What Is the Difference Between a Certificate, Diploma and Degree?
Certificates, diplomas and degrees differ in the time it takes to earn each as well as the criteria required to earn each. Each of these academic achievements are suitable for certain specific fields or career goals.
A certificate is earned by a student after taking a series of courses relating to a subject. Students often earn certificates to get a step ahead in the professional field of their interest and certificates may be offered in similar programs as degrees. For instance, there are certificates in business, literature and technical programs. In some technical programs, a certificate may be required.
There are also graduate certificates, often taken either alone or alongside a graduate degree program. In some programs, the student may use his or her electives to fulfill a certificate in order to make him or herself more desirable to a potential employer.
Certificate programs taken alone are similar to associate's degree programs. However, they take less time because core academic programs are not required.
Diplomas are similar to certificates but often earned at clinical schools. For instance, a diploma of nursing is offered as an option besides an associate's degree or bachelor's degree. This diploma program is only offered at hospitals with specialty programs that provide training. A diploma often takes two years and involves as much clinical work as classroom.
An academic degree can be earned at many levels, including associate's, which takes two years, bachelor's, which takes four years, master's, which is two years beyond a bachelor's degree, and doctoral, which is several years beyond a master's degree.
A degree program differs from certificates and diploma programs in that it often requires the student to take core courses to support a more rounded education. For instance, at many universities, those earning their bachelor's degree are required to take English, math, science, philosophy and history. Earning a degree also opens up many more potential doors to the student than would a certificate or diploma. Many careers require that the student has earned at least a bachelor's degree; several career options require more than this.
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