Posted August 05, 2013 by

Choices in Higher Education: Which One Is For You?

Sign with an arrow pointing in the direction of a college

Sign with an arrow pointing in the direction of a college. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

Congratulations, you’re going to college! Now what?

Higher education can be confusing when faced with a wide range of options such as different degrees, diploma programs and certifications. Should you spend two years in school? Or four? Maybe you should get a career diploma.  Wait, what’s a career diploma?

Once you discern the available program options offered at your college or university, you can embark on the journey to your dream job.

Earn Your Career Diploma

Career diploma courses are designed to prepare students for specific job and career opportunities. They are usually offered through vocational schools or career colleges. These training programs can be optional to improve upon a particular set of job skills or they may be required for professional licensing. Earning your career diploma can take anywhere from a few weeks to a full year, depending on the program. Many programs are lifestyle-friendly, meaning you can easily hold a job or care for family while you study independently. Career diplomas are offered in a large number of industries, including technology, health care and business.

Pursue a career diploma if you’re interested in learning or improving a specific set of skills at a fast pace.  On-campus or online career training is a great way to get your foot in the door of higher education. You can even transfer your credits to a more advanced program, such as an associate degree.

Earn Certification

Certification in a profession or trade guarantees that you are trained and qualified to perform specific job functions. It is necessary for employment in certain jobs, such as pharmacy technician and medical records technician. Even if your chosen career path does not require certification, you should pursue a career certificate, undergraduate certificate or graduate certificate to gain the competitive edge in a tight job market. Traditional and online colleges, professional associations and many employers offer certification programs. Quite often there are no prerequisites to enroll.

Pursue certification if you need to save time and money and impress employers. Check out your institution’s available programs. Career certificates are usually shorter programs intended to develop and expand a particular set of work skills within a profession.

On the other hand, undergraduate certificate programs require a high school diploma or equivalent as they are generally equivalent to college study, and allow more time for completion. Graduates may transfer credits into a college degree program. If you’re unable to commit to a bachelor degree, undergraduate certificate programs, like those offered at Ashworth College, will provide a solid foundation to a higher education career. Lastly, graduate certificates require a bachelor’s degree and teach higher-level professional job skills. These programs are a great way to advance your career and begin a master’s degree program.

Earn Your Degree

Academic degrees are commonly divided among four classifications – associate (2 years), bachelor’s (4 years), master’s (2 years after your bachelor’s) and doctoral (varies). Associate degrees are typically offered at community colleges and online institutions. Online colleges and traditional universities provide bachelor’s, master’s and/or doctoral degrees. Higher-paid professional jobs require at least a bachelor’s degree. Degree programs also provide a more well-rounded education. Generally, students must complete core classes of English, math, and science before they begin career-focused course work.

Pursue a degree if you are willing to dedicate the time, money and resources to your education. Degrees are more advanced than career diplomas and certifications and will open more job opportunities. Chances for career advancement and a higher pay increase substantially with a master’s or doctoral degree.

Whatever you choose, a college education is an investment into your life, with a return of unlimited possibilities. As the famous author and poet Maya Angelou once said, “When you know better you do better”.

Author Bio: Kyla Ross is a career training and education blogger for Ashworth College, an accredited online institution. Ashworth offers online career training, certificate and degree programs for all resume builders, aspiring professionals and career advancers looking to further their education!

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