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Degree vs. Certificate Programs: What's the Difference?

The importance of higher education is at an all-time high in the job market today, increasing the number of job opportunities compared to someone with only a high school diploma. A traditional college degree is a path most students pursue, but certificate programs are becoming increasingly popular and may be a better option depending on your needs and lifestyle. A certificate program differs from a college degree program but each can prepare you in different ways for your career goals and beyond. We've laid out the differences and how each one will equip you to succeed.

What is a degree program?

There are four different types of college degrees: Associate Degree, Bachelor's Degree, Master's Degree, and Doctoral Degree or Ph.D. Programs. Each degree program requires a unique amount of credit hours, taking anywhere from two to six years to complete depending on a major or an emphasis. You can build a broad and robust general education in your field when you pursue a degree, but this path can often require a full-time schedule that can be difficult to commit to while working a full-time job.

The recent rise of online programs has made traditional degree programs much more attainable for people already in the workforce. Online classes offer students many benefits, such as more flexibility to take coursework at their own pace and have access to a community of learners just like them.

What is a certificate program?

Certifications can equip you with specialized field knowledge or hone specific professional skills. Some certifications are credit-bearing but others are not. Make sure to do your research beforehand. You can choose from an array of certifications, from ethics to digital media to human resource management, focusing your efforts on a very specific subject area. Certificates can take as little as a few months to complete and are perfect for people looking for a career change or advancement in their current career field.

Certification programs usually center around a specific area within your field, helping you develop as a more excellent asset in your work center in far less time than a traditional college degree. Armed with existing work experience, certificate programs can be the right choice for people wanting to supplement their existing skill set.

What do CCU alumni say about their certifications or degrees and how they have prepared in their respective fields?

"My master's in counseling degree has equipped me with the knowledge and skills necessary to accomplish my new career and passion. The opportunity to engage in course material with industry-leading professors from a Christian worldview has proved invaluable." – Martin Kaufmann, Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling Graduate.

"My certificate with CCU has shifted my perspective with the way I conduct myself in work and my personal life. CCU has taught me to work through projects with critical thinking and a collaborative attitude. Even more so, I have learned to show grace in difficult situations and practice servant leadership." – Anita Castro, CCU Ethics Certificate Graduate.

You can read more CCU Online alumni stories and how their college degree or certificate has equipped them to take the next step in their future.

Degree and Certificate Programs at Colorado Christian University

At Colorado Christian University, we offer over 100+ degree program options and 20+ undergraduate and graduate certificates through CCU Online.


Colorado Christian University does not guarantee any job placement as a result of earning this or any other degrees offered by the university.

Learn more about how either a degree or certificate will equip you to succeed in the workforce. 

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