What’s the best way to advance your career? Is an MBA the only path to career advancement in business? Earning a business certificate online helps professionals gain new skills in specialized areas of business. This guide walks through the top-ranked business certificates online and what you need to know before enrolling in a certificate program.
Quick facts: Online business certificates
What is an online business certificate? Where should you earn a certificate? And will a certificate make a difference on the job market? Here are the quick facts you need to know when considering an online business certificate.
- Earning an online business certificate takes as little as two months and as long as eighteen months, depending on the program. Some certificate programs require a bachelor’s degree.
- Most online certificate programs use a part-time enrollment option to fit the schedule of working professionals. Some also offer self-paced courses.
- Colleges and universities often offer business certificates through their business school or their school of professional studies. Certificates differ from certifications, such as tech certifications, because certificates teach information while certifications demonstrate prior knowledge and experience.
- During an online business certificate, learners complete projects, pass exams, and gain industry-relevant skills. Students participate in live and recorded lectures, complete reading assignments, and interact with instructors and classmates.
- Business certificates from reputable colleges and universities demonstrate career-focused skills and knowledge to potential employers.
Why earn a business certificate online?
Why should you earn a business certificate online? Certificate programs prioritize flexibility –– and an online learning format makes it easier for working professionals to balance school with their career.
1. They offer more flexibility than a traditional degree.
Earning a business degree typically takes 2-4 years. But an online certificate program takes less time. Thanks to focused courses that do not include general education requirements, certificate students only study material in their specialization area.
2. They offer more knowledge than a free online course and are less of a commitment than an MBA.
An online MBA requires a major commitment. Most MBA programs take two years and cost tens of thousands of dollars. On the other end of the scale, free online courses provide useful information but with less rigor or focus than a certificate program.
3. They can boost your resume, which may lead to career advancement and new job prospects.
Unlike free online courses, employers expect to see certificates from reputable organizations listed on a resume. As a result, a certificate increases your marketability, which can unlock career advancement opportunities or jobs in a new field.
4. They help you to learn new skills as the business industry evolves.
Business continues to evolve thanks to technology, new techniques, and cutting-edge research. Particularly for professionals who have been out of school for some time, enrolling in business courses online builds new skills to stay current in the field.
5. They can help you transition to a new career.
Moving into a new field poses several challenges. For career-change professionals, a certificate helps their resume stand out. Completing an online business certificate demonstrates industry-specific knowledge. Professionals can also learn more about new fields in online courses before making a career change.
Universities that offer business certificates online: Our top picks
Earning a business certificate online provides industry-focused knowledge and skills. Many top-ranked colleges and universities offer online business certificates that take as little as two months to complete. With certificates in high-demand fields like business analytics, project management, and finance, these universities help learners reach their professional goals.
This list introduces some of the best business certificate online programs. The programs are presented in alphabetical order.
Boston University Online
Length: 9 months
Financing options: Upfront payment; payment plans
Boston University offers online graduate certificates that emphasize skills in high-growth fields. Learners at BU study applied business analytics, corporate finance, and enterprise risk management. The university also offers certificates in financial management, global marketing management, and IT project management.
Most of BU’s certificate programs also offer master’s degrees, allowing learners to gain credits and experience before enrolling in a graduate degree. With focused coursework, a certificate helps professionals advance their current career or move into a new field.
Length: 2-8 months
Financing options: Upfront payment; monthly payment plans
Cornell University offers business certificates online designed for working professionals. The fully online certificates draw on expert knowledge to build in-demand skills. Cornell offers certificates in marketing, data science, technology, and leadership. Learners can also study human resources, finance, or real estate through Cornell.
The flexible structure lets professionals gain skills while working full-time. Cornell offers personalized courses with interactive and engaging elements. The certificate programs offer support services for distance learners.
Harvard Business School Online
Length: 6-9 months
Financing options: Upfront payment
Harvard Business School ranks among the most prestigious business schools in the world. Through HBS Online, professionals strengthen their problem-solving and analytical abilities through case-based learning. Students interact to exchange ideas and share viewpoints.
Harvard offers business certificates in leadership and management, analytics, finance, and entrepreneurship. The business strategy certificate lets learners choose three courses from options like disruptive strategy, sustainable business strategy, and strategy execution to customize the course of study.
Michigan State University
Financing options: Upfront payment; employer tuition assistance
Michigan State University builds versatile skills through its business certificate programs. With specialized certificates in areas like supply chain management, business analytics, and management, Michigan State helps professionals improve their marketability. The supply chain management options include certificates in advanced procurement management, strategic negotiations, and global supply chain management.
Learners also benefit from specialized options like supervisory management in the water/wastewater field. Graduate-level certificates generally require a bachelor’s degree.
Oregon State University
Length: 6-9 months
Format: Online; self-paced
Financing options: Upfront payment
Oregon State University offers fully online business certificates that prioritize flexibility. Students can choose between a single course or a collection of courses that grants a certificate. The online certificate options include project management, nonprofit management, and business administration.
The digital brand management certificate trains learners in online marketing. The program’s real-world focus draws on industry expertise to prepare professionals. Oregon State does not set prerequisites for its certificate programs.
Penn State World Campus
Financing options: Installment plan; employer tuition assistance
Penn State offers online degrees through World Campus. Learners can also earn a business certificate online. The undergraduate and graduate certificate programs provide focused training and transfer into Penn State’s online degree-granting programs.
At Penn State, students can earn a graduate-level accounting certificate, strengthen quantitative skills with a business analytics certificate, or study applied statistics. Learners also study business management, financial planning, marketing analytics, and organizational development consulting. Many certificates let students customize their courses based on their professional goals.
UC Berkeley Extension
Length: 1-2 years
Financing options: Upfront payment; private loan options
UC Berkeley offers business certificates online through its extension program. The online certificate programs emphasize professional development training for business professionals. Learners can pursue an accounting certificate, which includes 24 credits of advanced accounting coursework.
Berkeley also offers certificates in business analytics, marketing, and financial planning. Other career-focused certificates cover paralegal training, digital marketing, and project management. Berkeley recommends completing a bachelor’s degree before enrolling in a certificate program.
University of Notre Dame
Length: 4-24 weeks
Financing options: Upfront payment; corporate payment assistance
The professional development certificates at Notre Dame focus on effective communication, leadership, and nonprofit management. The fully online certificate programs train learners in management, nonprofit leadership, and nonprofit fund development. Notre Dame also offers a unique women in leadership certificate.
Notre Dame incorporates interactive and collaborative elements into its programs. Faculty deliver online, interactive lectures that let students pause and review any material. Presentations, infographics, podcasts, and more create a multimedia-rich learning environment.
University of Virginia Online
Length: 12-20 months
Format: Online; part-time
Financing options: Upfront payment; employer tuition assistance
The University of Virginia offers undergraduate and graduate-level business certificates. The School of Continuing and Professional Studies offers skills-focused business certificates online. Learners can strengthen their leadership, project management, and accounting skills through a certificate.
Several UVA programs prepare learners for professional certifications. The graduate accounting certificate meets the requirements for the CPA exam, while the certified financial planning certificate trains learners for the CFP exam. Graduate certificates require a bachelor’s degree.
Financing options: Upfront payment; deferred corporate tuition assistance
Villanova University designs certificate programs to prepare learners for industry certification exams or gain valuable career skills. These certificates help professionals validate their training in key business fields.
The professional education programs at Villanova offer industry-focused certificates in areas like human resource management, applied project management, and business analysis. Students can also study Agile and Lean Six Sigma through Villanova’s online certificate programs. Villanova’s other certificate options include cybersecurity, business process management, and business intelligence.
Length: Varies; self-paced
Format Online; self-paced
Financing options: Does not offer tuition assistance
Wharton Online offers multiple business certificates through their digital learning platform. Over 100,000 professionals have earned a certificate through Wharton Online. The business school offers online courses in leadership, technology, and business strategy. Learners can complete a strategic management certificate, study entrepreneurship or digital marketing, or specialize in asset and portfolio management.
Many of Wharton’s courses include a self-paced option. These certificate programs also award continuing education units to professionals maintaining certification credentials.
Earning a business certificate online helps professionals advance their skills through a flexible learning format. Before enrolling in an online certificate program, research the school, certificate requirements, and cost. Prospective certificate learners can also ask programs for information about professionals who complete the certificate. By finding the right certificate, professionals can demonstrate specialized knowledge to employers.
This article was reviewed by Krystal Covington, MBA
Krystal Covington, MBA, is a business growth strategist with 15 years of experience in marketing and public relations. Her company, Go Lead Consulting, provides clients foundational tools to build new client and customer relationships.
Covington founded Women of Denver, one of the largest privately held membership organizations in Denver, Colorado. Her program helps women increase their business acumen, sharpen leadership skills and connect with other high-achieving women. Covington received her MBA from Western Governors University in 2012.
Krystal Covington is a paid member of the Red Ventures Education freelance review network.