BlogCareer DevelopmentStudent LifeKey Facts to Know About Career Training Programs vs. Degree Programs

Key Facts to Know About Career Training Programs vs. Degree Programs

Are you thinking about pursuing post-secondary education in a specific career field? You might be wondering if you should obtain a certificate through a career training program or enroll in a degree program. Having an understanding of both types of programs will help you in your decision.

What are the Characteristics of Each Program?

There are key differences between certificate programs and degree programs. These center on the cost of education and training, the length of time to complete the program, requirements to enroll, aspects of career advancement and professional influence, as well as future potential salaries and job opportunities. It’s important to know which type of program will work best for you.

Consider your career goals, time availability and commitment, prospects for future employment, and financial affordability. As a potential student who will be balancing studying for exams, working, and handling other life responsibilities, one key area to focus on is the availability of time that you can commit to the program.

Certificate-based career training programs require a relatively shorter time commitment (usually months) and are focused on specific skills needed for a job, e.g., medical billing and coding specialist or legal assistant jobs. Obtaining a degree in a specific field of study can involve a four-year commitment and is the most extensive type of well-rounded education.

Weigh Each Program’s Advantages and Disadvantages

Career Training Programs

Certificate programs can be offered through accredited career training schools online and provide job-specific training and coursework in an educational setting. Most employers in healthcare, legal, and other fields hire individuals with specialized credentials to prove that a potential employee has the knowledge and skills to complete the duties of the job successfully. According to a Career Karma article, “Certificate programs are instrumental when switching career fields or advancing your specialization within the same career field. You can even obtain some certificates while pursuing a formal degree.”

Certificate programs are less costly, require less time commitment to complete, and may increase your chances of finding a job in your chosen career. These types of programs also offer more flexibility in your schedule since you can opt for a fully online and self-paced program.

A career training program issues you a certificate when you satisfactorily complete the required coursework. As mentioned previously, certificate programs can be completed in months rather than years. For instance, our Medical Office Assistant program, a certificate-based career training program, can be completed in as little as 4 months!

Since numerous organizations and schools offer career training programs online, make sure that the school you choose is accredited. Accreditation means that the institution has met the required educational standards to provide the coursework and correct training to prepare students for their chosen careers. Find out if and how the school prepares students to take certification exams. Blackstone Career Institute (BCI) is an accredited school that offers a variety of career training programs that can generally be completed in under a year. Multiple of our programs are aligned with a certifying body.

BCI is a leader in online education that includes career training for becoming a paralegal, legal nurse consultant, medical billing and coding specialist, medical transcription specialist, pharmacy technician, medical office assistant, dental office assistant, and more. BCI has also been named a military-friendly school which means we offer financial assistance and support to the military and veterans to enhance the workforce.

Degree Programs

An individual can complete coursework in a specific area of study to obtain a degree (associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, or other advanced degrees) from a college or university. A degree lets future employers know that you have knowledge in the specified career area and are qualified for employment. Not always, but in general, college degree holders usually have a higher earning potential than other certificate career-training school graduates.

Depending on the field of study or career choice, an undergraduate degree (associate’s or bachelor’s) typically takes about two to four years to complete for full-time students. Graduate degrees (master’s, doctoral) can take three years or more to complete. Degree programs can be completed on a part-time basis, although this can extend the length of the program far beyond its original expected end date. Many degree programs do have online options, but they may not be self-paced like career training programs can be.

The downside of degree programs in addition to the time for completion can be the cost. The national average tuition for a 4-year or more public school is $8,406, and the average for a 4-year or more private and not-for-profit school is $29,774.

Interesting Insights

According to a 2023 Harvard Business Review article, “In today’s fast-changing world, a university degree isn’t the only road to success. In fact, data shows that only 25% of college graduates would choose to pursue the same educational path if they could do it again. And on top of that, 41% say they would instead get a certificate that would instantly qualify them for an in-demand job.” Certificate programs are an emerging pathway for education.

The Bottom Line

Whether you’re considering a certificate-based career training program or a degree program, know that many options exist for a career path. Knowing the pros and cons of each of these types of advanced education programs can help you decide which program is the right fit for you.

bio of blogger Jo for Blackstone Career Institute