Diploma vs. Degree: What’s The Difference?

Even though a college might offer certificates, degrees, and diplomas these education programs have key differences. The biggest difference that you will notice between them is the amount of time that they require to achieve. A degree course takes the longest on average with the average degree taking two (Associate’s degree program or Master’s degree program) to four (Bachelor’s degree program) years to complete. A diploma course can take less time — one year to two years, except for a high school diploma program that still takes four. Finally, the coursework for a certificate program can usually be completed within a year. 

Diplomas typically are used for fields that require more hands-on learning for practical knowledge. It is helpful to look for a vocational diploma if your field does not require you to have a four-year degree and you want to save some money while still working in a specialized field.

Degrees are the most expensive and take at least two years to complete. The education is more general than the specific field you want to work in and involve both theoretical knowledge and general education courses. For a lot of career options, the employer might require a college degree. 

Certification programs are provided to give you the skills you need for the field without having to spend as much time or money as a degree or diploma. They are usually industry-specific and involve a particular course or area of study that can help get you additional job opportunities or help get you into a new career.

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What Is the Definition of the Word Diploma?


  • a document given by an educational institution conferring a degree on a person or certifying that the person has satisfactorily completed a course of study in higher education.
    • e.g. a graduate diploma
  • a document conferring some honor, privilege, or power.
  • a public or official document, especially one of historical interest:
  • a diploma from Carolingian times.


  • to grant or award a diploma to.

What Is the Definition of the Word Degree?


  • any of a series of steps or stages, as in a process or course of action; a point in any scale.
  • a stage or point in or as if in progression or retrogression:
  • We followed the degrees of her recovery with joy.
  • a stage in a scale of intensity or amount:
  • a high degree of mastery.
  • extent, measure, scope, or the like:
  • To what degree will he cooperate?
  • a stage in a scale of rank or station; relative standing in society, business, etc.:
  • His uncouth behavior showed him to be a man of low degree.
  • Education. an academic title conferred by universities and colleges as an indication of the completion of a course of study, or as an honorary recognition of achievement within a field of study.
    • e.g. undergraduate degree, postgraduate degree
  • a unit of measure, as of temperature or pressure, marked off on the scale of a measuring instrument:

Examples of the Word Degree in Context

Examples of the Word Diploma in Context


That should get you up to speed on the differences between degrees and diplomas. You should be able to find what field of work you want to look for a career in and see if degrees are explicitly required. If not, look for diplomas or certificates instead to save you some money. 


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