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.
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
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.