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Diploma vs Degree - Points of Difference


Earning a 3-4 year degree was one of the most common and traditional ways of education there is. However, with the education industry in a state of flux, the lens through which people view degrees is changing is becoming narrower as they see the world of opportunity outside it. Enter the diploma course. This is a much shorter, more technical side of learning that concentrates mainly on teaching certain skills. However, the main question we are trying to tackle here is - which one would you want to study, a degree or a diploma? For that, you need to take a deeper dive into both these worlds and decide which one works best for you. Let’s start with degrees.

Degree Course

A degree, otherwise called an academic degree, is a qualification that is awarded to students for the successful completion of a course of study in higher education, generally at a college or university. Academic degrees are available at numerous different levels, including bachelor's, master's, and doctorates. The most commonly pursued undergraduate degree is the bachelor's degree, although in certain countries there are lower-level higher education qualifications that are also titled degrees. However, a broad hierarchical structure of degrees can be elaborated hence:

  • Associate Degree - An associate degree takes about 2 years to complete and can generally be completed at a community college. Most associate degrees are designed such that the student can transfer to a four-year degree program, with the exception of an Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.), which is terminal. Most associate programs require sixty to seventy credit hours.
  • Bachelor’s Degree - As mentioned earlier, the majority of people who choose to study a degree choose a bachelor's degree. The duration of a bachelor’s degree is four years and requires that the student must have completed a minimum of 120 hours at accredited institutions. While most bachelor’s degrees are not terminal, people generally do not pursue higher education after this.
  • Master’s Degree - This is a specialization degree that offers in-depth knowledge about a particular subject. It is offered at much fewer universities and colleges than bachelor’s degrees and also has much fewer seats for students in general.
  • Doctoral Degree - This is the highest degree one can get through formal education. People pursue doctoral degrees to advance their understanding of a particular subject and contribute to its advancement. It often takes 4 years to complete with most of that time devoted to the dissertation process. A dissertation review is mandatory for the completion of the course.

Diploma Course

A diploma course is a certification or document awarded by an educational institution equivalent to a college or university acknowledging the recipient has graduated by successfully completing their courses of studies. What is interesting about a diploma is that it means different things in different countries. For example, in Greece, a diploma is awarded to someone who has completed 5 years in an integrated study program and is equivalent to the Master’s degree, but in other countries like India, Pakistan, and several other South Asian countries, it is used to refer to the completion certificate and course that offers vocational training generally offered at polytechnic institutions.


Now that we have an idea about what a degree and diploma constitute, let us see the differences between the two:

  • Degrees are generally 3-4 years in duration, while diplomas are generally 6 months to 2 years in duration.
  • The candidate must have passed higher secondary education to be eligible for a degree course, but you just have to have a high school pass to attend a diploma course.
  • A diploma course is generally much cheaper than a degree course because of the fact that it is shorter in duration.
  • A degree offers a much more intense and in-depth understanding of a subject, while a diploma teaches a holistic and vocational side of it. This also means that the knowledge gained in a degree course is much more than a diploma course.
  • The salary of the jobs diploma holders will get will generally be lower than what degree holders get. However, these are not without exceptions.


So what should you pick? It comes down to what your requirements are. If you are looking for a high-paying job that requires in-depth knowledge about a particular field, then a degree should be your go-to choice. However, if you are looking for a shorter, cheaper course that offers vocational training, then a diploma is probably what you should go for.

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