Student Loans for Certificate Programs
Certificate programs can help you switch careers, get a promotion or break into a competitive industry. But although the fees are typically less than a traditional college, you might still need student loans for certificate programs.
Federal loans are generally the best, due to their low rates and benefits, but some private student loans are also good options. Even better, there are alternatives such as grants or help from your employer to meet your certificate program expenses with no loans at all.
Lender Best for… Fixed interest rate Credit requirement Federal Direct Subsidized Loan Federal Student Loan 5.50% Not required Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loan Non-need-based federal loan 5.50% Not required Grad PLUS Loan Graduate students 8.05% Credit check only Ascent Student Loans International students 4.83% to 16.16% with autopay discount Not disclosed Sallie Mae Part-time students to with autopay discount Not disclosed
Read more about how we chose the best student loans for certificate programs.
Federal student loans for certificate programs
The government offers student loans and grants for some continuing education programs, including certificate programs. Federal Student Loan tend to have lower interest rates than private student loans, making them an excellent choice for paying for certificate programs.
The first step to getting federal assistance is to complete the Free Application For Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). You’ll need to make sure your school has financial aid for certificate programs —an excellent resource for this is the National Center For Education Statistics’ College Navigator.
Here are the three types of federal student loans that might help cover your certificate program:
Private student loans for certificate programs
As noted, it’s best to max out your federal student loan options before turning to private student loans since they come with those federal protections and benefits. After that, you can consider private student loan lenders to cover any remaining financial gaps.
Some private lenders have competitive rates and offer extra perks, such as interest discounts or deferment in the case of financial hardship. Before choosing a lender, make sure to shop around and compare your options.
A variety of lenders have student loans to pay for trade school, as well as other types of certificate programs. Below are a couple of good options, though you can search more widely across our list of best private lenders — just make sure you chose one that has a certificate loan on offer.
Alternatives to student loans for certificate programs
Before you even start seeking out financial aid for certificate programs, it’s worth also being aware of other possibilities, some of which might cost you nothing. Pay special attention to the first two options listed below.
A great place to get financial assistance for certificate programs is through your current employer. Many companies offer tuition or education reimbursement for continuing education, especially if the program can help improve or expand skills for your current role.
For example, if you’re a programmer and want to learn a new coding language — that’s a significant benefit to your company. Even if your employer doesn’t have a formal tuition reimbursement program, it might be willing to cover your costs if you make a good case.
Consider preparing a proposal for your manager that outlines what you intend to learn. Include the involved costs, plus how it will benefit your work and the company’s bottom line.
Scholarships typically don’t need to be repaid, making them a valuable way to pay for school without racking up debt. Some schools, such as the Flatiron School, offer scholarships to help offset the tuition cost. There are thousands of more scholarships opportunities that can help you pay for your education.
Scholarship search engines, such as Fastweb and Scholarships.com, are a valuable resource that can connect adult learners with scholarship opportunities nationwide. You can find and apply for as many scholarships as you wish, since there’s no limit to how many you can receive.
If certificate program student loans aren’t an option, and your employer won’t cover the cost of certificate programs, a personal loan could help. Personal loans for students tend to have lower interest rates than credit cards, along with set repayment terms to help you save money in interest charges.
That said, some personal loans still have relatively high interest rates, making them more difficult to repay. Before taking out a personal loan, make sure you can afford the principal amount, interest and any associated fees.
Another possibility is a flexible payment plan directly through your program’s school. For example, Bloc is a well-respected computer and design coding bootcamp which offers some flexible payment options. A student advisor can help you devise a payment plan that works for you.
Additionally, some coding bootcamps defer tuition until you’ve landed a job. This is a great way to learn a new skill and see if you have what it takes without any initial upfront investment.
While you’ll still need to come up with the money, payment plans can help you manage your budget. Rather than paying the full amount immediately, you can pay your tuition in installments so you don’t have to wipe out your savings account.
How we chose our picks for student loans for certificate programs
We selected these student loans for certificate programs by comparing rates, terms and overall application processes.
We hope our research allows you to find a loan that suits your specific needs and helps you achieve your educational goals.
Here are the criteria we assessed to choose our student loans for certificate programs:
- Flexible loan amounts that can cover up to the total cost of attendance
- Availability of loans for non-degree certificate programs
- Included all federal student loans options
- Included private student loan options specifically for certificate programs or similar credentials
- Autopay or auto-debit discounts