Degrees or Certifications: Let Us Help You Decide Your Next Move

Whether you’re at the start of your career or midway, continual education makes you stand out. It secures your job and opens the doors for more lucrative opportunities. Question is, should you opt for degrees or certifications to add to your knowledge?

While four-year degrees have always been the traditional choice for education, there are other viable options. And one of these options is certificates. 

If you’ve been wondering whether to check out degrees or certifications, the following lines are for you. 

Degrees or Certifications: A Look at their Differences  

To best assess whether you should opt for a degree or certification, you need to understand the differences between both. So, here’s a quick comparison of each based on different factors. 


Certificates are documents which prove your knowledge and skill to perform a specific job. They can be achieved after completing a course and passing certification exams. That’s why they’re popular with professionals who wish to advance their careers, or meet job or state requirements. 

On the other hand, degrees are academic titles achieved after completing several years of education. They’re a requirement for specialized fields such as medicine or engineering. 

Time Investment 

You can earn multiple certifications in the same time span of degree studies. That’s because certificates require a commitment of a few months to two years depending on the field. 

On the other hand, you can earn an associate’s degree in two years, a bachelor’s degree in four years, and spend an additional one to two years to earn a master’s degree. And let’s not get into doctoral degrees. 

While you can always opt for accelerated courses or summer school, you’ll need more time to pursue a degree. 


The costs associated with a degree is enough to lead professionals down the path to certification. While students can choose scholarships, grants and the like, getting these and maintaining them isn’t easy. 

Certifications are more pocket friendly. In less than $2,000, you can earn important skills which will make you an asset for your organization. This amount includes both the cost of training and certification exam. 


To be eligible for any degree program, you need to have first earned a high school diploma. As you opt for advanced degrees, the requirements become more complex. For instance, you may need a GRE to gain admission into a master’s degree program. 

While some certifications such as Project Management Professional (PMP) require at least a high school diploma or its equivalent, most don’t. For instance, you can advance your project management career with PRINCE2 certifications if you have project management know-how. 


When enrolled in a degree program, you cover more than the base knowledge required for your work. In fact, you learn through core classes which complement the courses of your major. 

While certifications are narrowly focused, they help you gain actionable skills from a broad view of industry- or best practices-related topics. 

Teaching Style 

When it comes to degree vs certification, working professionals prefer the latter. That’s because training for certificates is more fun, engaging, and interesting. Certification candidates also learn how to overcome current challenges they face more effectively. 

Several degree programs focus more on theory rather than current practice or hands-on experience. They may also lack efficiency as some teachers tend to use outdated textbooks while teaching. And by the time students graduate, they need certificates to meet current demands and challenges. 

Earning Potential 

This may come as a surprise for many, especially since schools and parents say otherwise. But there are instances where certification holders can earn more money than bachelor’s or associate degree holders. 

According to Certificates: Gateway to Gainful Employment and College Degrees, certificate holders earn 20% more than high school educated workers. They also earn almost the same as professionals with a college degree, or even a little more depending on their fields. 

For instance, in IT, male certification holders earn 72% more than associate’s degree holders and 54% more than bachelor’s degree holders. As for women, certified professionals respectively earn 75% and 64% more than associate’s and bachelor’s degree holders. 

So, Which Is It: Degrees or Certifications?

It’s really hard to say which of these routes is truly superior because people have different learning needs and patterns. 

But to help you decide, here are some tips from our Training Advisors. 

  • Decide how quickly you want your credentials – For some, the basic understanding and breadth of knowledge offered by a degree makes it the better option. However, certifications are the right choice for professionals who wish to gain skills quicker. 
  • Consider your ability to balance work and education – Professionals working full-time need to decide how they can balance their jobs and degree or certifications. The latter option may be more flexible in comparison to degrees. Especially since you can enroll in self-paced training and study wherever and whenever you’re free. 
  • Factor in your current field of work – Degrees are more suitable for less volatile fields such as engineering. If you’re in IT or a regularly updated field, certifications offer you the chance to stay up to date with the latest practices. 
  • Analyze your present and future in your career – Both degrees and certifications are suitable for those starting their careers or planning to climb the corporate ladder. However, you need to determine which of these will help you achieve your career goals effectively and quickly. 

Decided to Pursue a Certification?

If you weighed a master’s degree vs certification and opted for the latter, congratulations! You’re in the right place. 

LearningCert offers a growing collection of certification training courses to fuel your career. Check out our Training Catalog and enroll in self-paced or virtual instructor-led courses. 

Want to train with your colleagues? Contact our Training Advisors and discuss corporate training options. We hope to see you as part of our thriving learning community soon!

About the Author

Ayesha Saleem is the Senior Specialist Content Development Person at LearningCert. Interested in travel and blogging, she's passionate about everything related to eLearning and IT Trends. Find her on LinkedIn

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