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Harvard CS50: Here’s How to Earn a Free Certificate

Harvard’s introduction to computer science offers a free certificate of completion. Here’s how to earn one.

CS50 2022 in Harvard’s Sanders Theater

With over 3.5M enrollments, CS50, Harvard’s Introduction to Computer Science, is one of the world’s most popular online courses, and it’s one of Class Central’s Best Online Courses of All Time.

Having taken the course myself, I can’t say I’m surprised. The course is excellent. It has a fantastic instructor; it offers a rich learning experience; and its curriculum is refreshed annually.

Most notably, the course is entirely free, and it includes a free certificate of completion. But figuring out how to obtain it can be a bit confusing. So let’s discuss CS50 and how, exactly, you can earn a free certificate.

(If you’re interested in some of the other courses in the CS50 lineup — which include Python, webdev, and AI courses — check our Harvard CS50 guide.)

CS50 in 2022

In 2022, CS50 is back to Sanders Theater and has a live audience again, but with masks still on, to be safe.

CS50 is taught by David J. Malan, and one of the best aspects of the course is that it’s updated annually. More specifically, the course is recorded every Fall in Harvard’s beautiful Sanders Theater ⁠— except last year, when it was filmed in the American Repertory Theater and without a live audience due to the pandemic.

In my experience, this is extremely rare. In the vast majority of online courses, lectures are recorded once and reused throughout the lifespan of the course. The only other course I can think of that records them annually is MIT’s Introduction to Deep Learning. It seems to be a prerogative a few big courses at rich institutions.

Beyond recording new videos, CS50 also refreshes its curriculum annually. In 2022, the course introduced the following changes, among others:

  • New Lectures: The course includes two new lectures. One discusses cybersecurity. And the other discusses emojis (more specifically, how emojis become emojis), to end the course on a light note.
  • New Problem: Week 7 of the course focuses on databases and culminates in a new problem, which involves scouring a database using SQL to solve a mystery.
  • New Code Editor: CS50 involves many coding exercise. You complete these via an in-browser coding environment. CS50 used to use a Cloud9 environment. Now, they’ve transitioned to a VS Code environment.

Like in previous years, CS50 ends with an open-ended software project ⁠— an opportunity for students to put into practice what they’ve learned throughout the course.

Free Certificate: How to Earn One

Since its launch, CS50 has maintained a firm stance toward openness. In 2022, the course remains entirely free, including its certificate of completion. This is how the free certificate looks:

CS50 free certificate of completion in 2022

But earning a free certificate of completion in CS50 can be a bit confusing. Indeed, the course is offered through three platforms:

  • EdX, which is the platform most people will be familiar with. On edX, CS50 doesn’t include a free certificate. Instead, it offers a paid verified certificate, which costs $150.
  • Harvard OCW, which is Harvard’s open online course platform. On Harvard OCW, CS50 includes a free certificate of completion, like the one above. Note that the course is the same as on edX, including the assignments. The only difference is that the free certificate doesn’t involve ID verification.
  • Harvard Extension School, which is part of Harvard’s division of continuing education. On Harvard Extension, CS50 doesn’t include a free certificate either. Instead, students can take the course for credit and receive a formal transcript, which costs $1500–3000.

So if you’re interested in a free certificate, head to Harvard OCW. To further confuse matters, note that even when you take the course via Harvard OCW, you may have to create an edX account to submit assignments. However, this should be entirely free: you don’t need to pay for the edX verified certificate.

Manoel Cortes Mendez Profile Image

Manoel Cortes Mendez

Software engineer and online graduate student in computer science passionate about education, technology, and their intersection.

Comments 27

  1. Tommy

    I am currently studying Information Technology and I just wanted to know your schedule so that I can be able to catch up with your programs since I am a new comer.

    Reply
    • Pat Bowden

      This course (like many others) is self-paced. You can join when you are ready. Lecture videos and other course materials can be accessed at any time of the day or night suitable for you.

      Reply
      • Ibrahim Ahmed

        CS50 is free with certification

        Reply
  2. Thom

    This course is not free. You have to pay $ 90 / or when You completed the course you earn a certificate?

    Reply
  3. Siddhi Deshpande

    Do we get a certificate after completing the course for FREE ? Like just a normal certificate which can be linked or is shareable ?
    I

    Reply
    • Manoel Cortes Mendez

      Yes, as long as you take the course through Harvard OpenCourseWare, you’ll get a free certificate that you can share.

      This is where you can take the course for free: https://cs50.harvard.edu/x/2022/

      Reply
  4. Aisha

    The price p
    of verified certificate was 90 dollar but why its showing 299 dollar now?

    Reply
    • Manoel Cortes Mendez

      The current price of an edX verified certificate seems to be $149.

      But note that you can take the course for free and earn a free certificate by taking the course through Harvard OpenCourseWare here: https://cs50.harvard.edu/x/2022/

      Reply
  5. Nathalie Aigil

    Hi, I’m from Papua New Guinea and I just want to en-quire if I can take to course online as an International student.

    Thank you.

    Reply
    • Arjun Murthy

      Yes, you can take the course from anywhere in the world.

      Reply
  6. Dane

    Where to register and what is the enrollment procedure?

    Reply
    • Manoel Cortes Mendez

      If you want to take the course for free, just start here: https://cs50.harvard.edu/x/2022/

      You’ll submit the problem sets via edX, but you don’t need to pay for the verified certificate.

      Reply
  7. endeavour shrestha

    The cost of certificate is 90$ but why is it showing 199$ in mine

    Reply
    • Manoel Cortes Mendez

      The price of a verified certificate seems to have increased. But note that you can take the course for free and earn a free certificate through Harvard OpenCourseWare: https://cs50.harvard.edu/x/2022/

      Reply
  8. Raphael Folorunsho

    GREAT SITE! THANKS FOR THIS VALUABLE INFORMATION. FROM NIGERIA.

    Reply
  9. Siphokazi

    I am from South Africa. I would like to know if you do take students from South Africa?

    Reply
    • Manoel Cortes Mendez

      Yes, the course is accessible to learners worldwide.

      Reply
  10. N. Luiz dos Santos

    Olá tudo bem!
    Seria Possível eu fazer um curso de (blockchain Crypton moedas, e inteligência artificial) com certificado sendo eu estrangeiro, no meu caso (Brasil) ?

    Reply
    • Manoel Cortes Mendez

      Harvard CS50 não oferece um curso de blockchain. Mas os cursos que eles oferecem, como este curso de ciência da computação acima, estão disponíveis em todo o mundo, inclusive no Brasil.

      Reply
  11. ReyFam

    Hi,
    I didn’t get that part where you said that the difference between the free version and the paid version, is ID verification?
    Thank you

    Reply
    • Manoel Cortes Mendez

      The free certificate only requires passing all the assignments. EdX’s paid ID-verified certificate also requires taking a selfie and picture of your ID card.

      Reply
  12. Jeffrey Whewhetu

    Thank you sir!!! For sharing this information. I’ve being looking for free certs to add to my resume and you have made my day. From Nigeria

    Reply

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