Graduate Certificate Programs vs. Graduate Degrees: What’s the Difference?


Graduate Certificate Programs

Getting a postgraduate education is always a good thing if you want to get advanced skills that will eventually land you better jobs and higher wages. Industries give good pay to people with competitive resumes that show a good educational background. If you want to go back to university to earn the necessary training to make your credentials more attractive in the job market you will be confronted with the choice of either going for a full two-year master’s degree or a graduate certificate program.

The opportunity to advance your skills and knowledge in a specific subject area in order to further your career is offered in both graduate certificate and graduate degree programs.

Graduate certificates are different from a graduate degree in that they can even be conducted online and require fewer courses, and may be completed in less time and at a lower cost than a full degree.

Graduate degrees, on the other hand, give you a more in-depth study and better training overall. You get a master’s or doctoral degree credential in the end. A graduate certificate and graduate degree programs may be designed to help you meet certification requirements in your field.

Graduate Certificate Programs: What are the Benefits?

If you are going for a Graduate Certificate Program you will be completing four to eight courses ranging from 12 to 24 credit hours. This is the typical curriculum if you are taking your certificate course online but the credit hours may vary depending on the school and subject area. No field work or comprehensive exams is required in these programs although they may ask you to present related work experience before enrolling.

More often, certificates, which are non-degree programs aren’t eligible for financial aid. Students who try to get these programs already have earned a bachelor’s degree. Certificates are not required for employment but they can boost your skills in your career or help you explore a field without having to commit to a full degree program. Certificate programs also help you complete coursework requirements, continue your education and help you obtain licensure in your field.

Graduate Degree Programs: The Benefits and the Costs

In terms of time, cost, and requirements graduate degree programs are more extensive. You will need to invest time and dedication to a master’s or doctoral program since it typically involves coursework, field experience or internships, capstone research projects, and comprehensive exams.

You need to earn twice as many credits compared to a graduate certificate degree with 30 to 90 credits or more, depending on the level of study and subject area.

On the benefits side, students enrolling in a graduate degree program are eligible for a wider range of financial assistance than certificate students.

A graduate degree is a requirement for employment in many careers and may even be an entry level requirement. Counselors, librarians, physicians, nurse practitioners, and university professors all need graduate degrees.

In some hiring situations a full graduate degree, no matter the subject area, can give you a competitive edge and is used by employers to differentiate applicants.

 

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