Are MOOC Certificates Worth Anything?

David Brown (Senior Developer) Updated February 16, 2024
Are MOOC Certificates Worth Anything?

With countless Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) available, you can access diverse knowledge regardless of education level and geographical location.

But do certificates obtained from these courses add any value to your university credits or mean anything to recruiters?

MOOC certificates are worth it as they show you have advanced your knowledge to stay up to date with the developments in your field. However, the value of the certificates differs depending on the issuer. Certificates from reputable institutions have more weight and can land you a job or a promotion.

In this article, we’ll explore MOOC certificates. Their value, how they contribute to your university credits, how they influence recruiters, when you should obtain them, and factors to consider when enrolling.

What’s the Value of MOOC Certificates?

As technology keeps advancing, it’s becoming increasingly important to keep learning new trends to stay relevant in your field. However, institutions of higher learning have many obstacles, such as entrance examinations, distance, and tuition fees. 

But with the advent of MOOCs, the tune has been changing. You can access learning materials structured as online classes and obtain a certificate after completion. Though you may have to incur a cost in some cases, it is insignificant compared to getting a traditional degree. 

With a MOOC certificate, you can do the following:

  • Display in-demand skills. A verified MOOC certificate gives you a competitive edge in a crowded job market by presenting the hard or soft skills the employer might be looking for.  
  • Showcase commitment and drive. You complete MOOC classes out of personal initiative because there’s no instructor to follow up on you. To an employer, it is a sign of responsibility and willingness to create value in your work.
  • Establish specialization. Having more than one certificate in a particular field presents you as a specialist and can lay a foundation for further learning.

Are All MOOC Certificates Equal? 

The value attached to a MOOC certificate varies depending on a few factors. First is the institutions. Some MOOC certificate issuers partner with universities to provide comprehensive reading materials and videos. For example, Coursera partners with universities such as Stanford and Harvard. 

Lecturers who help in preparing and publishing the online course have vast experience and ensure learning resources meet academic standards. Thus, a MOOC certificate from such an institution would hold more weight than one which does not partner with any learning institutions. 

Another thing that distinguishes a MOOC certificate is verification. A verified certificate requires payment of a fee and is more valuable and authentic than a free or audit certificate with no charges. To have a verified MOOC certificate, you’ll have to prove your identity through a government-issued ID and pass the class assignments and exams.

Lastly, a MOOC certificate is more valuable if the course has an accessible instructor. While self-studying, you may encounter some complex concepts that need clarification. If you have nobody to answer your questions, the certificate might be for a show because you lack a thorough understanding of the subject. 

Does a MOOC Certificate Add to Your University Credit?

Most MOOCs offer non-degree credentials. However, there are university programs that earn learners academic credits through MOOC platforms. In this case, only learners who have gone through the application process and are paying tuition fees earn credits. This means you can access study materials for free, but you won’t receive credit if you have not followed the admission procedure. 

You can also earn transfer credits through this program by obtaining MOOC certificates from other universities. Some programs allow you to convert your MOOC learning into credit if you enroll in specific organizations and give you the ability to apply after finishing the coursework, obtaining the certificate, and paying the tuition fee. 

What About Microcredentials?

Microcredentials are variants of MOOCs that give you a deeper understanding of a specific subject. Examples include:

After earning a micro-credential, you can usually apply those academic credits towards the full completion of a master’s degree. 

Do Recruiters Recognize MOOC Certificates?

While MOOC certificates add value to your CV by showing skill advancement and interest in a particular field, recruiters still favor applicants with traditional degrees. Traditional degrees tend to be more authentic and provide a clearer metric of career and academic success. 

Also, MOOC certificates fill skill gaps that most recruiters don’t consider during recruitment. They assume that a candidate with traditional credentials has already acquired the skills through academic training. In other cases, hiring depends more on a candidate’s experience than credentials. 

However, some recruiters recognize MOOC certificates, and job seekers have landed jobs, promotions, and pay raises. With constructive criticism on the MOOC courses, administrators are learning what skills and knowledge gaps are missing. So there’s a potential for the courses to be more relevant in a CV in the future. 

When Should You Consider Obtaining a MOOC Certificate?

A MOOC would be beneficial in the following situations:

  • When you want to improve your career. According to a survey conducted by Harvard Business Review, 26% of participants reported they got a new job, promotion, or pay increase as a result of a MOOC certificate. Another 85% reported career benefits for enrolling for more than one MOOC.
  • When switching career paths. A MOOC can help you gain foundational knowledge of a new field without returning to the traditional learning system.
  • When you want to explore new trends. Enrolling in a MOOC can help you learn about recent trends that match digital technology, such as machine learning and artificial intelligence, and how to apply them in your field. 

Factors To Consider Before Taking a MOOC 

While MOOCs are beneficial, they have not yet received the attention they deserve. Some are also pretty shallow, while others have an equal value to traditional courses. To maximize the value of your MOOC certificate, you should consider the following: 

  • The instructional strategy of the course. Ensure the class has an accessible instructor to answer all vague concepts and has all content covered available online. 
  • Course reviews. Learners’ and instructors’ reviews on a course can help you know if it has weight or not.
  • Reputable institution. MOOC certificates from institutions that partner with institutions of higher learning hold more value. Examples are Coursera, Udacity, edX, and FutureLearn, among others.
  • Professional certificate. Though you may incur charges, you should consider obtaining a verified certificate.

Final Thoughts

While MOOC certifications are still evolving, they are helpful if you seek to improve your job performance, change your career, or start a new business. Some employers are also starting to recognize MOOC certificates from universities, and you may land a new job or promotion. However, traditional credentials still outperform MOOC certificates. 


David Brown
About the author

David is a self-taught senior developer who lives in San Diego. He has over 10 years of experience in the software development industry and has worked on a variety of projects. He has a passion for coding, and a keen interest in the latest online education technology.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *