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Certificate vs. Degree: Which Should You Get?


Certificate vs. Degree: Which Should You Get header

Certification and licensing are important and sometimes necessary aspects of furthering your career. Depending on your area of employment and your future aspirations, you might need to have a degree. On the other hand, some lucrative professional ventures require certificates in specific areas of expertise. In this blog post, we break down certificates, degrees, and how to determine which you should go for.

As a leader in online test preparation resources, Exam Edge provides practice exams for people in the process of seeking undergraduate degrees, graduate degrees, certificates, licensure, and a host of other credentials. Our blog also provides a wide variety of resources to help you choose your career and education pathway!

Understanding the Difference Between Degrees and Certificates

Many people are familiar with the college journey. You might consider an associate's degree, which takes around two years to complete, or an undergraduate degree, which usually takes four. Regardless of how you approach a degree, the purpose of a degree is typically to provide an overarching and more “complete” knowledge base than certificate programs.

Contrarily, certificate programs usually take far less than two years to complete, and many often require less than a year. These programs are more laser-focused in nature, designed to imbue you with expertise and job skills related to a specific niche. To become a nurse, for example, you'll need to complete coursework for your degree. However, a certificate program can award you with credentials for being more specialized, like an Advanced HIV/AIDS Certified Registered Nurse.

Why Not Both?

The above healthcare example highlights the fact that the “certificate vs. degree” debate might not be entirely fair. It might be beneficial for you to pursue both options rather than agonize over the question of degree or certificate. A degree can provide more generalized eligibility for a wider career field, while certificates can give you that extra edge (and may be required) for a particular niche.

Whatever your decision, you can use the practice tests at Exam Edge to help prepare for your official exams. Practice tests allow you to become familiar with the subject matter, question distribution, style of test, and pacing that the real exams will exhibit. Not only that but our practice exams can be taken in both timed and untimed versions, complete with real-time feedback on any incorrect answers. This gives you the ability to fine-tune your study sessions and gear them toward the exact subject matter that is giving you trouble.

What Types of Careers Benefit From Certificates

People often ask "is a certificate better than a degree." As we've seen, the truth is that both are beneficial in certain circumstances, and you might even benefit from pursuing one now and another later. That said, there are careers that unquestionably benefit from certificates.

Aside from nursing specialties, you can also pursue certification as a teacher. For example, you can become certified for special education, Gifted and Talented Education (GATE), for instructing the visually impaired, and more. These certificates ensure that you can provide specialized care and teaching for students with specific needs, and they have the added benefit of making you more desirable on the job market.

Another common occupation that sees many practitioners seek certificates is the world of business. In addition to a degree like an MBA (Master of Business Administration), you might seek out particular certification to increase your ability to manage employees, deal with payroll administration, direct projects, or incorporate new and innovative technologies into your workplace. Your degree might be required for entry into the world of business, but it can be certificates that truly set you apart from others in your field.

Cost/Benefit Analysis

As with any decision you make, you should settle the certificate vs. degree debate after doing your research and analyzing the benefits and costs of each option. Certification programs and exams usually cost significantly less than the average college degree. According to College Board, two-year colleges cost an average of nearly $3,500, while in-state public four-year colleges average at over $9,400. Those are both yearly costs.

Certificates cost less, and they can also be folded into the curriculum at the college you attend. You can decide to pay the lower cost for a certificate or pursue your certificate while you're already attending college for a degree. However, degrees are often required for specific jobs, so you'll need to weigh that benefit with the overall expenses you'll need to pay.

Prepare for Your Degree or Certificate With Exam Edge

In the end, the decision to pursue a certificate vs. an associate's degree or bachelor's degree is up to you, but don't let the weight of that decision lie too heavy on your shoulders. Whatever you decide, Exam Edge has the tools you need to succeed. We provide plenty of how-to guides and informational resources on our blog, and our practice tests cover all the major certificate and degree programs.

Whether you choose to pursue a college degree, start your journey with a certificate, or plan to achieve both, purchase a set of practice tests from Exam Edge to ensure you do well on your licensing and certification exams. Whatever you put your mind to, the sky is the limit!