Should I Get a College Degree or a Certification?


By Published on February 22, 2019

The decision to go to school—or back to school—to prepare for a new job or for career advancement is one that can really pay off. You can improve yourself and your job prospects at the same time. If you’ve been working in a job that is either less rewarding than you want your career to be, or if you like your field but find prospects for advancement limited without more training, then taking the step to invest in yourself by increasing your level of education is a great idea. The next step is to decide whether a certificate or a degree is best for you. Read on to learn more about the benefits of a certificate vs degree.

Certificate vs. Degree

 

The question for many of us, especially for those exploring technical fields like information technology, is should you get a degree or should you get a certificate? Many of the people you ask will likely respond with something like “it depends.” While this is certainly true, here is a little more detail to help you decide.

Getting a Degree

 

Getting a college degree has a number of advantages. Degree programs can be flexible and work with your busy schedule when you choose the right place to get it. A college degree program will require you to take a number of classes related to the field you are studying, so you get a well-rounded education that covers a lot of topics. This helps increase your understanding of the entire field while helping you see how the many areas associated with it relate to each other. Degrees are also looked upon by many as a requirement for upper-level positions. While this can be less true for technical fields like IT, it’s still a prevalent way of thinking. Meanwhile, a degree, even a Master’s degree, is required for advancement in fields like healthcare administration.

Getting a Certification

 

Naturally, when you take a wide array of courses, it’s going to take time. One of the advantages of certification programs is that they’re more focused on specific skills and can often be obtained more quickly than a degree. The great advantage of a certification is that it clearly spells out to potential employers exactly what you can do. This is highly valued in technical fields like IT. Hiring managers know exactly what platforms they need you to be able to use and what skills you need to do the job. Having the right certification—or certifications—can be highly marketable, and even required for technical jobs. IT is among the fields with the highest percentage of workers with certifications, at 9 percent.

How About Both?

 

One great option when debating between a certificate vs. degree is to pursue both. This can be done in either order. You can obtain a certificate to get the skills you need to qualify for a job in the field you want to enter, and then once you have your foot in the door, you can work on your degree to learn more about your field and to help build your credentials for future career advancement. You can also earn your degree first, start work in your field, and then obtain the certifications you need to specialize within the field. This is a great way to diversify your skillset and make yourself more marketable. Adding certifications is also important in rapidly changing fields where you need to keep acquiring new skills.

Remember the Importance of Experience

 

Whatever option you choose, remember that experience is highly valued by employers. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in 2016 that 47.8 percent of jobs required related work experience, while 74.7 percent of all jobs required on-the-job training. That means that while you are working on your degree or certification, you need to talk with people in your desired field to learn about what they look for in candidates. You can work entry-level jobs with companies that could hire you once you get your degree or certification, or you can even do internships while you study.

At Stevens-Henager College, our instructors bring years of education, real world experience, and connections to the classroom. And our Career services teams have extensive experience in helping to find opportunities for our graduates in their new field. Request more information about our programs and start your journey toward a rewarding career today.