Are Certifications Better Than Degrees

I recently attended a conference and the topic of discussion at one of the sessions I attended was certifications versus degrees. There was a panel. Some on the panel were in favor of degrees while others valued certifications. Let me begin by defining both. Certification can be defined as confirmation of certain characteristics, specific knowledge or skills a person hold from a recognized organization. There are two main types of certifications as described below

  • Academic certification: Academic certification can be defined as a skilled or technical qualification a person achieved from a registered institution.
  • Professional certification: Professional certification is a type of knowledge a person earned for being able to perform his job or tasks with proficiency and high competency usually by passing an exam. Professional certifications have two main categories. One provides a lifetime certification while the other requires a person to re-certify after a specified period.

Degree can be defined as an award by the college or university associated with a title, specialized academic position or discipline after satisfactory completion of a prescribed course of study. There are four main degrees. Those degree types are the Associates, Bachelors’, Masters, and Doctorate degree.

One young person that I’m mentoring asked me about eighteen months ago, Which is the better option a degree or certification? I started to think about what I should tell my mentee. A multi-step degree program or a single-step certification. I didn’t have an immediate answer as many professionals and students evaluate themselves either to enroll in a degree program or short term certification program. Over the years I’ve found that many analysts prefer certifications over degree programs based on the following factors.

  • COST EFFECTIVE: A degree program might be expensive for many students because it doesn’t only involve tuition, but also per credit hour fee. Certification is a prime preference of many students because of its short term and cost effective behavior.
  • TIME EFFECTIVE: Certifications as compared to degrees are very time effective. Students not only complete their certification in short durations as compared to year’s degree program but also learn technical skills for future growth.
  • TECHNICAL SKILLS: Certifications unlike many degree programs offers technical knowledge to their students, by nourishing their existing skills, and bring more practical exposure so they not only grasp theoretical knowledge, but also gain hands on experience enabling them to evaluate their flaws and bring improvement.
  • FLEXIBLE REQUIREMENTS: Most of the undergraduate or post graduate degree program requires specific knowledge and prior education requirements and in most of cases also involve lengthy application and enrollment procedures. While in case of certification student get enrolled with minimum restrictions and study requirements.
  • INTERNSHIP OPPORTUNITIES: Many certifications as compared to degree programs provide extensive internship and apprenticeship opportunities to many skilled and qualified students to gain hands on experience. This valuable training in the field gives students a golden chance to prove their capabilities.
  • PROFESSIONAL SKILLS: Certification is also proved to be an excellent tool for many professional workers who cannot raise their education level by attending regular classes during work. Certifications allow them to increase their skills, technical and professional knowledge of a particular field and polish their existing skills. It also helps them in raising their position level by holding multiple professional certifications.

I eventually told my mentee that both the degree option and the certification option are good options. It is important that a person gets one or the other. The option to pursue depends on the career area of interest. In my mentee’s case the area of interest only required a certification. After completing six months of classes and two rigorous exams my mentee earned two certifications and upon completion secured a job offer paying $65,000 a year plus full benefits. In this case earning a certification was the way to go. That’s not always the case. In the end after research is conducted the answer is usually plain and clear.



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