Tags: College Choice

Understanding the Difference Between a Diploma, Certificate or Bachelor’s Degree

Completing your education may look different from one person to another. One way it looks different is what you end up earning, but what exactly is the difference between a diploma, certificate or Bachelor’s degree?

Here is a simple way to understand the difference:

Diploma: This is usually awarded to those completing a specific type of study. For example, hospitals will award a nursing diploma, or a vocational school will award a diploma for HVAC systems, etc. The advantage and draw to this type of study is the length of time is generally much shorter than a 4-year college and your concentration is solely on your area of interest. These types of programs usually have no general classes that are required for completion.

Who awards diplomas: Vocational schools, hospitals, community college
Duration: Usually 1 year

Certificate: A certificate is similar to a diploma regarding no requirement for general classes to be completed for the certificate to be earned. A certificate is generally a composite of courses on a particular subject. For example, you may receive a certificate for writing, Microsoft Tools, or even a certificate of business that can be applied toward a 4-year degree later on. Some employees seek out particular certificates to further their career, or enhance their resume.

Who awards diplomas: Vocational schools, hospitals, community college
Duration: Usually 1 year 

Bachelor’s degree: The main differences between a bachelor’s degree and the certificate or diploma is the length of time required to earn it, non-concentration classes are required and it generally provides more opportunities in certain settings. For someone desiring to work in a field that is non-specific (such as nursing or a vocational job), this may be your best choice to open doors, because potential employers may see you as more candidate and not necessarily locked into one field.

Who awards diplomas: colleges, universities
Duration: Usually 2-4 years 

While these are just an overview of what goes into earning a certificate, diploma or bachelor’s degree, keep in mind, that education and learning should never end. You may have a bachelor’s degree, but decide you want to further your education by receiving a certificate in a non-related field. Anything you do to further your skills and education, makes you a more marketable individual.

Not sure which major is the right one for you? Take Propel’s college major quiz to find out.

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