Degrees, Certificates, Open Courses: Which Is Right for You?


There are many avenues to continue to build your professional expertise, but how can you know which program is the right one for you? Degree vs. certificate? Or is there another answer? Today’s employees have discovered that there are several ways to continue learning and growing personally and professionally – enrolling into a degree or certificate program or just taking a course at your nearest college. Others have gone a different route and are taking courses through Massive Online Open Courses (MOOC) platforms. We’ve decided to break down the benefits of each:

Degree vs. Certificate

Degree and certificate programs offer the opportunity to learn a specific trade or subject, i.e. medical, carpentry, law or business. Both will help you gain the necessary skills and knowledge to advance in your field. However, degree and certificate programs have distinct differences: the length of the program, cost, subject availability, and online vs. in-person studies. 

If you already have an undergraduate degree, a certificate program might help you further your expertise in a specific technology — such as a Cisco Network certificate or a Microsoft certificate. These usually have direct impact on your daily work life and may even be paid for by your employer. 

If you’re looking to secure a degree, many accredited schools have executive programs designed for the working professional. Classes may be offered online, in the evenings or over the weekend. 

Massive Online Open Courses

Those who are seeking to build their knowledge and skill set are moving away from traditional avenues and enrolling in courses through massive online open course (MOOC) platforms, like Coursera and edX. Driven by the digital marketplace, these online courses are becoming a popular way to take online classes for little to no cost. Want to re-learn college algebra? There is a free online course for you. Interested in discovering art appreciation? There is a class for you. Some working professionals are using these courses to complete a full degree program. There are sites that show you how to build a MOOC degree and sites that are documenting the journey to obtaining a degree, such as an MBA through MOOC courses.

There are many other sites that offer MOOCs that are little to no cost to students and offer a variety of subjects to pursue, in addition to platforms that offer the opportunity to obtain a certificate for that course, which is a great addition to your resume. 

So What Is Right For Me?

Deciding on which education program to use to help build your skills depends on your goals, time and budget. 

If you are looking to quickly add a new skill set or learn a new subject, signing up for a MOOC or a certificate program might be the best option for you. However, if you have more time or are looking to make a career change, then a degree program will likely have bigger benefits for you. 

Tweet us @trackvia and share your experience with degree vs. certificate programs, or MOOC platforms.