Learning Online: When You Should Take a Certificate Course (and When to Audit a Class)


Learning online is a great way to increase your skills and increase your earning potential as a gig worker. You could be searching for one or more online courses to take right now. You may be facing the decision of whether to pay additional money to obtain a certificate.

Several companies that offer online learning, including Skillshare and Udemy, provide students with the opportunity to purchase a verified certificate after completing a free or low-cost course. Here are three important factors to consider when deciding if you should pay for a certificate or audit a class instead.

Is the Course Relevant to Your Career Path?

When deciding if you need a certificate, think about why you opted for online learning in the first place. Do you expect to learn skills that will qualify you for a pay raise or new job? If so, obtaining the certificate can be worth the cost.

You might want to consider auditing the class if you are only taking it for personal fulfillment. It is also a good option if you are unsure whether you will use your new skills in future employment.

Another option is auditing a class. That means that you enroll in a college course but do not receive a grade or credit. Before you exercise this option, you will need to obtain permission from the course instructor. College students sometimes audit a class if they are concerned about the grade having a potential negative impact on their grade point average.

Is the Organization Offering the Certificate Credible?

You will need to complete your due diligence before signing up for online learning to make sure the organization offering it is legitimate. The last thing you need is to spend your hard-earned money on a PDF print-out from an online company with a poor reputation.

Online learning companies have existed for several years, which means you can find a lot of information about them online. We recommend checking the Better Business Bureau to view the grade it has assigned the online learning company and to see if there are any consumer complaints against it. You can also find student reviews on sites like Yelp, Facebook, and Consumer Affairs.

Will it Give You the Skills to Take Additional Courses or Challenge Yourself at Work?

You cannot always know the benefits you will receive from a course upfront. You may want to go for the certificate option if you feel like the course will help move you forward on a personal and professional level. Although you will need to consider your finances, paying for a certificate if you can afford it could be a good idea if you feel it will help you accomplish these goals.

Whether you end up taking a certificate course or auditing a college class, learning new skills is valuable just for the sake of it. It is all the better if you can include the new skills on your resume.

About the Author: Lisa Kroulik has worked as a freelance content marketing writer for 10 years. She loves the work and the lifestyle it affords. Learn more about Lisa’s work and availability through Writer Access.

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