Are Online CPR Certifications Valid?

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If you type the term "CPR" into any internet search engine, you're likely to find a number of websites that promise online CPR certification. For a small fee, these companies will let you print out an official-looking card proclaiming you are certified in the basics of CPR.

This may save you time, but the reality is that there is really no way to effectively learn CPR with an online course alone. You can learn the facts, but a skill like CPR—or any basic life support (BLS)—requires hands-on training.

The Problem With Online CPR Training

Any motor skill is difficult to learn without actually going through the motions.

Among the specifics when it comes to CPR, you must be able to feel where the end of the breastbone is so that you can properly position your hands.

Compressions must be hard and at least two inches deep, according to the American Red Cross, and knowing what that feels like only comes with trying it.

If you do not get down on the floor and push on a manikin's chest with an instructor giving you constructive feedback, you are not properly learning CPR.

The point of CPR training is to know exactly what to do in an emergency so you can potentially save someone's life. Training is meaningless unless it is complete.

Will Employers Accept Online Training?

Many employers require people who work for them to be certified in CPR. Whether or not an online-only course is acceptable will depend on whether or not your employer is subject to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations.

OSHA standards specify that online-only certifications for employees that are required to have CPR training are not acceptable. Many employers, especially in healthcare organizations, only accept certification from the American Red Cross or the American Heart Association. Those cannot be obtained online.

For this reason, it is important to check your employer's requirements before signing up and paying for any training course.

Is CPR Training Regulated?

CPR certifications and first aid training are unregulated. This means that companies can offer some form of CPR training without oversight, even if their certifications aren't accepted by OSHA-regulated employers.

OSHA doesn't state which organizations can provide CPR training, only that online-only training is insufficient. There isn't a national CPR accreditation process to vouch for the legitimacy of any organization. That's even true of the American Red Cross, the American Heart Association, and any website offering these courses.

However, in the United States, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) does watch for misleading advertisements. Truth in advertising laws may also apply to internet companies. The Health & Safety Institute recommends that you file a formal complaint if you find a company that is misleading people about these training courses.

Things are different, however, when it comes to healthcare professionals. If you want to be a doctor, you have to get your training at an accredited medical school and pass the boards. It's a similar process for nurses, EMTs, and paramedics. There are laws in all 50 states defining what it means to be licensed in any of these professions.

Finding a Trusted Certification Course

Whenever you are thinking about taking a CPR certification or BLS course, it is best to look to a trusted organization. The American Red Cross and American Heart Association are the best-known sources for this type of training, and you can search for a class near you on their websites.

If you are considering another course, the National CPR Association has a useful checklist of what to look for. It answers many of the most common questions regarding online training.

With some of these organizations, you may be able to take a class online. To receive a certification that your employer will accept, a blended course that requires some classroom time will likely be necessary.

A Word From Verywell

While online learning is convenient, it is important to receive proper training that will meet your certification requirements. It is not a bad idea anyway, even if you don't need the OSHA-approved certificate. The biggest benefit of taking a CPR course from a trusted organization is that you will walk away confident that you may just save a life.

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  1. American Red Cross. Hands-Only CPR.

  2. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Clarification of OSHA training requirements for basic first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Published August 2, 2012.

  3. Health & Safety Institute. Information about certification cards and online-only training.