or graduate certificate and whether your university charges in-state and out-of-state students differently.

Typically, undergraduate IT certificates can range from $280 to $380 per credit; however, out-of-state tuition can cost closer to $1,000 per credit. If you're looking at IT certificate programs as an out-of-state student, you may want to find a university that charges the same tuition for all students.

Graduate-level programs can range from $600 to $1,200 per credit. However, some universities will charge a flat semester rate. Additionally, some universities charge extra fees, such as technology or library fees, that are added onto the base tuition rate.

Accreditation

Accreditation should also factor into your decision about which online IT certificate program to attend. Regional accreditation is important for many reasons, including the fact that only students who attend an accredited college or university can access federal financial aid. Second, by attending an accredited school, you are assured that you are receiving a high-quality education. Most universities only accept transfer credits from accredited schools as well.

Make sure that your prospective school is accredited by one of the following agencies:

  • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
  • Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
  • Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)
  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)

Master's Pathway

You also want to consider whether you might want to pursue a full master's degree in IT after you complete your certificate program. Some certificate programs are designed to be a pathway to a master's degree, and as such, you are able to apply the credits you earn in your certificate program towards your master's degree, which can save you both time and money when earning your IT master's degree. If you pursue this pathway, make sure that your certificate program has a matching master's degree or that your credits will be transferable.

Financial Aid & Scholarships for Information Technology Certificate Programs

To help you afford your IT certificate program, you can look to apply for federal financial aid and private or institutional scholarships. It's important to know only students that are attending a certificate program approved by the U.S. Department of Education are eligible for federal financial aid. Your university should inform whether or not your certificate program is approved.

If your program is eligible, you can fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which will show the different types of aid you can receive. Typically, undergraduate students can access Direct Subsidized Loans and Federal Pell Grants, while graduate students can apply for Direct Unsubsidized Loans. Additionally, most students can receive Direct PLUS Loans.

Although it may be difficult to find a scholarship for certificate programs, there are some available. For example, the Army Women's Foundation offers an award of up to $1,000 to a woman who has served or is serving in the U.S. military and is pursuing a certificate. You should also explore scholarships that are offered by your college or university.

You might also take advantage of any tuition help that your employer may offer as part of their professional development or continuing education resources.

Information Technology Job Options

Students who earn an IT certificate are able to pursue a career in computer and information administration, security, or management.

Network and Computer Systems Administrator

Network and computer systems administrators work in a variety of industries where they manage an organization's computer systems and networks. In order to make sure that all computer systems are working properly, they must conduct maintenance, install software and hardware, and solve any issues.

To become a network and computer systems administrator, you must earn a postsecondary certificate or an associate's degree in information or computer science. However, some positions may require a bachelor's degree.

Medical Records and Health Information Technician

Medical records and health information technicians are responsible for organizing, maintaining, and updating the electronic and paper systems that contain medical records. Along with reviewing patient files for accuracy and completeness, they also monitor patient outcomes. Medical records and health information technicians should be familiar with the use of electronic health records (EHRs) as well.

Health information technicians typically need a postsecondary certificate in a health information-related field; however, some types of jobs may require an associate degree.

Information Security Analyst

An information security analyst is responsible for the security of an organization's computer systems and networks. Their job duties include installing security features, assessing security risks, and reacting to any threats or intrusions.

For this type of job, you typically need a bachelor's degree in an information security field, such as information assurance or computer science. Some employers prefer to hire those who have experience in other information technology fields. For example, a network administrator may make a good candidate for a network security role, and an IT certificate in information assurance or a similar field could help you move from a network administration position to a network security position.

Computer and Information Systems Manager

Computer and information systems managers, also known as IT managers, are usually specialized experts whose job duties depend on the type of organization they work for and their exact job title. For example, one type of IT manager is a chief information officer (CIO) who is responsible for the totality of an organization's technology design and implementation. There are also IT security managers, who focus mainly on the security of computer systems and databases.

Computer and information systems managers generally need a bachelor's degree in computer science or a related field and professional experience; however, some positions may require a master's degree.

Job Title Median Annual Salary (2018) Estimated Job Growth (2018-2028)
Network and Computer Systems Administrator $82,050 5%
Medical Records and Health Information Technician $40,350 11%
Information Security Analyst $98,350 32%
Computer and Information Systems Manager $142,530 11%

Salary information provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018

Information Technology Professional Associations

IT professional organizations offer career and educational resources to students and professionals. Many also offer memberships that can help you advance your career or knowledge of the field.

CompTIA

CompTIA is one of the leaders in the IT field. They offer a range of certifications, such as CompTIA IT Fundamentals, CompTIA A+, and CompTIA Security+, which are important professional credentials that require IT professionals to pass an exam. CompTIA also offers training opportunities, webinars and podcasts, and memberships for students, corporations, and professionals.

Association for Computing Machinery (ACM)

ACM is an organization that promotes the computer science profession. They produce a range of publications, hold conferences, and award fellowships. A paid ACM membership gets you access to a dedicated job center, networking opportunities, subscriptions to ACM publications, and discounts to ACM conferences.