A Certificate Versus an Associate’s Degree

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If you’re looking to get an associate’s degree online, you may come across some certificate programs during your search. This can make it hard to know which type of program you should enroll in.

A Certificate Versus an Associate’s Degree

Associate’s degrees and certificates aren’t the same, just as there are differences between associate’s degrees versus diplomas. So, it’s important to know which pathway will help you accomplish your academic and career goals.

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In this article, we’ll compare the two types of programs to help you understand certificates versus associate’s degrees, as well as the requirements for an associate’s degree.

What Is a Certificate?

college students taking certificate programs

A certificate is earned through a program that provides specific instruction covering skills and knowledge that can prepare you for a specific job. They’re frequently earned in more technical fields and can typically be found at:

  • Community colleges
  • Technical colleges
  • Vocational schools

While some jobs require certificates, many people simply earn them as add-ons to a degree. Most students don’t start their academic journey with a certificate. This is because certificate programs often require on-the-job experience or a prior degree.

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Other programs may admit you straight out of high school or upon earning your GED. This will depend on what type of certificate you’re earning and its industry or field.

What Is an Associate’s Degree?

college students getting associates degree

An associate’s degree is earned after completing a set number of college credits. Like certificates, they’re found at technical, community, and vocational institutions. These programs generally offer broad, introductory, and well-rounded insight into your chosen field.

You can typically get into an associate’s degree program straight out of high school or after GED completion. While many people go on to earn a bachelor’s degree afterward, other people stop their education here. It all depends on the field. Some jobs are more likely to require bachelor’s or graduate degrees than others!

What’s the Difference Between the Two?

college students comparing notes in class

The biggest difference between certificates and associate’s degrees is the time it takes to complete them. You can usually earn a certificate in one year or less, but associate’s degrees typically take 2 years.

Which Is More Budget-Friendly?

Certificates may be better for you if you’re looking to further your education while cutting back on costs because certificates are typically cheaper to earn than associate degrees. This is because there are generally fewer courses to take and less time spent in school.

Which Is Best for Furthering Your Education?

student reading a book in a library

If you’re planning to eventually earn a bachelor’s degree, an associate’s degree may be a better choice for you because the credits you earn are more likely to transfer to your next program.

When you earn a certificate, you may or may not be able to use the credits toward your next level of education. If you don’t plan to stop your education with a certificate, it’s important to find out whether your credits will transfer before you start the certificate program.

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Additionally, certificate programs tend to have a narrower focus than associate degree programs. They may be ideal if you are looking for more than just an introductory education and want to learn how your education applies to real-life scenarios in your field.

Alternatively, a certificate may also be a good option to fill in a gap in your knowledge in a given field without having to commit to a full degree.

Where Can I Find Certificate and Associate’s Degree Programs?

students researching for Certificate and Associate’s Degree Programs online

You can find both certificate and associate’s degree programs at MyCollegeGuide. By using the “My Degree Finder” tool, you can discover colleges that offer academic paths in your chosen field.

You can try it today to learn more about which educational opportunities may be available to you!

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Isaac Scott
WRITTEN BY Isaac Scott

Isaac has a Master of Business Administration in Strategic Management and a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration. His primary focus is accredited schools offering degrees online or in a hybrid format.