Are Free Certificates Worth Getting?

Perceived value is often directly proportional to the price we pay for something. For a lot of people, that means something free is basically worthless to them. It is this mental process that make some people think that a free certificate is not worth the effort of acquiring. However, there are a lot of reasons why a free certificate might benefit you immensely.

In this article, I am going to explore this and other related questions about the value of free online certification.

Differences Between Paid VS Free Certification

Obviously you know the difference between things that cost money and things that are free, so the real differences between free and paid certification is mainly about value and perception. The main question is really: is it worth the effort to get free certification or is it a waste of time?

Why Are Some Certificates Issued for Free?

To really answer the question of whether or not free certificates are worth getting, it makes sense to look at who is giving them away and why.

Usually the free certificates that are most valuable are paid certificates that are temporarily free due to a promotion, and they’re especially valuable if they’re issued by a major technology company or University.

This type of free certificate has very little stigma against it because the certificate has a good reputation and normally costs money.

On the opposite side of the spectrum are free certificates that are always free and/or offered by unknown or smaller organizations.

While these no-cost certifications can still be beneficial to your knowledge, skill-set or career, these types of freebies are often considered to be “garbage certificates” for those serious about certification.

Organizations give away free certificates to either boost traffic to their website, boost enrollment in their courses, boost enrollment metrics, spur interest in their related products or services or to incentive other activities such as attending a trade show or conference.

I’ve earned a number of unaccredited certificates that I’ve added to my LinkedIn and resume, such as this one, which gave me practical Python machine learning knowledge that I can actionably use today to make my data analysis on this website more useful.

While this and other courses may be unaccredited, it was still useful in teaching me what I wanted to learn.

You can find my LinkedIn profile and more of the certificates I’ve been earning on my about page.

Frequently Asked Questions & Answers About the Value of Free Certificates

Q: Are Free Certificates Worth It?

A: To get a certificate, you need to pass a test, and in order to pass the test, you need to actually know the subject matter. Some free certifications come with free training, so if your only goal is to learn and test your knowledge, then a free certificate that provides that is worthy for that alone.

In addition, some certificates cost hundreds or thousands of dollars, but occasionally will be given away online or at trade events. These certifications are only free for a short period of time and to a limited number of people, and so they tend to keep their value.

Finally, there are some big name companies like Google who have free certifications for their cloud and ad platforms that can help prove to employer that you know your stuff. The fact that it is free is not anywhere near as important as the fact that you have a Google certification.

Q: How can I get a free certificate?

A: The more well known or high quality the provider of the free certificate is, the more likely it is that the free certificate is worth getting. As a rule of thumb you should always investigate the organization to make sure the certificate has merit and there isn’t a hidden fee. You can get good free certificates from all of the following sources:

  1. By completing free online courses & exams from Google & Microsoft
  2. By receiving vouchers at webinars, seminars and other physical and online events
  3. By taking advantage of limited time 100% off deals when they’re offered
  4. By subscribing to r/sysadmin for when the community spots a new free certificate
  5. I also update a daily list of free online certification here: https://learnonline.shop/what-free-professional-certificates-can-i-earn-online/

Q: What are the best free online certificate courses? What certificates can I get online free?

A: The best free certificates to get are ones provided by major companies or universities, especially when they are applicable to your career. A free certificate is only worth the effort of getting if it provides you some tangible benefit, such as teaching you a new skill or knowledge, helping you get a better job or opening up other opportunities.

I keep a daily updated list of the best free certificates, but here are a few free certificates that are going to remain free and valuable for digital marketers and IT professionals for awhile.

Free Certificate Platform Description Certification? Expiration
Fundamentals of Digital Marketing Certificate Google Earn a Digital Marketing certification directly from Google following this course. Yes Indefinite/Unknown
Google Analytics Certification Google Analytics Academy 6 different courses on Google Analytics, each offering certification for various aspects of Google Analytics. Yes Indefinite/Unknown
Microsoft Advertising Certified Professional Microsoft Microsoft A free course with a cert in Microsoft Advertising. Could be a good one for those in the marketing sector, with the biggest downside being that your certification expires after only a year? Yes Indefinite/Unknown

Q: Can I get free certification vouchers? Where do I get free certification coupons?

A: Free certification vouchers are often issued for live and virtual events, but are also sometimes distributed for other promotions.

Some companies like Coursera and Udemy offer certificates for completing certain courses, and during some promotions you can take those courses for free with a coupon and still earn the certificate.

Bigger companies like to open free entry level certifications for free from time to time in order to spurn interests in the rest of the set of certificates for the bigger title like Architect.

Q: Should I include free certificates with my resume? Should I attach certificates to my CV?

A: Free certificates should be mentioned if the issuer is trusted and/or accredited and the certificate is relevant to the specific job you’re applying for.

While you may want to note any prestigous or job related certificates on your resume or CV you should not actually attach them to the document in digital or print form. An employer may request to verify your certifications which is the time to present any digital or printed certificates.

Final Thoughts On “If It’s Worth It To Get Free Certification”

If your career path is to become a monk who lives in a monastery then I think getting a free certificate like the “Fundamentals of Digital Marketing Certificate” from Google would do you no good. I know it’s an extreme example, but I hope it helps illustrate that a certificate needs to be a match for who you are and what you intend to do with your life.

If you have an empty resume or CV and are trying to get an entry level marketing job, it makes sense to grab all 4 of the free certificates I linked to above. Those are great additions to any entry level candidate who is looking to get their foot in the door.

Of course it’s not the best, but it is way better than an empty sheet of paper.

At the end of the day, that’s what certificates come down to. A sheet of paper or a digital image that is supposed to promote you and your skills. It is meant as a literal certification of your knowledge and skill-set.

There is definitely some backlash against free certificates, but the bigger backlash is against unknown certificate issuers. No one will bat an eye if you’ve got a degree from a community college they’ve never heard of, but if you try to present JumboShave’s Turbo Certificate of Xcellence in Python for Big Data… well, that kind of low quality and unheard of certification on your resume or CV would actually harm you. Especially if they Google it and find out it’s free.

I know, I went off the rails a bit here with these examples, but I wanted to use those extremes to clearly illustrate that the ideal free certificate is:

  • From a company that people in the industry know and trust
  • Relevant to the job or career you are pursuing
  • Bonus points if the certificate normally costs money and is temporarily free due to a promotion

Update October 2, 2020: I removed the free Google G Suite Certification link because Google removed the course.

That concludes my experiences acquiring free certifications. I appreciate you taking the time to read this. If you feel like I missed anything or if you have any additional questions or concerns, please let me know in the comments below.


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jester espar3s

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