Guide EdX MicroMasters, XSeries & Professional Certificate Programs

Making Sense of edX Certificate Programs

  • Overview
  • Discussion
  1. Carolyn
    With 3 different MOOC-based credentials currently being offered by edX, potential students may find themselves scratching their heads in confusion.

    EdX was the first MOOC provider to offer multiple-course certificate programs known as XSeries which are designed for more in-depth learning than the single course options. Two years later, edX launched the MicroMasters™ credential - "a series of graduate level courses from top universities designed to advance your career". These programs grant credit that can count towards a Masters degree, allowing students to pursue an accelerated and less expensive education path. Then came the Professional Certificate Programs - "a series of courses designed by industry leaders and top universities to build and enhance critical professional skills".

    This guide aims to help learners distinguish between these three credentials.

    XSeries Certificate
    XSeries Cert.png
    Average program length:
    122 hours
    Verified Certificate: Yes
    Capstone project/exam: No
    Credit: No
    Eligibility requirements: None
    Cost: $100 - $450 per program

    The XSeries Programs allow students to explore a subject through a series of courses in order to develop deep knowledge. They are created by world-renowned experts and top universities and provide a deep understanding of a subject. EdX currently offer 30+ XSeries programs from a variety of universities covering subjects in Computer Science, Business, Humanities and more.

    To receive an XSeries Certificate, students must successfully complete the Verified Certificate option for all the individual courses that are part of the XSeries. The prices can vary across courses and specific XSeries, but typically range between $100 and $450 per program.

    The XSeries Certificate programs do not grant credit.

    Explore XSeries here


    Professional Certificate Programs
    Prof Cert edx.jpg
    Average program length:
    178 hours
    Verified Certificate: Yes
    Capstone project/exam: No
    Credit: No
    Eligibility requirements: None
    Cost: $25 - $550 per course

    EdX Professional Certificate programs are designed to build and enhance specific in-demand professional skills needed in today's job market, such as digital marketing, virtual reality and data science. The programs, which are endorsed by companies like HSBC, GitHub and The North Face, are designed by industry leaders and top universities and typically run over a 2-6 month period, allowing learners to quickly reskill or upskill in order to advance their career or position themselves for a new job.

    Learners can choose from 25+ Professional Certificate programs from universities and companies around the world and can expect to pay either $25 to $550 per individual course or, in certain cases, can buy a complete program package for between $175 and $555.

    As with the XSeries, students must successfully complete the Verified Certificate option for all the individual courses that are part of the Professional Certificate program in order to earn a Professional Certificate.

    Explore Professional Certificate Programs here


    MicroMasters™ Credential
    MicroMasters Cert.png
    Average program length:
    360 hours
    Verified Certificate: Yes
    Capstone project/exam: Yes
    Credit: Yes
    Eligibility requirements: None
    Cost: $600 - $1,500 per program

    Consisting of a series of graduate level courses, the MicroMasters™ programs are geared towards career advancement, providing in-depth learning in a specific career field and are linked to specific career outcomes. Each program has been officially endorsed by an industry leader highlighting the real job relevance of the course. MicroMasters™ credentials also count as credit toward a portion of a degree allowing graduates to apply to an on-campus program that recognizes the credential. The number of credits varies across programs and each university determines the number of credits that will count toward the on-campus degree.

    To receive a MicroMasters™ credential, students are required to earn a verified certificate in the individual courses that are part of the program and, in some cases, complete a capstone exam or project. There are no requirements for eligibility, but some MicroMasters™ programs have prerequisites which can be found on the page for that program.

    The cost of the MicroMasters™ credential varies across programs and range from $600 to $1,500. Information on pricing can be found on the individual program pages.

    Explore MicroMasters here


    Which credential is best for me?
    Deciding which credential to pursue will depend on what it is you want to gain at the end of the program. If you are looking to pursue an accelerated and less expensive Master’s Degree, the MicroMasters™ credential is the one to choose. This credential is also better suited to those wishing to gain in-depth knowledge in a specific field in order to advance in their careers and get recognition from employers.

    Compared to the MicroMasters, the Professional Certificate program is shorter in length, and focuses more on teaching a specific skill or job competence rather than the more in-depth mastery of a career field offered by the MicroMasters programs. The Professional Certificate is therefore more suited to professionals who want to "brush up" on a certain skill, or who need to gain a specific skill for a new job or promotion.

    Finally, the XSeries is the right option if you have an interest in a particular subject and wish to explore it further without necessarily looking for professional development as the outcome. XSeries usually require less time commitment than the Professional Certificate and gaining the credential won't lighten your wallet as much.

    See more Tips & Guidelines on MOOCs

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