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What's the Difference Between a Professional Certificate and a Degree?

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You've decided to further your education, but you're not sure what type of program is right for you. Understanding the differences between a degree and a professional certificate can help ensure that your investment in your future aligns with your ultimate goals.

Specific, Focused Career Study With a Professional Certificate

A professional certificate program usually consists of focused training for a specific career, such as a health care technologist or auto mechanic. Alternatively, you can earn a certificate in an area that will bolster your existing career, such as security management or communications and media studies. Most certificate programs last less than two years. They do not result in a college degree, but depending on your specific certificate area you may be able to receive a state license for your profession.

Undergraduate certificate programs are designed for students who have not yet earned a college degree, while graduate certificate programs are taken in lieu of or along with graduate degree programs. Some certificate programs may be stacked in order to apply credits toward an eventual master's degree.

Deep, Diverse Options With Degree Programs

This broad category includes associate's, bachelor's, and master's degrees, as well as Ph.D. programs. These options can be used to prepare for almost any type of career, and each has its own admission and graduation requirements. Associate's degrees can usually be earned in two years of full-time study, while a bachelor's degree typically takes four years. Master's and Ph.D. programs tend to be more open-ended and start at two years depending on the course of study.

Which Option Is Right for Me?

In general, you should choose a certificate program when you have a specific field of study in mind that can be entered with a professional certificate. This is best when you already have a degree or a degree is not required by the profession in question. Degree programs can prepare you for careers that require education beyond a certificate. While they represent a larger investment of money and time, they also often cast a wider net of opportunities and options if you are not yet sure of your career path.

While you're doing the research necessary to choose your path, explore the variety of degree and certificate programs available through the Tulane School of Professional Advancement. When you're ready to reach out, complete our online form to request more information and schedule a campus visit.

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