Best Online Graduate Certificate Education Programs for 2023

Earning an online graduate certificate in education can propel your career and enhance your skills to help you in the classroom and beyond. Discover best-in-class programs and get answers to your questions in this guide.

Nationwide, teachers are in high demand. But a review of teaching trends reveals that the most pressing issue may not be simply finding teachers, but instead, it’s finding the right kinds of teachers. According to federal data, “Qualified special education, science and math teachers are among the hardest to find.”

Providing expertise in high-demand teaching specialties is the goal of a teaching certificate. So, if you’re looking to stand out amongst your peers, gain in-demand skills, and position yourself for more pay in a short amount of time, an online graduate certificate in education may be the key to your fulfilling future.

With so many specializations available, it can be hard to pinpoint the right path for you. This guide was created to help you narrow your possibilities; we’ll offer the best online graduate certificate programs in education, answer your questions, and get you started down your certification path.

College Spotlights: Best Online Graduate Certificate Education Programs

All online graduate certificate programs are not the same, and those poised to help education professionals achieve their goals will stand out in many categories, including student support, flexibility, high-quality teaching, affordability, and accreditation.

While there are more than a few top contenders for best-in-class, the three programs below are especially notable and make a good introduction to our full list of top schools coming later — so be sure to check back!

University of Connecticut

The University of Connecticut offers seven online graduate certificates in education, including:

  • Educating Bilingual Learners
  • Gifted Education & Talent Development
  • Postsecondary Disability Services
  • Program Evaluation
  • School Law
  • Special Education Transition to Adulthood
  • Leadership & Diversity in Sport Management

The Neag School of Education has offered e-learning graduate certificate programs since 2001, and it boasts a dynamic online learning platform (UConnOnline) that is mostly asynchronous in nature — meaning you can complete your coursework from anywhere at any time (as long as you meet deadlines), without having to attend scheduled classes. Certificate programs are 100% online, consist of 12 credit hours, and can be completed in one year, even by those with full-time careers.

The cost of the entire 12-credit-hour certificate program is $9,900, billed at a rate of $825 per credit or $2,475 for a three-credit course.

Requirements for the program include:

  • An essay on why you want to apply
  • Three letters of reference
  • Your résumé
  • Transcripts for both undergraduate and graduate coursework
  • A GPA of 3.0 or higher

Drexel University

If you’re looking for an institution with a wide range of certificate options, Drexel University’s Graduate School may be worth looking into. It offers 29 education certificate options at the post-bachelor’s and graduate levels, including in-demand choices like Advanced Teaching and Curriculum, Autism Spectrum Disorders, Creativity and Innovation, Education Policy, and Post-Bachelor’s Certificate in Special Education Leadership.

Programs generally range from 15-18 credits, with students needing to provide the following when they apply:

  • Transcripts
  • Two letters of recommendation
  • An essay
  • A résumé

You must have a GPA of 3.0 or higher to be admitted. Tuition rates are currently $1,047 per credit (a 25% savings from their regular tuition of $1,396 per credit). They do offer special rates for Drexel University alums, military members, and members of some partner organizations.

Courses take place during fall, winter, spring, and summer terms, and applications are accepted throughout the year.

University of Memphis

The University of Memphis has several online graduate certificates in education offered through its Instruction and Curriculum Leadership program. These are primarily completed in four to seven courses and can be earned over two to four semesters (sometimes all during one summer, like the Autism Online Certificate). Students who don’t yet have a master’s degree can apply 15 of these credits to their graduate program.

Students can choose from fully online or hybrid programs. Among the certificate specializations are the following popular options:

Online learners will pay $606 per credit hour for classes in this program. Tennessee residents and those from out of state pay the same tuition for U of M Global Online classes.

Top Reasons to Earn a Graduate Certificate in Education Online

There’s a good chance you’ve already invested a lot of time and money in your education, so you may be wondering why you should choose to pursue an online graduate certificate program. While the reasons for earning a certificate will vary from person to person, there are some common benefits to specializing in your field.

Learn on your own time.

As an educator, you likely don’t have abundant spare time; yet you also want to keep learning and growing. With the online graduate education certificates available today, it’s possible to learn during your hours outside of the classroom or office, including on nights and weekends or whenever you find yourself with a few hours to spare.

Be competitive in your field.

The scope of education is evolving quickly as technology becomes even more important in our daily lives. Online certificates, whether focused on technology or not, are equipping teachers with new skills and perspectives that they can apply in person or in virtual classrooms. Specialized certificates like Human Computer Interaction are immersing teachers in the world of artificial intelligence, so certificate holders are on the leading edge of a whole new world of educational resources.

Discover what you love.

If you want to broaden your horizons or hone in on a particular specialization, a graduate certificate exposes you to many ideas, experts, and perspectives that may open doors to new opportunities. You may discover through this in-depth education that you have a passion for a specific area of teaching or for helping students who have special needs, for example. Whatever you learn through this experience, a graduate certificate provides a flexible environment to add depth to your education and uncover new passions.

What You’ll Learn in Online Graduate Certificate Programs in Education

The certificate programs at these graduate schools allow you to gain in-depth knowledge relevant to the individual areas of specialization. For special education certifications, for example, you’ll focus on that student population and their needs, such as learning about classroom methodology and making coursework accessible. Digital technology certificates will give you access to more computer courses and modern learning tools and apps. Certificates focused on leadership may have you working with classmates to solve problems or create a new classroom project. Some programs may require a capstone or cumulative project, although most coursework can be done 100% virtually.

While options vary by program, here are some of the more interesting courses you may encounter.

Popular Courses

Instructional and Curriculum Leadership

How do school cultures and classroom teaching connect? In this course, you’ll learn about concepts like curriculum development, group dynamics, professional development, supervision techniques, and data analysis.

Teaching and Learning Issues in E-Learning

Distance education is the topic of this course, which grants teachers and administrators at all levels a look into what works and doesn’t work in e-learning. You’ll review major trends and issues related to using technology to improve academic results. Students in these classes often create online learning modules to explore hands-on applications.

Introduction to Gifted Education and Talent Development

This course covers the history of special provisions for gifted students and helps educators recognize systems that work for these learners. You’ll study major theories of intelligence, compare/contrast perspectives of giftedness, and evaluate different methods of academic instruction.

Multicultural Education

Students will explore the different sociocultural aspects of education, including a look at diversity in culture and how students learn a second language. You’ll focus on the historical, sociological, and philosophical foundations of education and how these perspectives interact with culture. You’ll also gain an understanding of how language is structured, how first languages are acquired and developed, and how languages vary.

Legal Issues in School Employment

Students examine the legal issues of K-12 education employment, including collective bargaining, tenure, privacy, due process, constitutional rights, and discrimination. You’ll spend time analyzing current school practices from the standpoint of potential legal controversies.

What are Some Specializations in Education Certificates That I Can Earn?

The colleges and universities above offer just a sampling of the available online graduate certificate programs in education. Here are some of the most common certificates you may find at your school of choice.

Adult Education

Education isn’t limited to the K-12 learner, and adult students need capable, curious education leaders to help them meet their fullest potential. This certificate program offers a look at the possible ways to interact with adult students and best practices for leading this population in the school and workplace.

Educational Administration/Leadership

If you’re ready to move beyond the classroom into a principal, superintendent, or other leadership role, this certificate can help you meet the demands of the modern workforce with leadership skills and hands-on experience.

Instructional Design

Learn how to create a curriculum, courses, and learning supplements that effectively reach today’s students of all abilities and talents. You’ll get to see real-life examples of the coursework that’s positively impacting students the most and learn techniques for creating your own.

Special Education

From an introduction to special education students and the variety of learning experiences, they need to thrive to tools recommended by experts today, this certificate offers a look into the ways teachers and education leaders can make an impact on learners of all ages and skill levels.

What Can You Do with a Graduate Certificate in Education?

There are many reasons to earn your online graduate certificate in education, including learning new skills so you can better connect with your students. Some educators are curious about new areas of education and may use the certificate program to develop specialized skills that are in high demand.

Graduate certificates also make educators more hirable in niche professional areas, such as technology, special education, instructional coordination and design, and educational administration. As big changes happen in education, such as the shift to more remote learning and a priority toward making learning accessible to all students, proven professionals with the latest knowledge will be needed to lead their peers.

Accreditation for Online Graduate Certificate Programs in Education

When researching your graduate certificate in education program, accreditation is an important factor to consider because it ensures that the program you’re considering meets the high standards set forth by governing bodies.

The university holds institutional accreditation as a whole and can be awarded by regional or national accreditors. You should be able to find institutional accreditation on the college’s website, but you can also check the official database maintained by the Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.

Additionally, you should research if the school has programmatic accreditations, which are more specific to the degree/certificate you are pursuing. For education, common programmatic accreditors include:

Costs and Financial Aid for Online Graduate Certificate – Education

Paying for college is a common concern of students, and graduate-level certificate coursework ranges widely in price. It’s important to know how much the full program costs, including fees and technology expenses, so you can develop a plan for paying for it over time.

Spend time exploring your financial aid options, and inquire at the financial aid office of the program you’re considering to see if there are any scholarships or grants available for your specific certificate. They may also be able to help you develop a payment plan for stretching out the cost over time.

Don’t forget to research any tuition assistance offered by your employer, as many private companies and school districts have money available for educators who want to enhance their skills or specialize in an in-demand area.

What Your Education Graduate Certificate Online Program Could Cost

Cost varies from school to school, but the below guide can help you plan for what you may pay to get your online certificate at a graduate school. These costs are usually the same for both in-state and out-of-state students.

School Name No. of Credits Cost/Credit Est. Total Tuition Cost










Frequently Asked Questions About Graduate Certificates in Education Online

What is the Difference Between a Graduate Certificate in Education and a Master’s Degree?

A master’s degree is a graduate-level degree that requires an additional 30-60 credit hours of study beyond a bachelor’s degree. It can take years to complete, especially if you are going part-time while working. Because of the higher credit requirements, it is also more expensive.

A graduate certificate in education is designed for educators who want to get additional training and skills in a particular area of the field, such as special education, technology, or administration. The certificate is not a degree, but the classes taken may be used as credits toward a second degree or even a doctorate at some schools that offer them. Certificates average 12 to 16 credit hours and can typically be completed in a few semesters.

What Are the Admissions Requirements for Online Certificate Programs in Education?

Each school’s requirements will vary, but generally, you’ll need to provide the following before being accepted into a graduate school online certificate program:

  • Bachelor’s degree
  • GPA of 3.0 or higher
  • Letters of recommendation
  • An essay about why you want to attend
  • Résumé showing your professional and educational experience

Schools can add other requirements, so check with the admissions office at your school of choice for detailed application instructions.

How Long Will It Take to Finish My Education Graduate Certificate Online?

The pacing of many online programs closely resembles what on-campus students experience, but online certificate programs are typically designed with working professionals in mind. This means that earning the 12 to 16 credit hours that most certificates require can take as little as one semester up to three years. Teachers can therefore be on their way to getting a certificate in a year or less, depending on their area of specialization.

Can I Earn My Graduate Certificate in Education 100% Online, or Do I Need to Take Classes on Campus?

Most of the certificate programs mentioned in this guide, along with many others, are available for 100% online coursework completion, making it easier for working graduate students to attend school and balance other obligations.

Some courses may be asynchronous, meaning course assignments can be done at any time that’s convenient for you as long as you meet a deadline; others may be synchronous, requiring that you attend courses live from the comfort of your home or office.