Degrees vs. Diplomas

Diplomas offer job skills while degrees grant a general education

There has traditionally been a bias in favor of hiring applicants with degrees. But as jobs become more specific and technical and there are more openings than skilled applicants to fill them, diploma and certificate programs are filling a void, providing students with skills they need to perform the precise job they want - though often not much extra.

College or university degrees are different from diplomas and certificates in that they offer students a much broader education. Compared to the other pieces of paper when it comes to a job search, the degree is most often looked upon as far superior. In addition, a higher level degree will have more clout (a master's degree is better than an associate's degree).

Requirements for receiving college degrees include core arts and sciences credits. Aside from what the student chooses to focus on, they must take a set number of courses such as Math, History and English. The instruction area a student chooses to focus on is known as their major and can be anything from architecture to engineering.

  • Associate's degree - Usually takes two full-time years to complete.
  • Bachelor's degree - A four-year degree.
  • Master's degree - Sought after completion of a bachelor's degree, can take an additional three years or more to complete.

The reason not everyone chooses to pursue a degree is that even though they are considered superior they also cost a lot more money and require much more schooling (not to mention more intelligence, in many cases). When looking for the skills to enter a specific job it may make more sense to cut out the extra education and focus on the technical aspects of training; this is what many certificate and diploma courses provide.

Certificates and diplomas

Aside from eliminating the liberal arts core courses that make up a portion of a degree, most certificate and diploma courses narrow things much further to concentrate on a focused skill set. Instead of enrolling in a full two-year mechanic program, some schools allow students to take a much shorter tire and lube specialist course (for example) that will get them through their training and into a job in a matter of months.

Diplomas and certificates offer hands-on learning and practical application instead of theory. There are often not as many entrance requirements for these shorter courses and schedules can be much more flexible. The idea is to provide job specific training in a short amount of time.

The terms certificate and diploma are often used interchangeably to identify either a one- or two-year technical course or a several-weeks-long course that may teach a single skill. Look at each course individually to see exactly what is being offered.