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There is a big difference between a certificate program and one that one that comes with a degree. Yet this difference isn’t always important. Sometimes training for a job will only come in the form of certificate programs, and they may be more highly rated than would be a degree. There are a number of programs that offer certificates of completion that are really the only way to be trained in specific areas. Most people don’t become skilled plumbers, for example, by getting an associate's or a bachelor’s degree. In other professions, a degree is much more desirable, more helpful or required; it really depends upon profession chosen.
Generally, the certificate means that a person has completed some type of training program, and there are numerous places that may offer these. These include trade and vocational schools, junior colleges, and even four-year colleges that offer adult or extended education classes. What completion certificates tend to share in common is that they usually don’t require a broad base of general education studies before specializing in a certain field, though there are some exceptions.
Most people who possess associate's or bachelor's degrees study other things outside of their field. They will take basic liberal arts programs that assure competence up to a certain level in mathematics, English, science, humanities and history prior to taking specialized courses that earn them a degree in their chosen major. Most certificate training won’t require this broad-based knowledge first. However, some programs may offer options to earn a degree, and others may require that a person be in possession of certain skills before entering a program. Students wanting a certificate in computer programming might have to demonstrate a certain level of skills in mathematics, and those seeking specialty training as paralegals or secretaries may have to prove competence in writing.
In some instances it can be advantageous to hold a degree and a certificate. A person who has been through a secretary training course, and who also has a liberal arts or business degree might be considered a more desirable employee. Some people find they’ve taken a degree in a subject that really doesn’t offer many employment options, and thus they pursue a training course that will help them find work in a certain field. There are a number of training programs that may only be open for applicants with a degree, including many teacher-training programs. People who get teaching certification do not usually have to get an advanced degree, beyond the bachelor’s degree to do so, but they may not be able to enroll in teacher training classes without one. The training program may merely result in certification, but not in a master’s degree, though this route is also available at many colleges.