How to get online certifications and qualifications to supercharge your career

If you want to advance your career from the comfort of your home – especially as someone who works online – then knowing how to get online certifications, qualifications, and training is an extremely powerful resource.

Online certification programs

When I tell people that anyone can start earning money online, a lot of them will respond by telling me that they don’t know how, or that they don’t have a marketable skill that they can sell. Often they say that it’s easy for me because I like technology, but that it’s not something the average Joe could aspire too.

But what they’re missing, is that it’s extremely easy to simply learn the skills they need online. That’s the great thing about the web: this is not just a place where you can sell your skills, but a place where you can hone them!

Also read: What is the gig economy? The future of work explained

Online certification programs and courses make it easier than ever for anyone to make a rapid career change. You can learn programming, copywriting, web design, video editing, or anything else in a matter of weeks; and then you can learn the skills you need to market and sell those skills.

You’ll learn a lot of that last bit right here on this website.

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But if you want to take your learning further, and perhaps even gain some recognized qualifications, this post will show you everything you need to get started.

Online learning is for everyone

For those that are already working online, learning online has even greater potential benefit. By using online learning resources, you can add new skills and qualifications to your resume, thereby improving your employability and earning better fees for your work. You’ll be able to create new opportunities for yourself and progress your career at your own pace.

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Even if you find yourself traditionally employed, getting online certifications is a great way to demonstrate initiative to your employer and to gain more responsibilities. Alternatively, it could be used as leverage to negotiate a pay-rise, or as a way to find a higher-paid role elsewhere.

Gone are the days when employees would stick with a single employer for their entire lives, and by the same token, gone are the days when employers would invest huge amounts into training and developing their staff. That means that the onus is on you if you want to pull ahead of the pack and demand a higher wage.

Don’t wait for the perfect job to land in your lap: go out there and get it. All the tools you need are right there!

The different types of online certification

Before you begin, the first step is to understand the different options available to you. There is a big difference between an online certification and an online degree, for example. And what is the difference between a certification and a qualification?

How to get an online certification

You are “qualified” if you are capable of performing a particular job, and thus the term “qualification” simply refers to the knowledge you have obtained. A qualification could, therefore, be a certificate, diploma, or degree.


This is an in-depth qualification that typically takes two or more years of full-time study to obtain. Degrees provide detailed knowledge of a given subject matter, allowing you to specialize further, or to walk into a mid-level job.

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Today, it is more than possible to obtain an online degree. However, this will still usually take several years to accomplish. Degrees are also very expensive, though you may be eligible for loans or grants to help toward that cost.


Diplomas are much shorter than degrees, typically requiring under a year of part-time study. They are generally more specifically targeted at a certain career and usually involve hands-on experience. They are also much more cost-effective than degrees.

Diplomas nevertheless often provide enough of a qualification for a person to sell their skills professionally, or to find work online. For example, a personal training diploma is typically required for those wishing to work as PTs either at gyms or on a freelance basis.


A certificate program is shorter still, usually completed after months or even weeks of studying part-time. Certificates demonstrate knowledge in a specific skill or area and can work well either as supplements to a degree or diploma; or for those looking for very specific work.

A certificate may be obtained for a specific tool even. For example, you can get certified in Unity or Android Studio. This demonstrates a basic level of proficiency with that tool, rather than a broad knowledge of the general subject.

Making the Right Choice

Even once you have chosen the type of qualification you want to achieve, you will still need to consider the level. For example, a degree could mean a bachelor of science (BSc), bachelor of art (BA), a master’s degree (MA), or a doctorate (Ph.D.). Likewise, there is a difference between level 2 and level 3 diploma.

Which of these you pick will come down to the amount of time you have available, your existing qualifications, your available funds, and the goals you have for your career.

Also read: How to build a personal brand and become a rockstar in your industry

What’s important here, is to think practically about how a particular qualification will support those goals. Is this just a matter of vanity? Or will a qualification genuinely help you to attract higher-paying clients, or to progress in your career? Will you earn back the investment you put into the qualification?

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You also need to think about the specific course, and the organization providing that course. Do you like the way their courses are structured? Will you be receiving the right amount of support throughout? How will you submit your work? Does the organization have a good reputation?

Some organizations make it easy to learn on the move, even providing mobile apps!

learn on the move

Most importantly, ask if the qualification provided at the end is recognized. What is the awarding/governing body? What is the qualification equivalent to? Ideally, if you are based in the US, then you should look for an organization that is accredited with the U.S. Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education. There are also governing bodies within each organization. For example, if you wanted to become a physical therapist, then you would look for a program approved by the Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (APTE).

Don’t make any rash decisions: this is a decision that you’ll need to live with for a long time, and that will likely have a big impact on your career trajectory going forward.

Do you need qualifications?

The other question to ask yourself is whether you need qualifications at all. You can get online training that does not result in a qualification or certification, and in many cases, this will be enough.

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These days, there are nearly endless options for those that just need training in specific skills. If you want to learn to edit video, to program, to market a website, or to build a website; you can find thousands of hours of free tutorials on YouTube. If you’re willing to pay just a little, then you can find more options still from Udacity, Skillshare, Udemy, and Coursera. Among these, Skillshare works a little differently, as you’ll be paying a monthly fee to gain unlimited access to the courses available.

While these courses won’t provide you with qualifications that will bolster your CV, they will give you the confidence to begin selling additional services, or show you how to work faster and smarter. From there, a great profile on a freelancing site, or a well-placed email, can be enough to start landing jobs. From here, you can begin to build a portfolio that will do the talking for you.

That said, there are certain lines of work and types of gig that will require a recognized qualification of some kind, the right certification can always help you to stand out among the crowd.

A selection of great online certification programs

The right online certification program for you will depend very much on your industry and career goals. However, you’ll find a few good examples below, demonstrating the sheer variety and quality of what’s on offer.

Online business certifications

A business certification can help you to land managerial roles in the “real world,” or to enhance your own business as a freelancer. There are plenty of options when it comes to business, but one of the most prestigious qualifications and sought-after of all the Masters in Business Administration (MBA). There are a few places where you can get this qualification entirely online:

online business certification

When choosing an online MBA, look for accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges and The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business International (AACSB).

To increase your chances of success, start by seeking out a Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT), or a “micro Masters” which will count toward a full master’s degree should you decide to pursue it further.

Data analyst certifications

With machine learning being increasingly important to businesses, it’s no wonder that these qualifications are in high demand, or that the average data analyst earns $64,975 a year! Data scientists earn even more, at $120,730 on average.

Some great examples of online certification programs include:

For those looking for something more specific, Google Analytics Certification is also a good option. Google Analytics is a tool used by most websites to track visitors and engagement. Being able to understand and act on this data is, therefore, a very valuable skill.

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The following course from Udemy can prepare you for the exam:

Developer certifications

As a developer, a degree in computer science can be extremely valuable. However, many programmers today are still self-taught. You can use certification programs to demonstrate your familiarity with specific languages and tools, relevant to the kind of work you want to do.

Online developer certification

For example, game developers could consider Unity Certification. Unity is a 3D games engine and development environment that powers many AAA titles and mobile games.

Likewise, you could consider getting C# certification from Microsoft, seeing as C# is the primary language used with Unity.

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Alternatively, if you are interested in developing for Android devices, then you might consider becoming an Associate Android Developer through Google, or perhaps an Android Certified Application Developer.

Alternatively, if you want a more general qualification in computer science to get started, you might try something like the Professional Certification in Computer Science and Mobile Apps from HarvardX.

Design certifications

If you want to become a web designer, digital artist, or similar, you probably won’t need a strict qualification. That said, demonstrating that you know your way around popular tools can certainly help to instill confidence in potential clients.

You might choose to get an Adobe Certification. This will demonstrate proficiency in tools like Adobe Premiere Pro (video editing), Photoshop (photo editing), Illustrator (Design), or any of the company’s other tools.

If you are more interested in 3D design, you might consider Autodesk certification for tools like AutoCAD.

Data security certification

If you’re interested in becoming a data security analyst, then you may stand to earn anywhere between $98,710-$151,500 each year.

The good news is that there are many industry-standard online certifications available for security analysts. These include:

  • Pentest+: Comptia Penetration Testing
  • CYSA+: Cyber Security Analyst
  • Security+: CompTIA Security Analyst
  • GIAC: Global Information Assurance Certification
  • CEH: Certified Ethical Hacker
  • CISSP: Certified Information Systems Security Professional

You can start with the most basic of these, and then work your way up/specialize as you gain new skills and knowledge.

Data security certification

Tips for success

The key to success is to choose the right program, to begin with. Make sure that the qualifications you are chasing will make you more employable and attractive to clients. Consider taking a look at successful competitors in your industry to see what qualifications they list. Likewise, browse job listings on sites like LinkedIn and UpWork to learn what employers and clients are looking for.

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In general, you’ll find that specializing more in your career makes it easier to stand out, and to find the precise kind of work that you want.

Finally, make sure that you give the learning process the time and effort that it deserves. These courses – even the short ones – require a significant investment of your time and energy. If you can’t find at least a few evenings to dedicate to learning each week, then you might not be ready for an online certification. But it’s worth it: so clear some space in your schedule, and commit to investing in yourself.