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The Key Differences Between Free Online Code Courses & Online IT Certifications

The Key Differences Between Free Online Code Courses & Online IT Certifications

Hands down, learning to code is one of the best things you can do for your IT career—whether you want to work directly as a developer or just get a deeper understanding of the nuts and bolts of the apps, software and websites you work with every day.

But choosing exactly where to start with your coding education can be difficult.

Free online courses can be tempting because there’s no required monetary investment and you can work at your own pace, but certifications carry far more weight with HR managers trying to make the best hire for their company—to the point that they’re willing to pay those candidates 9% in their initial job offer.

Learning to Code From Harvard, Google & MIT For FREE

One of the best things about free online coding courses is that some of the most popular companies and top educational institutions are offering them to anyone willing to take the time to sit and go through the coursework.

Harvard offers a free introductory course to computer science online as a series of filmed lectures from the actual class that took place in the university.

Tech giant Google has a free class for learning to develop with Python, and MIT offers three free online coding courses: Intro to Computer Science and Programming, Practical Programming in C, and Structure & Interpretation of Computer Programs.

Other free online programs, like Code Academy, teach you lots of languages like JavaScript, PHP, jQuery, Ruby, and HTML + CSS, and even offer practical hands-on practice of what you learn.

The Catch of Free Online Courses

Free online coding courses are wonderful, for sure.

If you don’t have any coding knowledge and are curious if it’s something you’d like to pursue, they’re the perfect place to learn what you’d be getting into and to get fundamental knowledge to use as a base for more formal education.

The catch is, that while you may learn a ton while taking the course, there’s no exam at the end, and therefore no way to prove your competency in the area you’ve studied. There’s a certain amount of infrastructure required for that, and that’s something you have to pay for.

Affordable Online IT Certifications: IT’s Best-Kept Secret

Certifications, on the other hand, are the best-kept secret of advancing an IT career.

They come from organizations HR managers know they can trust, and since there’s an exam or final project attached to them, the hiring managers you submit your resume to will be confident enough in your abilities to keep you in the stack that gets called for an interview.

In fact, certifications might actually be more powerful (and are certainly more affordable) than four-year degrees.

According to Bloomberg, 70% of coding boot camp students already have a college degree, but decide to enroll to learn code because they’re desperate for better job availability, job security, and a decent salary. Further, they said that nearly 60% see a salary increase that averages around $23,000 extra per year.

In CompTIA’s 2015 report, 5 Reasons Why Employers Look for IT Certifications, “91% of employers believe IT certifications play a key role in the hiring process and that IT certifications are a reliable predictor of a successful employee.”

What Real People Did With Their IT Certifications

Borrowing a couple testimonials from Microsoft about what earning a certification has done for their students’ careers, you can see the impact that studying towards an online coding certification has:

Connecticut-based systems engineer Jason Zandri said,

“They’ve allowed me, a person with just a GED education, the ability to move out of a blue collar job into the professional, white collar field with limitless opportunity and a six figure salary since I was 35 (going on my tenth year of that).”

Teresa Burger, a Texas-based developer, said,

“The job market today is insane: I get job offers every day. It’s a great market for developers. It’s even better if you have your certification because that gives you that one little edge you have against somebody that doesn’t if you’re going for the same job.”

Complete a Code Certification in As Little As 8 Days

The good news is, getting a certification in coding online doesn’t have to take much time at all.

In many cases, you can be in and out of your course in a month or two and earning a higher salary sooner than you ever thought possible.

One of our students, a US Army veteran named Jonathan said,

“I was skeptical at first, but my college professor had been emphasizing the importance of IT certifications in addition to formal education. I am so glad I checked LeaderQuest out! I am loving my new job and am excited about my future.”

Have you ever done a free or paid online training course? What did you think?