Google to offer career certificates it says are equivalent to a 4-year college degree

As many U.S. universities retool their on-campus classes to an online format, Google is going a step further by offering online certificates that it says are the equivalent of a standard 4-year college degree.

The Mountain View-based tech giant announced on Monday that it would be adding three new offerings to its Career Certificates program in the fields of Data Analytics, Project Management, and User Experience (UX) Design. 

Taught by Google employees themselves, the certificate programs take around half a year to complete, are entirely online through the Coursera platform and require no previous experience.

With the average tuition for the 2017-2018 school year estimated to be $17,797 at public schools and $46,014 at private institutions, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, Google’s new certificate programs appear to be a remarkably more affordable alternative than conventional higher education options.

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But there is still some debate as to whether online courses are still as effective versus the standard brick-and-mortar college offerings. In May, undergraduate students sued more than 50 schools after they shut down due to COVID-19, according to Bloomberg.

In a news release, Google highlighted statistics from the Brookings Institute on how almost two-thirds of all jobs created since 2010 require a significant level of technological skill, as well as how tech has acted as a lifeline to small businesses during the unprecedented economic turmoil of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We need new, accessible job-training solutions—from enhanced vocational programs to online education—to help America recover and rebuild,” Google said. 

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The company highlighted that 100,000 need-based scholarships would be given out for the certificates.

Google currently offers an IT Support Specialist career certificate, which costs $49 per month and has a flexible completion date. 

In addition to the career certificates, Google also hosts a variety of online classes in professionally-driven topics, such as “Fundamentals of digital marketing” and “Understand customer needs and online behaviors.”