To get started in a career in as little time as possible, many students choose to complete career certificate or diploma programs. These programs are offered by community colleges, vocational schools and career colleges. They can typically be completed in a year or two, and they cover the core information you need to get started in a career. The terms are often used together, which makes it confusing for students evaluating the merits of both types of programs.
Typically, a diploma program takes longer to complete than a certificate program. The diploma course requires more classes covering a wider range of topics than the typical certificate course. For example, Nash Community College in Rocky Mount, South Carolina offers certificate and diploma programs for electric linemen. The diploma program requires 13 classes, while the Electric Lineman Technology Advanced Certificate requires only eight classes.
A student who has a career diploma can command a higher salary upon graduation than one who only has a certificate. The more education and training an individual has, the more likely his beginning salary will be higher than someone with less.
When you graduate from a career diploma program, you are more likely to feel confident that you are ready to start a job in your field. You will likely face less of a learning curve on the job as you have been exposed to more training and theory about your chosen career than a person with only a certificate. If you want to learn more on the job, you can complete a certificate in less time than it takes to get a diploma, however.
The more education you have, the better chances you have of finding a job. If several candidates apply for the same position, having a degree instead of a certificate can help your resume land at the top of the pile.