College Advice Blog

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Feb 14, 2013

What is the Differences between a Master’s Degree and a Graduate Certificate?

The world of higher education can be confusing to a lot of people. With so many different kinds of degrees out there, simply understanding what degrees are required for what you want to do in life can be a complicated subject. It’s necessary for your success to understand what opportunities require what accomplishments however, so you should know exactly what is required for the job that you want.

One confusing aspect lies in the differences between post undergraduate school work, particularly the differences between a master’s degree and a graduate certificate. For example, if you want to be an accountant, is it better to get a master’s in accounting, or just enroll in accounting certificate programs? Or do you even need a higher degree at all, since you have the bachelor’s in accounting already?

Every job is going to require something different in terms of certificates or diplomas. It’s important to understand what the difference in those certificates and diplomas is.

Earning a graduate certificate is a much more affordable and quicker option than earning a full on master’s degree. A graduate certificate usually consists of a predetermined number of classes, often times between 3 and 7. This certificate is a great option for a lot of people already working because it can be completed in less than a year, as opposed to a master’s degree that might take at least two years to finish. And just like a master’s degree, you must already have a bachelor’s degree to be eligible to earn a graduate certificate.

Graduate certificates are usually more focused on a specific area than a master’s degree. They are often pursued by people who are looking to advance their career without going back to school for two years, or by people looking for a career change in general. Graduate certificates are also popular for people who need to meet licensing requirements for their occupation.

One of the biggest differences between a master’s degree and a graduate certificate is the cost. For example, an MBA from UCLA costs on average $90,000 while a graduate certificate in business administration from UCLA costs about $5,000. Graduate certificates are much more affordable than full on master’s degrees, in all cases.

Graduate certificates are popular for people as an option to refresh their skills or learn about their changing occupation. An individual who earned his or her marketing degree many years ago may choose to earn a graduate certificate about social media. This lets the person come up to speed on what’s changing in the field without having to quit their job to in order to go back to school to earn an expensive degree.

A graduate certificate might help you get a promotion in your field, but it isn’t as valuable as a master’s degree. Certificates are focused on certain areas of a field, while a master’s degree studies the entire field. A master’s degree will give you more options in your field as a whole, but a graduate certificate will help you get that promotion at your current job. Either way, earning a graduate certificate is a great choice for just about anyone.
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