Review: BU Certification Program 17

Nearly from the moment I began down the path of genealogy research I heard people talking about “The BU Program.”  What it was like, who took it, how it could help you, why you should/shouldn’t take it, and so on.  After thinking about it for three years I took the plunge last fall.

For those of you who are not sure what program I am refereeing to “The BU Program” was the Certificate in Online Genealogical Research offered through Boston University Metropolitan College Center for Professional Education.  The center offers two programs.  First, Genealogical Essentials for those genealogist who are still getting their footing in the field or serious hobbyists looking to create better work.  The second program offered is the one I took on genealogical research and it focuses on taking those interested in certification and professionalism to the next level.

My goal for quite a while has to become a professional genealogist.  Whether that was going to be through writing, lecturing, or taking on clients I didn’t know.  What I did know is that I felt like I was floundering. I needed some guidance, with active feedback, and to figure out if my skills were up to snuff.

The price tag for the course was a little daunting (at the writing of this article the course was $2,695) but if you are a member of the New England Historic Genealogical Society, the National Genealogical Society, or the Association of Professional Genealogists you can receive a 10% discount on the fee for either course.  Luckily at the time of registration I had one of these memberships plus an understanding and supportive spouse who agreed to adjust the household budget.

Simply by reading the website I knew I was going to be in for a time-consuming and learning intense environment.  True, it has been a few years since I attended college, but I know enough people with advanced degrees to know that when I saw this course was accredited for 3 graduate school hours it would take real dedication.  Let me say, I got what I expected.

Over 15 weeks we learned the ground work to writing and creating professional level reports.  Delved into forensic genealogy and correct source citations.  Honed our skills in research and problem solving through case studies and mysteries in our family trees.  Then we wrapped it up by learning what it means to be a professional genealogist.

Between online classwork, supplemental reading, and homework I spent an average of 20 hours a week on this course.  My usual routine was 3-5 hours, Monday-Friday, working on the class.  Of course, since it was a self-paced course for the most part (you did have assignments with hard deadlines which had to be turned in for course credit) I could work when I needed to and around the household schedule.

A few people in the course were taken by surprise by the course load and the work.  Some thought it was very easy and breezed through it all quickly without any issue or problem.  I think I fell into the middle.  There was no way I was going to turn stuff in early nor rush through the assignments.  I was going to squeeze every drop of information from the discussion group, readings, assignments, and examples that I could.

What I didn’t expect was the absolute blast I had.  Seriously, it was an amazing time and I loved every minute of it.  Even when I was cussing the computer and my writer’s block (because apparently you can get stopped cold in your tracks writing reports too) would kick in.  The connections I made to others, the sheer amount of information I crammed into my head, and the skills I now have were well worth the time and money I put into it.  Not only can I see if a difference in my work but so can my friends and mentors who have helped me in the past.

If you are interested in learning more about what you will learn, the books required, or the faculty you can read all of that and much more on the program website.  There is even a quiz you can take to test your skills on the homepage.

Needless to say, I am very proud to be able to say I graduated from the 13th online class (OL 13) and received my official certificate!

Shannon BU Certificate



About Shannon Combs Bennett

Shannon Combs-Bennett, owner of T2 Family History, is a speaker and author based out of Virginia. She enjoys teaching about a wide range of topics from DNA to methodology. Currently Shannon is the Creative Director for The In-Depth Genealogist. You can learn more about her at

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17 thoughts on “Review: BU Certification Program

    • Shannon Combs Bennett Post author

      You are welcome! I read up on the course and talked to other people so I had an idea of what I was getting into. However, there were some of my classmates who were shocked. I hope you can figure out if this program is for you.

  • Michelle Goodrum

    Congratulations Shannon! And thanks for an eye opening review of the BU course. I’m hoping to take it this fall and had heard it can be quite time consuming. I’ll plan on carving out 3-5 hours like you did.

  • Patti

    Congrats on completing. My question is why did you choose BU instead of Brigham Young? Cost? Course content? Recommendations by others? I have gone to several genie conferences and have never heard/seen any reference to BU. Are you from that area? Please help to understand why that school was chosen. I have been planning on the BYU course because it has been recommended by several I know but now I would like to see what else is available. Thanks

    • Shannon Combs Bennett Post author

      The BU program I took is an online program designed to quickly get you to a professional quality in your work. It is a program that I have looked at for about 3 years and I had heard only good reviews about. The Boston program is completely online allowing more flexibility. There was even a student from England in my class.

      The BYU program, from what I understand, is a couple different things. There are several free online course, a BA degree, and a minor you can get. The online BA degree, the last time I checked, still had a residence requirement (out for me since I do not live there) and the minor would be out for me since I am not enrolled in the school with a different major.

      From the website you can compare the course content of the programs. BU consists of 5 modules designed to quickly hone and build on your existing skills (there is a self quiz you can take to see if you are ready). It is one semester (15 weeks) and you receive a certificate of completion. Even though there were several people in the class “for the exerince” most who were taking the BU program wanted to take their skills to the next level and become professional genealogists.

      Two other programs you may be interested in looking into are:
      The National Institute for Genealogical Studies
      University of Strathclyde Genealogical Studies Post-Graduate Program

      Hope that helps!

  • Dana

    Thanks for this review! I just recently came across this course but was wondering if it was really worth it. I’m going to really consider it for this fall!

  • Margaret Fortier

    Congrats on completing the course. I am a member of OL10 and agree with your assessment.

    I found it very worthwhile. When I decided to turn my passion as a genealogist into my profession I wanted to start off on the right foot. I felt I knew what I was doing in some areas but also knew I needed guidance in others. And the chance to learn from the accomplished instructors, assistants and fellow students is wonderful.

  • Brenee

    Thank you for the review! I’m considering taking this class, probably starting with the Essentials class, and wanted to read someone else’s thoughts on it. I started genealogy about 3 years ago, and have just picked up info/skills on the way, no formal research practices etc. I’m thinking to start with the Essentials and then take the other class if that goes well. Do you agree that approach is best? I’m not sure what I want to be when I grow up (haha, I’m 51!) but I’m fascinated by genealogy. Any insights you have on the class or geneoloy would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

  • Geni Journey

    I appreciate your review. I have decided to take the class this month based on your review and plenty of reading up on the class as a whole. It’s been a while since I’ve been in school but I’m hoping that I can get back into it and be able to study, study, study.

    Thanks again!

  • Cheyenne

    Hi, I am thinking about doing the 4 weeks genealogy course first at Boston University then the certificate program. I am looking for reviews – so you would recommend taking these courses? And shall I do the 4 weeks one first?