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Certifications and two-year degrees both offer you the opportunity of obtaining a career in the industry you’re interested in. However, they also differ greatly in nearly every aspect including the type of job you can get, the cost of schooling, how long it takes to receive the degree or certificate, and the coursework itself. When it comes down to choosing between a two-year college degree and a certificate, all of these details should be considered. Your personal preference, lifestyle, and future outlook will all make a difference when deciding between these two options.

Certification Or Degree: Which Is Right For You?

Differences Between Certificates and Two-Year Degrees

There are many differences between certifications and two-year degrees. For example, a certificate program is often shorter than an associate degree program because the coursework differs. Certificate programs include more job-specific classes and training while two-year degrees require general education requirements. The availability of classes also differs slightly. While many certification programs are offered online, you may not find the two-year degree program you want online, and vice versa. Unlike certifications, the credits you earn while obtaining your associate degree can transfer to higher degrees.


You can expect your certification program to be short; typically between six months and two years long, depending on what kind of certification it is. It is also going to cost less because there is less coursework, and your classes will be to further your career, not for general education. However, you should also be aware that most coursework and training for certifications don’t transfer as college credits toward a bachelor’s or master’s degree. If you’re hoping to get a higher-level degree down the road, you might want to consider an associate degree with transferable credits. However, if your goal is to become qualified and trained in a specific profession, getting your certification can be the quickest and easiest way to accomplish it.

Two-Year Degrees

Two year college degrees, also known as associate degrees, include coursework for your chosen major as well as general education classes. Most classes you take for your associate degree can be transferred toward a bachelor’s or master’s degree if you choose to do so. And, as you have probably guessed, the average amount of time for this type of degree is two years, but that depends on how many classes you take at one time. If you choose to take summers off and go to school part time, it can take three or even four years to complete your degree program. If you not only want a degree for furthering your career and also want the general education credits, a two-year degree is a great option. Many two-year degrees are also now available online, giving you more flexibility. Photo Credit: Shutterstock
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