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Alternative Certificates to Degree Programs
In the early 2010s, Lynda.com and Coursera began offering massive open online courses (MOOCs). Common subjects include coding, mathematics, and language. These accessible, self-paced courses provided a quick way to learn a new skill or enhance your resume.
Today, Google takes the concept a step further with its own MOOC. The tech giant markets its Google Career Certificates as alternatives to a bachelor's degree. It offers five tracks that take only 3-6 months to complete at a fraction of the cost of one semester of college. You do not need prior experience to apply.
In the past, if you wanted to side-step the traditional college route and still make a family wage, you were mainly limited to vocational and trade schools. Google's certificates challenge that notion.
"In our own hiring, we will now treat these new career certificates as the equivalent of a four-year degree for related roles," its senior vice president of global affairs, Kent Walker, said.
Other industry leaders, including Apple and IBM, have also started to open their doors to non-degree holding applicants for certain positions.
What Google Career Certificates Are Available?
At present, Google offers certificates in IT support, IT automation, UX design, data analytics, and project management.
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How Much Do Google Career Certificates Cost?
Google certificates cost $39 a month and generally take 3-6 months to finish. So, students generally pay $117 - $234 for one of Google's certificates. Those who cannot pay out of pocket may qualify for scholarships.
Career Certificates vs. Associate Degrees
Certificate programs save students thousands of dollars and allow them to enter the field in less than half the time.
That said, associate degrees offer a deeper understanding of an industry, rather than just the need-to-know skills. For example, an associate degree in information technology often requires students to take classes in computer ethics and college writing in addition to more technical courses.
A wider understanding of the field may qualify you for more advancement opportunities later on. Also, consider that credits earned from associate degrees often apply toward bachelor's programs. So, if you intend on completing a four-year program at some point, pursuing an associate degree may be worth the extra time and money.
Google Career Certificates vs. Similar Programs
Websites like edX and LinkedIn Learning, which predate Google Career Certificates, offer comparable online courses in a wider variety of subjects. So, which option is best for you? That depends on your career goals.
LinkedIn Learning primarily offers software-specific courses, e.g. Adobe products, Excel, and QuickBooks. Rather than paying for each course, you pay a subscription fee of $29.99 per month. You can complete each in just a few hours. When you finish, you receive a certificate to display on your LinkedIn profile or resume.
LinkedIn Learning's offering is different from Google's in that it does not market its courses as replacements for traditional degrees. However, you may find that it suits your needs better than a longer certificate program does.
EdX works with universities including MIT and Harvard to create courses in subjects like business, data science, engineering, and social sciences. It offers some free courses, which usually take 6-10 weeks to complete. You can take a single course or complete all the courses in a program to earn a verified certificate for $50 - $300. These programs are more comparable to Google's certificates than LinkedIn Learning's offering.
Degree-holding professionals just looking to "up-skill" to qualify for a promotion may get more value from quick online courses in specific areas. Career changers and recent high school graduates are good candidates for lengthier certificates from Google or edX.
Is a Google Career Certificate Worth It?
Who wouldn't want to skip four years of college and save thousands of dollars? But the real question is: are these fast-track certificates too good to be true?
Google claims that the median annual wage of its certificate-holders ranges from $75,000 - $93,000. According to a learner outcome survey of Google certificate-holders, 82% of graduates experienced "a positive career impact in six months."
But it's difficult to say if other major employers really take certificate-holding candidates as seriously as degree-holding candidates.
As Dandan Zhu, headhunter and CEO of Dandan Global, told B2: "It's at least a foot in the door. It isn't equivalent to four years in college, but it means that this person has really sharp, immediately applicable skills."
However, if you aim to use your certificate to enter a field desperately in need of entrants — which Google Career Certificates are designed to address — your chances of success are high.
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