Certificate vs. Diploma vs. Degree
Certificate, diploma, and degree are all words that we use to refer to credentials earned after some sort of schooling. But, when should we use these words, and what is the difference between these three credentials? Let’s take a closer look.
A certificate is a credential offered after completing a program in a specialized field. Some institutions offer certificates in technical fields, such as plumbing, HVAC repair, or even certain types of nursing. In addition, a certificate can be granted by a licensing board that shows proof that someone is able to practice a certain profession after being educated or trained. For example, a cosmetologist might complete a certificate program at a community college and then also be granted a certificate by a state agency that says he/she is able to practice the profession.
A diploma is similar to a certificate, but the program that leads to a diploma is typically longer and has more depth. So, someone who is awarded a diploma in nursing from a college would have received more in-depth training and broader training that someone who earned a certificate. ometimes, two-year colleges will award diplomas at the end of the two-year program rather than degrees or certificates.
Finally, a degree is awarded after the most in-depth higher education programs. Degrees can be given at two-year colleges, four-year colleges, and at the graduate level. A degree program is more in-depth because the student is required to take general classes in addition to the area of specialty. For example, a student who wants to graduate with a teaching degree in English still has to take a certain amount of math and science courses as part of the “core” curriculum in a degree program.
Certificates, Diplomas, and Degrees Explained
Learn about the most common types of certificates, diplomas, and degrees offered by post-secondary schools.
Consider types of Minnesota State schoolsand a liberal arts education to see how these awards might match your educational goals. Also check the requirements for each school. You might need a specific degree before being eligible for another.
Undergraduate Certificates, Diplomas, and Degrees
These awards usually take four years or less to complete. The actual completion time depends on how much time a student can commit to their studies. Part-time students, for example, may require more than four years for an undergraduate award.
- Certificate. These are academic programs of nine to 30 credits that are completed in a year or less by full-time students. Some programs provide specialized training for people who already have diplomas or degrees. Others are for those who want to quickly complete a program that leads to a specific job.
- Diploma. An academic program generally of 30 to 72 credits intended to provide students with skills leading directly to a specific job.
- Associate Degree. An award that normally requires at least two but less than four years of full-time college work. There are different types of associate degrees with varying transferability.
- Bachelor’s Degree. An award that normally requires at least four but not more than six years of full-time college work. Also includes bachelor’s degrees that are completed in three years.
Graduate Certificates and Degrees
Entering one of these programs generally requires prior completion of an undergraduate award.
- Post-Baccalaureate Certificate. An award that requires completion of an organized program of study requiring 18 credit hours beyond the bachelor’s. Designed for those with a bachelor’s degree who do not meet the academic requirements of a master’s degree.
- Graduate Degree. A degree awarded for education at a level beyond the bachelor’s degree. State universities offer graduate certificates, master’s degrees, and specialist degrees in various professional and liberal arts fields.
- Master’s Degree. An award that requires the completion of a program of study of at least one but not more than two of years of full-time academic work beyond the bachelor’s degree.
- Post-Master’s Certificate. An award that requires completion of an organized program of study of 24 credit hours beyond the master’s degree, but does not meet the requirements of academic degrees at the doctor’s level.
- Doctorate Degree. The highest award a student can earn for graduate study. The doctor’s degree classification includes such degrees as Doctor of Education (Ed.D.), Doctor of Juridical Science (J.D.), Doctor of Public Health (D.P.H.), and the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.).
- First Professional. An award earned after the completion of a program necessary to practice in a profession. Requires at least two years of college work prior to entering the program and a total of at least six academic years to complete the program. First professional degrees may be awarded in the following 10 fields:
- Osteopathic Medicine
- Veterinary Medicine
Continuing Education Units
One CEU is normally defined as 10 contact hours of participation in an organized continuing education experience under responsible sponsorship, capable direction, and qualified instruction.
What Is the Difference Between a Certificate, Diploma, and Degree?
Interested in furthering your studies, but not quite sure what type of course to study? Here we take a closer look at certificate, diploma and degree courses, and how they differ from one another. This should give you a better idea of what type of course you should look at to reach your goals.
We will look at the following qualifications:
- Advanced Certificates
- National Higher Certificates
- National Professional Diplomas
- Bachelor’s Degrees
What is a Certificate?
A Certificate usually implies that you have gained a basic level of higher education knowledge and skills. After successful completion of a Certificate course, you will be able to apply your skills in the workplace and improve your overall productivity.
Certificate courses can also be studied for self-enrichment or hobbyist purposes. For example, if you love taking photos in your personal time, you can study a photography course and improve your knowledge and skills.
Duration of study: 6 months to 1 year
What is a Higher Certificate?
Higher Certificate study programmes are predominantly vocational. This means that the course material is industry-oriented. The practical skills you will learn will help you improve your performance in the workplace.
A Higher Certificate will also enable you to build on your education. It will allow you to enrol for an even higher qualification, such as an advanced certificate or diploma course, in the same or related field of study.
Duration of study: Full-time 2 years / Part-time 3 years
What is an Advanced Certificate?
An Advanced Certificate course will equip you with a comprehensive understanding of the field you are studying. This level of certification is more specialised and can improve your job opportunities. Advanced Certificateprogrammes are career-focused, and will prepare you for a specific job role.
Duration of study: Full-time 1 year / Part-time 2 years
What is a Diploma?
A Diploma course provides career-oriented training, with the purpose to prepare you to work efficiently in a particular field. A comprehensive understanding, together with specialised skills, will enable you to apply for various jobs in the area you have studied.
Duration of study: Full-time 1 year / Part-time 2 years.
What is a National Professional Diploma?
A National Professional Diploma allows under-qualified individuals to upgrade their level of education and get a ‘qualified’ status. For example, if you have studied to become a teacher, but do not have the necessary qualification to teach, you can study a National Professional Diploma in Education to get your full teacher status.
Duration of study: Part-time 2-3 years
What is a National Diploma?
A National Diploma will equip you with focused knowledge and skills in a particular field. Students who successfully complete a National Diploma course, can enrol for a Bachelor of Technology (BTech) degree in the same field of study.
Duration of study:
- Full-time 3 years / Part-time 4 years
- Full-time 1 year / Part-time 2 years (if succeeding a National Higher Certificate)
What is a Bachelor’s Degree?
Bachelor’s Degrees are long-term learning programmes that can take three to four years to complete. This qualification enables graduates to illustrate knowledge and competencies required for access into the job market, further education and training, postgraduate studies, or expert practice in a wide range of career fields.
Duration of study: Full-time 3 years / part-time 4-5 years
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