Best Online IT Certificate Programs

Best Online IT Certificate Programs

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Information technology (IT) refers to the infrastructure that stores, retrieves, and transmits information. IT experts help to install, support, and maintain technology solutions for consumers, businesses, and organizations. They manage computer information systems and ensure that the various components, including hardware, software, and networks, run optimally.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 13% job growth for computer and IT occupations from 2016 to 2026. BLS also notes that IT accounts for the largest field in the computer-related industry. Meanwhile, the median salary for computer and IT jobs in May of 2018 averaged $86,320, or 124% more than the median yearly take-home pay for all total occupations.

Earning an online information technology certificate prepares students for work in the lucrative, in-demand IT field. Certificate students can more quickly expand their skills and knowledge in a particular area of IT, such as networks, data center technologies, DevOps, or cybersecurity.

The various online technology certificate programs available today reflect the breadth of jobs within the IT field. Given that certificates hone in on a specific area of IT, students typically know where they want to take their careers and recognize that an IT certificate will accelerate their paths to professional development.

Online Certificate in IT Ranking Guidelines:

We selected online information technology programs based on the quality of the program and the types of available online classes for information technology. We also assessed the faculty, rankings, awards, and prestige, including the school’s reputation for effectively providing quality online programs.

The Best Online IT Certificate Programs

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University of Virginia 

Charlottesville, VA Apply Now

About this school

The University of Virginia (UVA) provides students with a convenient way to earn a certificate in information technology. The program takes place online, where students can watch lectures and engage in online discussion boards wherever they please. This undergraduate certificate comprises six courses and 18 credits, and most students complete the degree in 18 months. UVA charges the same tuition for in-state and out-of-state students.

This certificate requires five major courses. UVA knows students succeed when they feel fully invested and interested in their studies, so it allows students to use electives to tailor the program to their career goals. To fulfill elective requirements, students can select one of four courses: programming with Java, agile project management, securing the cyberworld, and data analytics and decision-making.

Major classes include strategic business value of information technology, web design, enterprise systems architecture, database management, and web application development. By the end of the program, students can design user-friendly websites and solve complicated information technology problems.

Like many online technology certificate programs, this program prepares students to thrive in mid- and entry-level positions. Graduates often earn jobs as systems and business analysts, web design and application developers, technical sales and marketing professionals, quality assurance experts, and consultants.

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Craven Community College 

New Bern, NC Apply Now

About this school

Located in New Bern, North Carolina, Craven Community College (CCC) offers a certificate in information technology with an accounting tech emphasis. CCC designed this certificate with busy working professionals in mind. The program’s online format allows students to juggle full-time jobs and life’s many demands while completing their studies.

When most people consider accounting, they typically think about math. However, computer skills play a huge role, too, which is why earning an online information technology certificate can accelerate your accounting career. This program comprises five classes: principles of financial accounting, accounting software applications, introduction to computers, spreadsheets, and spreadsheet data analysis. These classes prepare students to work as accountants for nonprofits, corporations, hospitals, and educational institutions.

The accounting tech emphasis is great for finance professionals, but CCC understands that students need course options that match their career goals. As such, the school also offers other concentrations, including data support specialist, Java programming, productivity software, web development specialist, and Linux operating systems.

The best online technology certificate programs are those offered by regionally accredited universities and colleges, meaning they receive regular quality assessments from third-party organizations. These organizations are overseen by the U.S. Department of Education.

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Broward College 

Fort Lauderdale, FL Apply Now

About this school

Even though Broward College (BC) calls Fort Lauderdale, Florida home, its students live all around the world. BC offers an online information technology support specialist technical certificate [PDF]. To qualify for this program, learners need a high school diploma or GED. The certificate best suits students who want to work in networking and systems administration after graduation.

This program comprises 18 credits and six classes. These classes include computer applications, A+ essentials, advanced networking technology, and managing a server network. Graduates often pursue careers as information technology advisors at nonprofits and private corporations. Though this certificate prepares students for entry-level positions, it can also accelerate existing careers, putting professionals on track to higher-paying positions.

BC doesn’t require students to meet with an advisor before enrolling for classes, but does encourage students to connect with one and create a course plan, which might require a campus visit. Some classes have prerequisites, and an advisor can help you determine whether or not you need to take additional courses before starting your certificate.

With so many online schools to choose from, prospective students should conduct thorough research on each prospective school. They can check each program’s accreditation status to filter out low-quality schools from high-quality schools. The best online technology certificate programs hold regional accreditation.

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West Virginia Northern Community College 

Wheeling, WV Apply Now

About this school

Tucked away in the town of Wheeling lies West Virginia Northern Community College (WVNCC). Its convenient certificate in applied science in computer information technologywith an emphasis in Microsoft Applications. WVNCC understands that modern students have busy schedules, so the institution offers the program in an online format.

The online program best suits individuals pursuing entry-level technology positions at businesses and nonprofits. However, even professionals who have been working in the industry for years can use this program to brush up on their technological skills.

After completing the certificate, students understand how to use Microsoft applications like Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, which sets them up to be valuable assets in nearly any workplace. Once learners complete their courses, they can take the Microsoft Office Suite Certification exams.

Classes in this program also teach students to use features and commands of various operating systems and develop complex spreadsheets, presentations, and documents. Graduates also develop strong problem-solving skills that help with troubleshooting Microsoft Office issues.

Pursuing a process technology certificate online is a financial investment. To ensure you get the best education your money can buy, check the school’s accreditation status. The U.S. Department of Education makes it easy to quickly assess a program’s quality through accreditation, which ensures educational quality.

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Central Piedmont Community College 

Charlotte, NC Apply Now

About this school

In the charming town of Charlotte, North Carolina resides Central Piedmont Community College (CPCC), which provides learners with an information technology certificate. CPCC understands that students succeed when they can fully invest in their studies. As a result, the school offers several concentrations, including cybersecurity and fundamentals in information technology, mobile apps development, and web development.

To apply for the program, students need a high school degree or equivalent. Out-of-state students can enroll, but North Carolina residents receive significantly reduced tuition.

Course requirements range from 12–18 credits, depending on the specialization. The information technology certificate specialization in web development fundamentals only requires 12 credits, and classes include internet fundamentals, web markup and scripting, introduction to internet multimedia, and web development tools.

The information technology fundamentals concentration serves as a broad certificate program covering a wide range of topics and requiring more classes. These classes include web and programming database foundations, network and security foundations, operating systems and device foundations, information systems business concepts, and introduction to computers.

With so many assistive technology certification online programs to choose from, finding the right program is a complex task. No matter which concentration you choose, you can rest easy knowing that you’re receiving a high-quality education, thanks to the school’s regional accreditation status.

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Mount Wachusett Community College 

Gardner, MA Apply Now

About this school

You can find Mount Wachusett Community College (MWCC) in Gardner, Massachusetts, but the school’s students live all over the world. The community college offers a fully online certificate in information technology with an emphasis in support specialist.

This program prepares students to work as support specialists and in entry-level help desk positions. Throughout their studies, students utilize software applications, networks, and web servers and learn to use query database applications to locate, evaluate, and apply data. The program also covers content creation basics, like how to develop a webpage or construct written documents and oral presentations.

This full-time program typically takes students one year to complete. Most of the program focuses on problem-solving skills like diagnosing computer issues and troubleshooting hardware. If students enjoy the program and want to continue their studies, they can apply their certificate toward a computer information systems degree.

Noteworthy classes include microcomputer networking applications, introduction to information systems, computer service and repair, college writing, and microcomputer database management. MWCC understands that students thrive when they are invested in their studies. For this reason, they offer two elective requirements, which students can fulfill with courses like introduction to customer relations or technical writing.

When researching online colleges, pay close attention to accreditation. Schools with regional accreditation receive regular quality assessments from third-party organizations.

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Cerro Coso Community College 

Ridgecrest, CA Apply Now

About this school

Home of the Coyotes, Cerro Coso Community College delivers high-quality, convenient education to South California. Cerro Coso offers various online programs to suit student needs, such as the information technology plus certificate. This certificate prepares students to begin careers as help desk providers, computer support or repair technicians, and cybersecurity technicians.

With technology playing an ever-larger role in society, information technology is a growing field. This 13-credit program introduces students to the fundamentals of technology services. Most students complete this program in one semester, though some students may take longer if their schedules require it.

Affordable tuition rates are a highlight of Cerro Coso Community College. The school offers discounted courses for California students and competitive rates for out-of-state students. Prospective applicants must complete the school’s online application and submit their transcripts. Students with a minimum 2.0 GPA receive priority consideration. Once accepted, online students must complete an orientation. Note when selecting an online school that regional accreditation indicates quality schools.

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Fayetteville Technical Community College 

Fayetteville, NC Apply Now

About this school

Military members and veterans benefit from Fayetteville Community College (FTCC) and its Army Career Skills Program (CSP). The CSP aids service members and veterans by providing them opportunities to transition back into civilian life with career-specific knowledge. The certificate in computer and information technology educates veterans about hardware, security, and troubleshooting for computers, mobile devices, and printers. This certificate leads to entry-level jobs across several industries.

Successful completion of this eight-week program prepares learners to take the CompTIA A+, Network+, and Security+ exams. Passing all three exams grants students 20 credits in a short amount of time.

Students pay a flat-rate tuition and should set aside extra money to pay for additional tests and certification exams. Learners who pass all exams after their first attempt pay less than $1,000, but the North Carolina Works Career Center may provide funding for these fees for select recipients. Students may qualify for additional scholarships as well.

Students interested in the online information technology certificate can reach out to the school to begin the application process. After scheduling and attending an appointment, students may submit a request to begin the process.

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Forsyth Technical Community College 

Winston-Salem, NC Apply Now

About this school

Forsyth Technical Community College resides in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, but students from all over the United States can take advantage of its online courses. The school’s online certificate in computer information technology provides comprehensive knowledge on the basics of managing digital information. Certificate graduates enjoy careers in fields that rely on computer information technology, including private businesses, educational systems, and government programs.

This 17-credit program typically takes two semesters to complete, but students can tailor their degrees to meet their needs. Students learn computer basics through courses like security concepts and hardware/software support, providing them with the skills to enter the field.

Many programs offer special rates for in-state students, and Forsyth Tech is no exception. North Carolina residents benefit from tuition reduced by nearly one-third. However, with opportunities for financial aid, any student can affordably complete this online information technology certificate.

Admission requirements include an online application and official transcripts. The school does not require SAT or ACT scores, though students may still submit them for consideration.

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Ivy Tech Community College 

Indianapolis, IN Apply Now

About this school

Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana (ITCC) offers an accessible, affordable education that allows students to enter the workforce or pursue four-year programs. ITCC offers numerous online certificates, including the technical certificate in information technology support. This 12-month program prepares students for careers as computer and information systems managers, computer systems analysts, or software developers.

Students can complete the technical certificate in information technology support entirely online, making it perfect for students with work or family responsibilities. Online technology certificate programs like the one at ITCC allow students to begin successful careers without putting their lives on hold.

Indiana residents benefit from reduced tuition, but out-of-state students pay a similar fee. No matter where a student takes their courses, ITCC offers an affordable education that meets students' high standards. Additionally, scholarship opportunities, including the FAFSA, can help students in financial need.

Interested applicants must print a paper application from the school’s website and mail it in after completion. Accepted students can set up a MyIvy account and begin exploring what the school has to offer.

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Guilford Technical Community College 

Jamestown, NC Apply Now

About this school

Guilford Technical Community College (GTCC) Jamestown, North Carolina school offers several online programs and certificates to meet student needs. The information technology systems support certificate is one such program. Students interested in helping others navigate their computer systems and troubleshoot technical issues can complete this certificate to begin their new careers.

Students enrolled in the information technology systems support certificate must complete 15 credits in courses that tackle computer operating systems. The online technology system program covers all types of operating systems, including Mac, Windows, and Linux. Class types vary by instructor, but most online courses use an asynchronous format, where students can log in to complete work at their own pace between required deadlines.

GTCC offers other certificates similar to information technology, including a computer technology integration certificate and a security and data assurance certificate. Students should explore all available options to see which one best fits their needs.

In-state students benefit from significantly reduced tuition rates, but educational opportunities at GTCC are generally affordable. Students can also apply for scholarships and grants, including the FAFSA. As learners search for the right college for them, they should prioritize regionally accredited schools.

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West Los Angeles College 

Culver City, CA Apply Now

About this school

Obtaining a college certificate is an excellent way to learn new skills and find higher-paying jobs. West Los Angeles College (WLAC) offers certificates covering similar material as the school’s associate degrees, allowing students an accessible way to qualify for more career paths. The school’s certificate of achievement in computer science information technology is one example of this program.

This fully online information technology certificate invites students to learn how computers work and how to troubleshoot problems. Successful completion paves the way for careers in technical support in places like businesses and schools.

All online courses are either hybrid or take place entirely online. Online students don’t need to visit campus unless they desire it. Courses follow an asynchronous format and professors teach using the Canvas learning platform. This means students don’t need to log in at a specific time as long as they meet deadline requirements.

Individuals must complete the online application and submit applicable high school transcripts. Once accepted, students must complete an online orientation before enrolling in classes. WLAC offers an affordable tuition, and California residents pay less per credit than out-of-state students.

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The Advantages of an IT Education

A certificate-holder in IT can pursue many jobs within the field. However, most students train in a particular area such as cybersecurity, networking, or data management. A learner may pursue a certificate as a quicker way to gain a foothold in a competitive industry, qualify for a promotion, or transition to a new career.

Students can complete online technology certificate programs in 5–18 months. Consistent demand for qualified individuals with IT expertise does not appear to slow in the coming decade, as companies of all sizes become more reliant on computers and digital solutions.

As BLS notes, most entry-level positions in computer and IT occupations require a bachelor's degree in computer science and for many, a transferable associate degree is the first step. As the table below illustrates, a worker with an associate degree in IT can earn nearly 24% more than those who hold a certificate. Note that it would take a part-time student 4–5 years to complete the 60 credits needed for an associate.

IT Certificate Salary Information

Process technology certificate online programs in IT train students to support networks, software applications, computers, and other processes used in the storage, security, and transmission of information. Meanwhile, library technology certificate online programs prepare students to work with and support the automated systems used in libraries today.

No matter the IT path, those who work in the field tend to share similar personality traits and interests, like troubleshooting, using computers, and solving real-world problems.

System Administrator:
Computer and network system administrators, or sysadmins, help maintain servers, computer systems, and other technological systems for an organization. Their day-to-day duties include installation, IT support, and maintenance, which requires solid troubleshooting skills. A sysadmin typically holds a bachelor’s degree in a computer-related field like information technology or computer science, plus industry certification that demonstrates expertise in a particular area like working with Microsoft systems.
Salary based on experience:
  • Entry Level: $49,000
  • Mid-Career: $54,000
  • Experienced: $61,000
  • Late Career: $66,000
Information Technology Specialist:
IT specialists work with various technology products and typically provide services on a project-by-project basis. The scope of their duties includes repairs, maintenance, and even the creation of databases or programs. As the role’s name suggests, IT specialists focus on specific products, such as databases, and many acquire their skills through certification. With this said, some support positions may require a four-year degree.
Salary based on experience:
  • Entry Level: $47,000
  • Mid-Career: $49,000
  • Experienced: $57,000
  • Late Career: $69,000
Network Administrator:
Network admins keep an organization’s networks up and running, requiring expertise in both hardware and software systems. They support local and wide area networks, network segments, and data communication systems. A network admin possesses strong technical knowledge and typically holds a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field like computer science, information systems, or mathematics.
Salary based on experience:
  • Entry Level: $49,000
  • Mid-Career: $52,000
  • Experienced: $59,000
  • Late Career: $64,000
Help Desk Technician:
Help desk technicians provide first-tier technical support for computer products and equipment. Their typical daily duties include identifying problems, troubleshooting, and resolving issues by recommending action, walking users through steps, or escalating the problem for further attention. While many positions require a bachelor’s degree in a relevant discipline, a person could qualify for entry-level posts with a diploma and certification.
Salary based on experience:
  • Entry Level: $31,300
  • Mid-Career: $33,800
  • Experienced: $38,500
  • Late Career: $41,600
IT Support Analyst:
These analysts provide daily technical support to help keep operations running optimally. They also help strategize ways to avoid technical problems and improve performance. An IT support analyst typically needs a bachelor’s degree in IT, computer science, or a closely related field. Bachelor’s degree holders looking to pivot careers to IT could look into online technology certificate programs versus earning advanced degrees.
Salary based on experience:
  • Entry Level: $46,000
  • Mid-Career: $50,000
  • Experienced: $56,000
  • Late Career: $62,000

Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics and PayScale

Choosing an Online IT Program

Students looking to earn an online information technology certificate should take the time to carefully compare the pros and cons of various schools and programs. They should deliberate factors like cost, program length, and on-campus requirements, and not rush their decision.

The upward trend of online learning continues at the college and university levels. As schools create more program options to accommodate demand and make use of learning technology, it becomes incumbent upon students to invest the time needed to find a program that best fits their needs. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, for the 2014–15 academic year, approximately30% of all postsecondary students integrated some online education into their studies. Make sure to consider the following factors when selecting an online program.

Program Cost:
Affordability is a significant factor in earning a degree or credential online. Many schools offer a tuition specific for online students where learners pay the same cost per credit, regardless of location. Other schools offer discounts for out-of-state students, and still, other schools charge the same for in-state and out-of-state students as their on-campus counterparts.
Transfer Policies:
Transfer policies vary by school, mainly regarding the number of transferable credits the school allows from each level of education or training (e.g., associate degree, bachelor’s degree, military). Most regionally accredited colleges and universities require transfer students to earn any previous credit from regionally accredited institutions.
School Size and Type:
Public schools generally enroll more students than private schools. For example, the University of Central Florida enrolls nearly 57,000 undergraduate students, the most in the nation. Private colleges and universities also tend to keep class sizes smaller to provide a more personalized setting versus one requiring auditorium seating. The difference in class size is particularly salient in lower-division classes.
Program Length:
Certificate programs generally comprise 11–18 credits, which students can complete in less than six months in an accelerated program. On average, certificate programs last 5–18 months, with schools allowing learners to take up to three years to fulfill all requirements. Light or full course load, start dates, and the learning format all contribute to program length.
On-Campus Requirements:
Online technology certificate programs will not typically require on-campus requirements. Students likely can complete all work, including labs, entirely online. With this said, online students, in general, should check if a program requires any campus visits as this could prove impossible for some or delay plans of study.

Accreditation for Online IT Programs

Accreditation assures students that an institution adheres to established quality academic standards. These postsecondary institutions voluntarily submit to regular peer review cycles to prove that the school not only meets standards but continuously works to exceed them and develop further.

While institutional accreditation applies to an entire school, programmatic or specialized accreditation refers to a program, degree, or college within a university or higher learning institution.

Regional and national comprise the two accreditation types at the institutional level. Seven commissions cover six accreditation regions: New England, Middle States, Southern, Western, North Central, and Northwest. The U.S. Department of Education (ED) and Council for Higher Education help regulate academic accreditation by certifying these organizations. In doing so, they give these agencies the authority to assign accreditation. Federal financial aid is directly tied to a school’s accreditation status, which the college or university must obtain from an accreditor recognized by the ED.

For junior and community colleges, students should try to focus on schools that hold regional accreditation. Transfer policies at four-year colleges or universities often require students to earn lower-division credits from regionally accredited institutions.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Certificate in IT?

Online technology certificate programs can vary in length, depending on the program’s focus, required courses, and a student’s course load. For instance, assistive technology certification online programs and industrial technology certificate online programs may require different credits totals and may require students to complete prerequisites, delaying a student’s start.

Certificate programs typically require 5–5 courses for 12-15 credits. Learners should anticipate completing up to 20 credits, but not more. Also, most certificate programs allow students to take classes at their own pace, with the only caveat being the availability of courses for the term. Given this, students can finish an online information technology certificate program in 5–18 months.

Many students opt to pursue an online certificate while continuing to work. Part-time students who take two courses for six credits in the spring and the fall can complete a 15-credit certificate program in little over a year if they also enroll for the summer.

Courses in an Online Certificate in IT Program

Computer Networking Essentials:
In this course, students can gain a foundation in networking protocols, industry standards, and the required skills to configure, implement, troubleshoot, and maintain IT networks. They learn to address connectivity and performance issues, involving hardware, cabling, interference, and bandwidth. Topics include local and metropolitan area networks, intranets, and the internet.
Introduction to Information Systems:
Students gain a solid understanding of the components of computer systems and mobile devices, along with application software, digital storage, communications, and networks. The course also teaches internet fundamentals and explores topics related to online safety, security, and privacy.
LAN/WAN Technologies:
Enrollees can receive an overview of today’s communication technologies and computer networking concepts, including data communication, signals, analog and digital, and transmission mode. The course delves into various topologies, such as mesh, star, hierarchy (or star), bus, ring, and cellular topology. Non-survey courses require each student to possess a basic understanding of computers.
Introduction to C Programming:
This course provides a basic introduction to C programming, a general-purpose coding language used in various applications, including operating systems, graphics programming, and website animation. By the course’s end, students should know how to work with, troubleshoot, and resolve issues related to applications of C.
Information Security Essentials:
This course covers the latest in information security schemes, including policies and procedures used in cloud and mobile computing and for digital and telecom networks, data centers, and home use. Students can receive a holistic overview of the present state and evolution of data, web-based services, and endpoint security.

IT Membership Associations

Joining a professional organization or association can be invaluable when it comes to networking, finding a central resource for industry news, and staying up to date on a field and profession. For individuals looking to break into the IT industry, membership can help with career guidance, continued learning, establishing contacts, and landing that first job.

Association for Computing Machinery:
Founded in 1947, ACM today serves nearly 100,000 computing professionals from 190 countries. ACM members can participate in over 1,000 professional and student chapters, 37 special-interest groups, and close to 175 technical conferences, workshops, and symposia around the world.
Association of Information Technology Professionals:
AITP helps IT executives, academic professionals, and students expand their knowledge and connect with peers in the IT and computing fields. Membership benefits include career services, continuing education, chapter networking, and the latest on industry developments and trends.
Association for Women in Computing:
Founded in Washington, D.C. in 1978, AWC was among the first professional organizations in the United States dedicated to women in computing and their advancement in the computing professions. AWC promotes a professional attitude among members and provides opportunities for professional growth through networking and educational programs.
Association of Independent Information Professionals:
AIIP provides collegial support, professional development, and networking to its global membership. Member benefits include career services, discussion among fellow information peers, an annual conference, and a mentoring program for continued learning. AIIP formed in 1987.
Network Professional Association:
NPA welcomes secondary and postsecondary students, educators, and certified, experienced IT practitioners from around the world. The organization, established in 1993, offers three types of membership for professional, community, and executive members. Non-voting members can join at no cost. Benefits of membership include professional affiliation, career building resources, leadership opportunities, and peer-to-peer networking.