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
|Cost per Course||Number of Courses|
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.
Most of our certificates can be completed online. But a few certificates have more limited online options.
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 toward the certificate. Courses in which a student has earned a grade of B- or below cannot be counted toward 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.
Students must complete courses within three years from the first day they start taking applicable courses towards their certificate. See chart below for specific start and completion semester information.
|Semester in which you start classes||Semester when you must complete certificate courses|
|Summer 2020||Spring 2023|
|Fall 2020||Summer 2023|
|Spring 2021||Fall 2023|
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.
Certificate required courses are offered each year, but the elective offerings do change slightly because of new offerings and instructor availability.
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.
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 of Liberal Arts (ALM) 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.
It’s important to keep the following in mind:
- ALM degree students must hold a four-year U.S. bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution, with a degree conferral date that precedes enrollment in graduate-level courses taken at Harvard Extension School. If you do not meet this requirement, your graduate certificate coursework will not stack toward one of our master’s degrees.
- Not every certificate course counts toward a degree. Use both the certificate course search and degree course search to see which requirements are met through your courses.
- We recommend you complete the degree pre-admissions courses, if they are part of your certificate.
- ALM Degree Programs:
- Have five-year completion deadlines.
- Require a Harvard On-Campus Experience
- May require a certain number of courses to be taught by instructors with a current Harvard University teaching appointment
For more information please see your specific degree requirements website.
Resources for Certificate Students
As a certificate student you gain access to the following resources to aid in your success:
When you have questions about the process of earning your graduate certificate, know we are here. We offer weekly Open Virtual Office Hours where students can drop in and ask questions. Visit the site for dates and more information, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are here for you and your success. Certificate students have access to the Career and Academic Resource Center (CARC), where they can participate in online webinars on career planning and academic skills. CARC offers monthly call-in career counseling for all certificate students. You can also participate in our annual Harvard Extension School Career Fair, held during the spring semester.
As a student at Harvard Extension School, you can utilize any of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) Harvard libraries with your class participant library card. Visit our Library Resources page for more information.
Alumni Association Membership
Once you’ve completed your graduate certificate, you become an associate member of the Harvard Extension Alumni Association. Associate membership grants you access to a global community of Harvard Extension School graduates around the world!
Additional Student Resources
Visit our Resources page for additional resources such as computer labs, writing center, and the Math Question Center.
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).