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Opting Online courses Choosing between Certificate or Diploma 

Online courses are in trend these days. The terms diploma and certificate often refer to academic credentials awarded to students who complete vocational or job-training programs in different subject areas. Both diplomas and certificates are available at community colleges, technical and vocational schools and specific undergraduate colleges as well as universities. Though some institutions use the terms interchangeably diploma programs tend to be longer and more comprehensive than certificate courses.

Various Certificates and diplomas are each designed for completion within two years. Therefore, making them both shorter alternatives to the associate degree. Also, They are a popular educational pathway among high school graduates who wish to receive relevant job training and enter the workforce without completing a full degree program along with established professionals seeking higher salaries and more advancement opportunities. Besides, The popularity of certificates and diplomas has risen in recent decade. Now, According to the National Center for Education Statistics -NCES, 945,000 undergraduate certificates were conferred during the 2016-17 session of academic year.


Nowadays, It is essential to note that undergraduate certificates and diplomas are not the same as academic degrees. Moreover, certificates and diplomas are widely available in similar, even though if not identical in the fields of study. Many Diploma programs tend to be slightly lengthier and more in-depth than certificate programs Commonly. Major differences and similarities between diplomas, certificates, and degrees are as follows, along with pros and cons associated with them-

  1. Certificate- The Certificate programs are available in specialized technical fields and they usually include little to no formal coursework and instead focus on practicum or hands-on trainings. Numerous Professions that may earn certification include plumbers, automotive mechanics, electricians, IT managers, paralegals and healthcare administrators. These Certifications are also widely available in different areas of business management and administrations. Mostly, the only prerequisite for a certificate will be a high school diploma or GED. The Certificates generally span 20 to 30 credits in length and most can be earned within one academic year or less time tenure.

  1. Diploma- Similar to the certificates, diplomas are also available in specialized vocational or technical fields. Though, they usually include a combination of formal coursework and practicum training. Thus, diploma programs are longer and more in-depth than certificates with the span of 40 to 60 credits in length and  it can usually be completed within one to two years time duration. Many Diplomas are offered in fields like IT management, computer programming, graphic and web design, medical and dental office administration, paralegal studies and property managements. For example- the certificates, diplomas typically do not carry any prerequisites other than a high school diplomas. 

  1. Degree- Usually An associate degree like certificates and diplomas, is widely offered at two-year community and technical colleges as well as four-year universities. Also, many associate degree programs are  quite transfer-ready and will satisfy the first two years of a four-year bachelor's program. Moreover, these pathways are designed for students who plan to transfer to a four-year college or university after two years. Many different associate degrees are designed for students who plan to enter the workforce immediately after graduation.  Though, these tracks are typically two years in length. Thus, making them longer and more comprehensive than diploma or certificate programs. Many associate degree programs do not carry prerequisites other than a high school diploma or GED and others may require students to submit SAT/GRE test scores in requirements.


Various kinds of Unrestricted access to libraries, computer labs, writing centers, and other on-campus resources that may be off-limits to distance learners. These Coursework will incorporate hands-on training, usually in the form of labs and/or practicum sessions. Many Students can regularly meet with professors, academic advisers, and other faculty members, as well as fellow students.

The Drawbacks are-

The Synchronous programs mostly carry weekly attendance requirements which may interfere with students who have jobs, childcare duties as well as other regular commitments. Many On-campus courses are generally larger in size and students get less individualized attention from professors. Also, On-campus attendance may increase overhead costs related to living accommodations, commuting and parking and meals. The Certificates may include anywhere from three to 10 courses and it has typically span of 10 to 30 credits in length and most can be completed in one year or less. Whereas, Diplomas on the other hand generally include 10 to 25 courses and most of them require between one and two years for completion of course. Moreover, some schools offer certificates and diplomas that can be earned in as little as one semester or quarter. Thus, students should choose according to their interest and career prospects.


Harleen Arora 3 years ago
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