Pursuing a Certificate
Certificates are the fastest-growing post-secondary credential in the United States. Learn how to get started, track your progress, and successfully earn a graduate certificate from Harvard Extension School.
Certificates at a Glance
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No application is required to pursue a graduate certificate.
Follow these three steps to get started:
- Find a graduate certificate that interests you.
- Browse the current certificate course offerings.
- Enroll in a course for graduate credit when registration is open.
Start with a course
You can get started on your path to a certificate as soon as a registration period opens. Fall registration opens July 23.
Can I earn a certificate online?
Most of our certificates can be completed online. But a few certificates have more limited online options.
I’m an international student. Can I take courses on campus?
Most of our certificates can be earned completely online. However, if you would like to study on campus, you may request an I-20 Certificate of Eligibility for full-time study in the summer at the Harvard Summer School.
To be eligible for the I-20 certificate, students must be registered for a total of eight on-campus graduate credits in the 7-week summer session, or four on-campus graduate credits in a 3-week summer session.
See the international student guidelines for Summer School for more details.
Note: I-20 Certificates of Eligibility for the F-1 student visa are not available for on-campus study during the fall and spring semesters, because of the part-time nature of the Harvard Extension School. If you obtain an I-20 from Harvard Summer School for an F-1 visa, it is not possible to continue studying on the F-1 at Harvard Extension School.
Students must earn a grade of B, B+, A-, or A in a certificate course in order to have it count towards the certificate. Courses in which a student has earned a grade of B- or below cannot be counted towards a graduate certificate.
Currently, there is no restriction regarding retaking a course in order to have it qualify for a certificate. The course will be listed on your transcript for each term that you take it and will include all grades you are assigned.
Tracking Your Progress
The Certificate Course Tracker and Request Form—available through online services—will help you keep track of the courses you have taken that are eligible to count towards your graduate certificate of interest.
Monitor your progress by logging in to online services and choosing the Certificate Course Tracker and Request Form. This form will confirm the courses that count toward the certificate, the courses for which you are currently registered, and the courses that you've completed.
Will all the courses listed be offered every year?
Certificate required courses are offered each year, but the elective offerings do change slightly because of new offerings and instructor availability.
Can I substitute a course that is not listed on the certificate course search?
No. Only those courses specifically listed in the certificate course search can be counted toward the certificate. We do not accept course substitutions or transfer credit.
What will my certificate say?
If you earn a professional graduate certificate, the certificate will state: Harvard University, Harvard Extension School awarded [Your Name] a [three-, four-, or five-] course Professional Graduate Certificate in [field name].
If you earn a liberal arts graduate certificate, the certificate will state: Harvard University, Harvard Extension School awarded [Your Name] a [three-, four-, or five-] course Graduate Certificate in [field name].
Financing Your Certificate
You may be eligible for scholarship funds, including Lowell Scholarships for Boston-area middle and high school teachers, community scholarships, and private student loans. Federal or state aid is only available to students who have been admitted to a degree program.
Earning Multiple Certificates
If you plan to pursue multiple certificates, keep in mind that your courses can only count toward one certificate. Each certificate is carefully designed to include a distinct set of courses to ensure its academic and professional value.
Continuing on to Earn a Master’s.
Graduate certificates are stand-alone academic credentials that allow you to broaden your knowledge, update your professional profile, and advance your career.
Earning a certificate can also be a great first step to exploring a new field of study. Most of our certificates stack toward at least one master's degree. The courses you take to earn one certificate may count toward a graduate degree.
If you think you want to pursue this path, make sure to do your research. You will need to plan ahead to ensure your certificate courses count toward your specific degree requirements.
If you know you would like to pursue a degree program, we encourage you to apply to the degree program first and earn your certificate along the way.
How do certificates differ from degrees?
Certificates offer concentrated academic pathways—3 to 5 courses to complete—for students looking to enhance a specific set of skills or fill a knowledge gap. Earning a certificate demonstrates to employers your proficiency in a topic, as well as your determination and discipline to succeed academically. You are awarded a certificate upon completion.
Certificate earners become Associate Members of the Harvard Extension Alumni Association (HEAA), providing them access to alumni events and career services. However, certificate earners do not gain membership to the Harvard Alumni Association (HAA).
Our graduate degrees are a more comprehensive, long-term academic commitment—10 to 12 courses to complete. You must complete specific admissions requirements and application to pursue a degree.
Degree earners receive a Harvard University diploma and are invited to participate in Harvard Commencement. Degree earners become Alumni Members of the Harvard Extension Alumni Association (HEAA), as well as the Harvard Alumni Association (HAA).