Home Student & Career Tips Major Differences Between Diploma and Degree

Major Differences Between Diploma and Degree


This article aims to elaborate the major and striking differences between the diploma and the degree.

Major Differences Between Diploma and Degree

Being caught in the web of choosing between a diploma and a degree programme is one of the major decision problems faced by prospective students. Making the right choice among a myriad of certificates, certificates, diplomas, and degrees options can be nerve-racking as no one wants to be caught in a class or programme they will regret ever starting.

Degree is often generally regarded as the best option and the next step for high-school graduates but that may not be so. As far as diploma and degree are concerned, one is not better than the other, it depends on what you want to achieve and your background.

Knowing the differences between them will surely prove to be helpful in your decision. This will help you in making the right choice, having determined your career goal, interest and personal ability. This article exposes the uniqueness of each, their pros and cons as well as disparities between them.

What is a Degree?

A degree is conferred by colleges and universities to students who complete higher learning. The certificate issued after the completion of the degree is called the Degree certificate. Till you get the original degree certificate, the provisional certificate can be utilized in order to take up future opportunities. These can be either graduate degrees or post-graduate degrees.

Types of Degree Programmes

There are various levels of degrees you can earn, including:

  • Bachelor’s
  • Associate
  • Master’s
  • Doctorate

What are Degree Requirements?

Degree Requirements are prescribed by an institution for completion of a programme of study. Requirements may include a minimum number of hours, required GPA, prerequisite and elective courses within the specified major and/or minor areas of study.

1. Bachelor Degree

A student generally must complete at least 120-semester units or credits to earn a Bachelor of Arts or Science degree. Requirements are outlined in detail demanding distinct courses in Math, Sciences, English, History, Political Science, General Education Courses, and Upper Division Courses in the selected major.

Undergraduate students may desire to complete the requirements for more than one major (i.e., graduate with a double major). This may mean more credit units applied toward the given majors in Upper Division Courses. Many schools have a residency requirement for the baccalaureate degree which specifies that 30 units (more or less) may need to be earned in residence at the campus granting the degree.

2. Associate

2-year Associates Degree Requirements

An associate’s degree is an undergraduate academic degree awarded by community colleges, junior colleges, technical colleges and bachelor’s degree-granting colleges and universities upon completion of a course of study usually lasting two years and 60-semester units or credits. In the United States, an associate’s degree is equivalent to the first two years of a four-year college or university degree. It is the lowest in the hierarchy of post-secondary academic degrees offered.

The associate’s degree is awarded to students who complete the degree requirements established by the institution granting it. The requirements usually include general education courses such as English composition, Algebra, social interaction, humanities, etc., as well as specific courses in the program of study. Some people refer to associate’s degrees as “two-year” degrees because it is possible to obtain the degree in approximately that time frame.

3. Master’s

All master’s degrees require the completion of a bachelor’s degree and usually require an undergraduate GPA of 3.0. Many schools also require taking entrance examinations like the GRE or GMAT. Some institutions require a minimum 2.75 GPA or require you to take an entrance exam if you do not meet the GPA criteria.

After that, you can expect to find a wide variety of prerequisites—from the number of required courses to highly-specific or technical courses that must be completed before you can begin a master’s programme.

Some master’s programs require specific bachelor’s degrees or courses be completed before applying. Other programs are more liberal.

4. Doctorate

Depending on the area of studies, a doctorate programme takes on average about three to eight years to complete. Each student needs to finish their coursework and pass all written examinations required by their individual doctorate programme. It all depends, logically, on what you have studied during your master’s program and how closely it is related to what you’re doing during your doctorate.

Therefore, how long it will take for you to get your degree depends on how fast you will be with your dissertation work. Conducting research takes an indefinite amount of time.

What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of a Degree?

  • Better potential for securing higher salaries jobs.
  • More marketable and sought-after for jobs.
  • Learning supplementary skills like analytical thinking and analysis.
  • Networking opportunities for future career options.
  • Better job benefits like insurance, retirement, and possibly even travel.


  • It requires much time investment.
  • Highly expensive, way costlier than diploma programmes

What Is a Diploma?

A Diploma course is more precise and streamlined than a certificate programme, but less than a degree programme, and takes a year or two to complete. Diploma programmes are usually more technical.

The Diploma course presents you with an in-depth insight into your subject area, which you can explore even further during a degree programme.

Diploma courses offer field-specific classes specially designed to equip you with the fundamental knowledge you need to be prosperous in today’s job market. It also implements hands-on experience, so you can obtain and practice the skills you will apply daily.

The admission to diploma course can be taken right after passing the high school examination.

Moreover, the programme of a diploma course is outlined in such a way that the students gain more practical skill and knowledge on a particular course. If you are looking to make a career change in a quite short amount of time, pursuing a diploma can be worthwhile; provided the condition— the field you are entering doesn’t need a degree.

There are two major types

What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of a Diploma?

Since Diplomas are often more technical or trade-based, they are helpful when wanting to pursue a career such as an electrician or a dental assistant and some other less complicated jobs

Benefits of pursuing a Diploma include—

  • Relatively short time to complete
  • Lower costs of studies compared to a degree programme
  • Flexible class schedules
  • Focus on essential skills required in the field
  • Practical knowledge
  • Hands-on practical experience due to some kind of internships or externships. This provides network for future job opportunities.

Disadvantages of Diploma

  • It doesn’t provide a robust option for career opportunities.
  • The scope of knowledge is narrow.

What Are Some Career Options for a Diploma?

Some career options that require a diploma include:

  • Personal Trainer
  • Electrical Technician
  • Dental Assistant
  • Vocational Nurse
  • Mail Superintendent
  • Subway Operator
  • Transportation Inspector
  • Business Operations Specialist
  • Gaming Manager

Certificate vs. Diploma

Certificate programmes and diploma programmes can be very alike and oftentimes provide identical areas of study. In spite of the resemblance, a certificate programme is always shorter and can be completed in a matter of months. As a result, it requires fewer credits.

Certificate programmes are normally shorter postsecondary academic awards. They usually last anywhere from a few months to 3 years maximum. They can be undergraduate programmes or graduate programmes, with graduate programmes always requiring a following Bachelor’s degree.

While both diploma and certificate programmes are career-focused, their availability differs. Despite some exceptions, diploma programmes are not regularly found online unlike certificates programmes, as they have a heavier coursework load.

Certificate programmes are more likely to be painless to work around, flexible and come with a substantial amount of online options. And if you’ve already finished a degree program, it can easily serve as a great add-on to your skills. Employers find a degree holder with a lot of add-on certificates more appealing due to the fact that they can back their well-rounded theoretical knowledge with practical ability.

Certificate Programmes

There are two types of certificates one for academic purposes and another for legal certification.

  • Academic Certificate: This is given to a student who completes a course or certification program in a particular area of interest. It does not result in a degree.
  • Legal Certificate: This type of certificate legally certifies that someone can work in a specific profession, like a cosmetology license that allows someone to be a manicurist.

Certificate programmes

Listed below are some of the examples of Certificate Programmes:

  • Biblical Studies
  • Web Development
  • Criminal Justice
  • Project Management
  • General Business
  • Marketing
  • Global Health
  • Sports Management
  • General Management

What Are the Differences Between a Diploma and Degree Programme

The most significant distinction between a degree and Diploma is the time it takes to earn one. A degree comes in many forms and takes the longest to complete. It can be an associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, or even a doctorate. A degree can take anywhere from two to four years or longer while a diploma takes the highest of two years to complete.

The tenure of the degree course is generally 3-4 years, whereas the tenure of the diploma course is typically 1-2 years. A degree is usually awarded by a recognized university, whereas a diploma is awarded by a private educational/institution.

A degree is available for almost all subjects across the globe. On the other hand, a diploma is available for certain and not so highly paid professions.

The focus of a degree is to make the student good in the majoring subject and to give overall knowledge. For example, if you want a degree in MBA (marketing), the school will also teach other disciplines such as finance, product management, accounting, and strategy. On the other hand, diploma focuses on getting a person educated in a particular field/business

A diploma can be a physical certificate or it can be a credential for a programme of study or both. So in the United States, students receive diplomas in high school, which is both a certificate and a credential. In university, students earn degrees as a credential, the most common are associates, bachelors, masters, doctorate.

A diploma programme centres on one subject, explores it and is commonly practice-based while a degree program is far-reaching and often more likely to be theory-based. As such, it tends to gravitate towards a more thorough approach to a specialized subject.

What you’ll learn from each of these will be a determining factor in your employability. The coursework and their objectives are varied, not only between them but between different subjects. And, while a diploma programme may be time and cost-effective, it also has a fewer number of classes, therefore teaches you only general and base knowledge.

Degree programmes converge on both the academic and educational side, spreading around a wider array of study. Furthermore, some employers tend to favour degrees in general and don’t prioritize skills. Sometimes a degree can prove more useful, and sometimes a certificate will open pathways you desired, it’s up to you to decide which one is for you.

Factors to Consider Before Choosing between a Degree and Diploma

Before you opt-in for any of any, the following factors or questions must be considered or answered:

1. How much time do you have to complete classes?

What do you need the programme for? Are you planning a career change? Do you work full-time and will not be able to meet up with the rigorous course work of a degree programme? A diploma might be a better option. If you’re working full time, a programme that has options for evening or online classes seem to be more conducive.

2. The field you’d like to enter.

The field you want to work or the weight of your chosen field is another determinant. Fields like Medicines, Nursing, Law etc require a degree qualification and beyond. Though you may take some diploma courses to extend your knowledge, a degree certificate is a major requirement. However, if you’re interested in being a personal trainer, caterer, fashion designer etc then a Diploma will likely be sufficient.

3. Financial Aid.

Unlike students who have buoyant parents that can foot their bills for degree programmes regardless of the cost, self-sponsored students might not enjoy that luxury. Are you financially capable to pay for the cost of obtaining a degree? If no, you might want to take a diploma, work for a period to save enough for a degree programme. Most degree programmes have diploma courses that can be taken as a prerequisite for a degree in the future. E.g, you might settle for a diploma in Health Science should you want to study a degree in Nursing Science in the future if you’re not currently capable of footing a degree programme. You might want to explore scholarship offers that are available to you as well. There are specific government and school scholarship offers.

4. Evaluate your skills and interests.

No matter your career interest, whether as a newbie that is just entering the labour market or you have an established career and you’re looking to spice things up or move totally to a new career. Your skills, educational prowess and personality play an important role in choosing an education programme. Determine these:

  • What comes easily for you?
  • What you’re passionate about?  and
  • What are your inherent abilities?

Answers to these question determine your success in any chosen programme. Assessing your skills and interests can help you pick a programme that will work best for you and will lead you to a job you’ll be enthusiastic about.

What Do Employers Want?

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach. Earning a diploma, certificate, or degree will depend more on the job title you want. Some professions only require diplomas, whereas others will require a degree. That’s why it’s important to first assess your goals and then choose what to earn. While keeping in mind that some of the employers today might favour a degree, that doesn’t mean vocational education is worthless.

There are jobs where not only will a diploma be of more use, but your student loans will be significantly reduced, too. Jobs in engineering, healthcare, science and law may not recognise diploma certificate, but a job that relies completely on skill might be more rewarding and fulfilling.


No matter how many are the options to choose from as far as education is concerned. Your goals and aspirations should be placed side by side with any option. Thoroughly appraising all your goals and taking a look at where you plan to be in the future will be discerning in settling for an option that will equip you best for your career.

It is easy to be confused and lose sight of where one plans to be and what you really want. For diplomas versus degrees, the determining factor should be the career you want to pursue and the costs you are capable of paying.

Any higher education program you decide to pursue has its own peculiarities, like anything else. The choice you make should be yours and yours only, and not a foolhardy one. Although you have the possibility of changing direction in almost any of these courses, the better thought-out your choice is, the easier it will be.

Read Also:
Don’t miss out on current updates, kindly like us on Facebook & follow us on OR leave a comment below for further inquiries.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here