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    A Guide to Choosing the Right CPR Certification Program

    Dr. Mary Williams, RN, DC

    About the author

    Dr. Mary Williams, RN, DC

    Dr. Mary Williams, R.N., D.C is a Doctor of Chiropractic with an extensive background as a Registered Nurse and experienced Core Instructor for the American Heart Association. She has over 30 years of hands-on medical and instructional experience.

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    When it comes to picking the right CPR certification program, you may be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of choices. Should you choose in-person or online CPR classes? Should you take a CPR or BLS certification? What about first aid? Many of the answers depend on what you need the certification for—and your own personal circumstances. In this article, we’ll try to demystify your options. Here are a few things to consider when choosing a program that’s right for you.

    What to Consider When Choosing an Online CPR Class

    Quality and Credibility

    When choosing online CPR classes, it’s essential to consider whether this is a high-quality program. Obviously, you should take measures you would take for judging the quality of any business—looking at online reviews and asking former students for recommendations. But there are a few other things to consider as well.

    The American Heart Association (AHA) is an organization that conducts research into cardiovascular and other emergency healthcare and clinical management. It also develops its own online CPR training programs based on its research, as well as guidelines for other organizations to develop their own.

    The AHA does not accredit other CPR training programs—there is no governing body that accredits CPR training programs. So any CPR training program that claims it is “accredited” by the AHA or any other organization is suspect. However, reputable CPR training organizations follow its guidelines—and tend to hire instructors and course developers who are AHA certified.

    So, there are three things to look for when judging the quality of a course or program:

    • The course has been developed using AHA guidelines
    • The instructors and curriculum developers are AHA-certified healthcare providers
    • If the program claims to be AHA accredited—or accredited by any organization—it is probably questionable.

    Pick the Right CPR Class Format - In-Person, Online, or Hybrid

    CPR certification programs come in three styles: in-person, online, and a hybrid style that blends both. Which one is right for you depends on a variety of factors, including the type of learning that works best for you, how much flexibility you need, and what your workplace will accept.


    Online CPR training courses are flexible and self-paced, and easier to fit around a full-time job and family obligations. These courses tend to be a shorter time commitment than an in-person class, and you can take the course whenever you have time in the comfort of your own home. Because of this, these courses are often the best option for those with busy schedules.  

    Taking a CPR training course online can also be a great option for people looking to learn layperson CPR. The AHA has endorsed online CPR for lay rescuers, and praised these programs for making CPR training more accessible. It can take only a few minutes to learn the most basic forms of lifesaving CPR online.

    Online CPR classes and also tend to be a great fit for those with many different learning styles. A high quality online program will offer a variety of instructional tactics including video, interactive elements, quizzes and tests. Some include forums where you can connect with other students and instructors, ask questions, and get feedback.  


    In-person training tends to be a bigger commitment in terms of time and cost. However, it’s also a setting where you get a lot of hands-on practice, with immediate feedback from instructors. In-person camaraderie with fellow students can also be helpful in learning and retaining information.


    A hybrid program combines both online and in-person elements. Some programs are evenly balanced between online and in-person training; but even an in-person class might include an online training module to practice information you learned in class, or an online CPR training program may require an in-person practical test to get certified.

    Studies show that students learn equally well whether taking a CPR training course online or in person. So whichever one you choose will likely be the right choice as long as the program is high quality and the format works for your schedule, budget, and learning style.

    Choosing the Type of CPR Training

    If you’re searching for a CPR certification, the options can be overwhelming. Should you choose BLS for Healthcare Professionals or Heartsaver CPR courses? What about online CPR for adults, children, infants or any combination of those? Should your course include First Aid, Bloodborne Pathogens, or AED training?

    CPR & First Aid

    There are CPR certification courses for healthcare professionals as well as laypeople, non-healthcare professionals who still need to be certified for work, and more. And while there’s no industry standard about how these programs are labeled, one of the biggest differences is between CPR courses for professionals and laypeople.  

    Basic Life Support (BLS)

    BLS stands for Basic Life Support. In the healthcare industry, that acronym is used to refer to a number of emergency interventions such as bleeding control, spine immobilization, setting of broken bones, and more—advanced first aid classes online or in person. It also includes advanced CPR, with modules on how to perform CPR as part of a medical team.

    CPR & AED (Automated External Defibrillator)

    CPR training for laypeople doesn’t have to be that in-depth. Some take only a few minutes to go over the basics. Many layperson online CPR classes include AED (Automated External Defibrillator) training, which is also fairly quick and easy to learn. First aid classes online are often included in these certifications, so consider if you’d like to include a first aid course online as well.

    As for what ages you should learn CPR for, that depends on what situations you envision using these skills in. If you work in a child daycare facility, you will likely need to learn CPR for infants and children—and including a first aid course online would also be a good idea. If you’re interested in learning CPR so you can provide emergency treatment to your spouse with a heart condition, adult CPR may be all you need.

    Workplace Acceptance of Online CPR Training Courses

    Not everyone gets CPR certified because of workplace requirements, but many do. This includes workers who are not healthcare professionals—such as sports coaches, daycare providers, and even construction workers.

    If you’re looking to get CPR certified for work, it’s important to know ahead of time whether your employer will accept your certification.

    Decades ago, when online CPR training was new, employers tended to look on it with skepticism—but those attitudes have faded across a lot of industries, especially since the pandemic when online learning became a necessity. Meanwhile, studies have affirmed that students learn CPR just as well online as in the classroom. Employers across a wide range of industries have become accepting of online CPR training credentials.

    That said, it’s important to ask your employer if you’re not sure which CPR training program they will accept. Some employers will provide a list of approved training organizations, but just because a specific provider isn’t on the list, that doesn’t mean it’s not high quality—or that your employer won’t approve it if you ask. Some organizations may be willing to call an employer on your behalf to discuss their program.

    If you’re searching for an online CPR training program, there are a number of factors to consider—including credibility, format, the type of course you need, and employer acceptance. Consider your purpose in getting CPR certified, and you should be able to make an informed choice.


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