Online technology certificate programs offer learners a relatively fast and cost-effective way to develop marketable skills. Certificate programs do not lead to degrees. Instead, they provide learners with key skills through a short sequence of courses. Available to both undergraduates and graduates, technology certificates offer an efficient alternative to pursuing a degree while helping students build a portfolio in information systems, programming, and audiovisual technology.
The technology industry continues to grow at an unprecedented rate, with major innovations regularly hitting the market. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that many tech-related professions -- including software development, web development, and information security -- will experience much higher-than-average growth rates from 2016 to 2026. Some insiders even project the impending "internet of things" boom to surpass the amazing growth seen during the original dot-com cycle of the late 1990s. Many tech insiders believe there has never been a better time to join this burgeoning industry.
How to Choose the Right Certificate in Technology Program
Program length varies from school to school, but most students complete technology certificate programs in 5-18 months. Learners can opt for either part-time or full-time enrolment. Some institutions permit students in online programs to set their own self-directed study schedules with flexible start dates. These convenient options allow students to improve their job qualifications and academic credentials without compromising their existing personal and professional commitments.
Curricula and courses also vary, depending on the specialization you choose. While some schools offer more generalized study paths, online technology certificate programs tend to focus on highly concentrated subject areas. Learners build critical skills in particular disciplines. Popular specializations include digital forensics, cybersecurity, data analytics, network technology, IT, software development, and project management.
Schools typically calculate tuition on a per-unit basis, which tends to make longer and more comprehensive programs cost more than their shorter, more generic counterparts. However, in a booming field like technology, investing in a quality education will open up a wide range of potentially lucrative career paths.
Finally, you should research each school's reputation. Only attend nationally or regionally accredited institutions. If you plan to attend on-campus classes, consider factors like location, proximity to employers, networking opportunities, and availability of internships.
Employment and Salary Outlook for Certificate in Technology Graduates
Labor market analysts expect demand for technology specialists to continue to grow for the foreseeable future. As technology continues to integrate itself more deeply into everyday life, the tech industry offers outstanding job prospects over both the short and long term.
Technology specialists tend to command attractive salaries, especially as they gain more experience. While some entry-level positions require at least a bachelor's degree, others remain open to certificate holders. In this field, job performance and demonstrable skills are often more important than formal credentials.
The following table displays median salary statistics for technology certificate program graduates, based on the five most common occupations for these professionals.
Non-degree technology studies programs prepare students for roles as technicians, developers, systems engineers, and analysts. Similarly, online information technology certificate programs lead to entry-level careers in network and application development, hardware engineering, and related fields. Students may also train for specific careers by enrolling in specialized technology certificate programs.
Since constant change defines the tech industry, IT students should enjoy learning. Commit to regularly improving and updating your skill set and knowledge base. You'll also need excellent attention to detail, advanced analytical and problem-solving skills, strong mathematics aptitude, and the ability to learn one or more commonly used programming languages.
Below are some common career paths technology certificate holders can pursue.
- Audio/Visual Equipment Technician
A/V technicians operate and troubleshoot equipment such as video projectors, digital speaker systems, recording devices, and other computerized technologies used for live events. A/V careers provide excellent on-the-job learning and growth opportunities. Certificate holders can fast-track into these careers.
- Broadcast and Sound Engineering Technician
A/V design engineers apply advanced technical proficiencies to the creation, implementation, upgrade, and maintenance of small-scale and large-scale audiovisual systems. This leadership role requires precision and highly developed capabilities. Certificate holders can earn these skills through practical training and professional experience.
- Audio/Visual Project Manager
Project managers require a combination of technical knowledge and leadership aptitudes. This supervisory position includes workflow management, scheduling, and onsite supervision of installation and maintenance crews. To prepare for this career, candidates may pair a project management degree with an online certificate program in audiovisual technology.
- Sales Engineer
Candidates who enjoy interpersonal interaction can find potentially lucrative careers as sales engineers. Technology sales engineers liaise with prospective buyers, explaining the technical capabilities, specifications, and performance advantages of particular products. They focus on solving client-end challenges. A certificate in technology can give job candidates the technical knowledge necessary for explaining features to clients.
- Audio/Visual Systems Engineer
A/V systems engineers direct system installation and maintenance. They apply their advanced knowledge of both software and hardware to address practical challenges. On-the-job learning can vastly accelerate career advancement, and certificate programs open doors to entry-level positions.
Accreditation for Technology Programs
Accredited schools meet high academic and professional standards. These schools undergo regular review from organizations approved by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation and the U.S. Department of Education. Non-accredited programs do not participate in these voluntary programs, and should thus be avoided. Unaccredited degrees and certificates are not widely recognized by employers or other educational institutions.
In the United States, accreditation can be either national or regional. National accreditation usually applies to vocational courses, technical programs, and for-profit schools. Regional accreditation, held by 85% of colleges, recognizes academically oriented, nonprofit schools. Many employers prefer credentials from regionally accredited schools. If you plan to apply your credits to a degree program later on, you should consider attending a regionally accredited college.
The American National Standards Institute Certificate Accreditation Program reviews technical schools that do not have degree-granting authority. You can also look for online technology certificate programs offered by institutions that hold accreditation from organizations such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology.
Technology Certificate Program Admissions
Both on-campus and online technology certificate programs require similar processes. Candidates fill out and submit applications with personal and contact information. Schools may request academic transcripts and other types of documentation. Admissions counselors then review the application materials and make admissions decisions based on whether the applicant's profile meets internal standards. These counselors also evaluate the likelihood that the student will succeed in his or her studies.
A common misconception states that applicants have an easier time getting accepted to online programs than on-campus programs. Because online learning takes place over the internet, highly reputable schools often attract applications from local, out-of-state, and out-of-country candidates. This often makes the application process more competitive. Learners should not make the mistake of assuming online programs are easier to get into.
Academic counselors often advise students to apply to between six and eight programs. These programs should include two "safety schools" with easily reachable admissions criteria, two to three "target schools" with reasonable admissions criteria, and two or three "reach schools" with outstanding reputations but highly competitive admissions processes.
- Application: Your general application covers basic biographical information that allows the school to build a student profile. They are usually one-page or two-page forms. Applications request information like your name, date of birth, place of birth, citizenship status, and previous education.
- Transcripts: Most undergraduate certificate programs require you to submit high school transcripts so that admissions counselors can gauge your level of academic performance. You can request these transcripts from your previous school's guidance counselor. Online technology certificate programs for college graduates typically request only undergraduate transcripts. You may have to pay a small fee.
- Application Fee: A nationwide survey conducted in 2016 reported an average college application fee of $43. Non-degree certificate programs typically charge lower application fees. You may qualify for a fee waiver if you have limited financial resources or belong to a low-income household. Ask the school's admissions department for an application fee waiver.
What Else Can I Expect From a Certificate in Technology Program?
Core Courses in a Technology Certificate Program
Technology certificate program curricula vary considerably from school to school, especially since there are many different specialization options. This list of sample classes was curated from online information technology certificate programs at several leading institutions:
- Introduction to Information Systems
This introductory course provides a detailed overview of computer and mobile device systems and components. Topics include operating systems, application and system software, data storage, networking, connectivity and communications, information security, and user privacy. Some schools split this foundational material into two courses to ensure learners master basic concepts before proceeding into more advanced subject areas.
- Introduction to Programming
Introductory programming courses feature lessons on computer logic systems, input and output processes, computer memory, and basic programming with computer languages. Students in certificate programs do not typically require any previous programming experience.
- Programming Languages
How Long Does It Take to Get a Certificate in Technology?
Most technology certificate programs require 5-18 months to complete. Most technology certificate programs require 20-40 credits, which equates to approximately two to four semesters. Various factors may affect this timeline, including the learning format and the level of detail covered by the program's course material. Traditional in-class programs typically run for at least two semesters. Online learning may allow learners to proceed at their own pace, depending on the program.
The actual amount of time required to complete an online program depends on your learning style, study schedule, and the rate at which you feel comfortable proceeding. Programs that cover course material in more depth and programs that cover complex topics usually take longer, but students often gain a wider knowledge base and more competitive skills.
How Much Is a Certificate in Technology?
Technology certificate programs charge vastly different rates based on the school and credit load. Per-credit costs range from $150-$700, depending on factors such as state residency, location, and type of institution.
Famous and highly reputable colleges tend to hire qualified faculty members with higher salaries. Thus, these programs often come with higher tuition costs. That said, many less expensive technology certificate programs compare favorably to their costlier counterparts in terms of quality, especially with regard to online learning. Internet-based education eliminates many overhead expenses, allowing reputable schools to deliver quality programs at a reduced cost.
In addition to tuition, students must pay for expenses such as books, housing, and transportation. Conduct thorough research into costs such as lab fees or distance learning fees. Your computer equipment also has to meet specified standards, which may require upgrades.
Professional Organizations in Technology
Professional organizations offer excellent networking, continuing education, and career development opportunities. Both recent graduates and working professionals can benefit from membership. In addition to seasonal and annual conferences, many organizations offer job boards, career services, and discounts. Ongoing training programs can help working professional stay ahead in the ever-changing technology industry. Members can also develop professional networks, which often lead to more job prospects.
This organization represents students, educators, and working IT professionals. AITP offers training programs, soft skills development, and other learning opportunities designed to help members stay abreast of advancements in the dynamic technology industry.
With global reach and a membership base of over 100,000, the ACM is among the oldest and largest computing-oriented professional organizations in the world.
Founded in 1978, this female-centric organization seeks to empower women in the traditionally male-dominated technology industry. AWC focuses on career development through networking and continuing education initiatives.