Are Online CPR Certifications Valid?

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If you type the term "CPR" into any internet search engine, you'll likely find a number of websites promising online CPR certification. For a small fee, they'll let you print out an official-looking card proclaiming you are certified in the basics of CPR.

Woman at a computer taking notes
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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.

For employees required to have CPR training, OSHA standards specify that online-only certifications are not acceptable.

Many employers, especially 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 who can provide CPR training, only that online-only training is insufficient. There's no national CPR accreditation to vouch for legitimacy. That's true of the American Red Cross, American Heart Association, and websites offering 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 CPR training courses.

Things are different, though, 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. Laws in all 50 states define what it means to be licensed in any of these professions.

Finding a Trusted Certification Course

Whenever you're 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're 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 blended course offering some classes online plus some in-person classroom time. Your employer may be willing to accept certification from this kind of course.

A Word From Verywell

While online learning is convenient, it's important to get proper training that will meet your certification requirements.

It's 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.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Do you need to be certified to perform CPR?

    No, you can perform CPR without a certification. If a person needs CPR, poorly performed CPR is better than no CPR at all. Even if you are not trained in CPR, the 911 operator can talk you through how to do it while you wait for emergency services to arrive.

  • How long is a CPR certification good for?

    In general, a CPR certification is good for two years before needing to be renewed. However, some jobs require annual recertification regardless of the expiration date on the certificate.

  • Can you be sued for providing CPR?

    No. Good Samaritan laws protect a person who renders aid from liability. The laws vary from state to state, but, in general, a non-medical professional who provides CPR or other first aid to a person in need cannot be sued for helping.

3 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  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).

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

By Rod Brouhard, EMT-P
Rod Brouhard is an emergency medical technician paramedic (EMT-P), journalist, educator, and advocate for emergency medical service providers and patients.