Diploma, Degree, or Certificate — Which is Right for You?

Thinking about going back to school, but not sure where to start? In the wide world of education, there are all kinds of options to explore — and each of these options can take you somewhere different. When it comes to Guild programs, you’ll likely be choosing between a variety of degree, diploma, and certificate programs. So how do you know which one is right for you?

When picking your program, there are a few questions you’ll want to consider:

  • What is your current level of education?
  • How long do you want to spend on school?
  • Where do you want your education to take you?
  • What do you want to study?

We’ve compiled this guide to help you understand the differences between certificate, diploma, and degree programs. Keep reading to get a better idea of your next step.

Considering a Certificate Program?
Certificate programs are perfect for those who want to learn a specific skill or set of skills. Unlike degree programs, which cover a wide range of topics in a particular field, certificate programs have a much more narrow focus. If you want to gain a new skill that you can apply at your current job, or if you need to become proficient in a certain topic to qualify for a new position, you’ll probably need to earn a certificate.

Program Length: Ranges from several months to a year.
Required Education Level: Varies; some programs require a high school diploma while others do not. Graduate certificate programs require a bachelor’s degree.
Potential Areas of Study: Certificates are available in a variety of fields such as supply chain management, business analytics, or web design — just to name a few.

Psst… We’ve got a whole blog post about the benefits of certificate programs. If you’re thinking about getting a certificate, check out that post.

Considering a Diploma Program?
There are two reasons you might want to earn a diploma. The first, of course, is if you haven’t completed high school yet. The second is to earn a career diploma. While a certificate program will teach you a specific skill, career diplomas teach you all the technical skills you need to know for a particular vocation. In contrast to a degree, which will give you a wide range of knowledge suited for many different potential jobs, a career diploma will prepare you for one specific job.

Program Length: Typically around one year, although a high school diploma may take less time if you already have high school credits.
Required Education Level: You must have completed 8th grade. If you attended any amount of high school, you may be able to transfer credits to a high school completion program.
Areas of Study: High school completion programs generally cover a wide variety of topics, including English, math, science, social studies, and humanities. Career diploma programs are offered in vocational areas such as plumbing, appliance repair, optometry, and IT support.

Considering a Degree Program?
A degree program requires the longest time commitment, but taking the time to earn a degree means you’ll have a broader range of potential job opportunities than you would with a certificate or diploma. While a bachelor’s degree is the standard for many entry-level jobs, some may only require an associate degree, while others may require you to spend additional time earning a master’s degree. Before you decide which type of degree you’ll get, it’s important to research degree requirements for the types of jobs in your future career field.

Program Length: Around 2 years for an associate degree; 4 years for a bachelor’s degree; 2–4 years for a master’s degree.
Required Education Level: You’ll need a high school diploma in order to enroll in either an associate or bachelor’s program. You do not need to complete an associate degree before starting your bachelor’s program.
Areas of Study: You can earn a degree in nearly any subject matter. From business to technology to healthcare and more, the opportunities are endless! You’ll want to check your employer’s education benefits catalog to see what options are available to you.

Now that you understand the differences between diplomas, degrees, and certificates, it’s time to figure out your next step! Still not quite sure which program is right for you? Read this blog post for more program help.

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Written by Guild Education
Leave a comment 35 Comments

    I am interesed

    • Stephen Elliott says:

      I’m extremely interested in furthering my education and obtaining a Masters in Business.Id Love to get started as soon as possible.
      Thank you

  • Jonathan Galia says:

    My wife who also is a team member is interested to pursue her college education through this program … where do we start?

  • Virginia Welch says:

    I have started for my Associate degree several times. The last time was at ECCC in Decatur. I was going on a C2C grant when they changed the method of determining qualifications, depending on annual income. The time before was at Holmes CC in Ridgeland, and didn’t re-register because my husband was on in-home hospice. I do want to get my Associates degree, at least. I started out for a degree in Communications, but was switched at ECCC to Liberal Arts. If there is a program to take to become a chaplain, that would be my greatest desire; at any rate, I do want to get that degree.

  • Marilou says:

    Sounds good to me
    But can i get another bachelor’s degree even
    I had a BSED degree?

  • Mithun Das says:

    Such a exciting opportunity! Thank you Tyson and Guild.

  • Ann says:

    Interested in learning more about programs available

  • Amadou a diallo says:

    Need certificate program, please send me all information

  • Mary E Armour says:

    I saw healthcare was listed as a degree program? Does this mean nursing will be covered? I hope so since Tyson facilities have nurses.

  • Yeison Guzman says:

    I would love to get a degree in teaching but since Tyson pays for my education I would go in for something Tyson offers inside the plant like technical degree or their corporate job the least I could do is work for them since they paid for my schooling

  • Chamberly Merritt says:

    I have my associates degree in Business Administration and would like to start working towards by Bachelors Degree, can you send me more information. Thanks in advance.

  • Christina R Pawass says:

    So I have questions. When you say that it pays for everything, is that tuition only or does it include fees, taxes, and other charges that the college will assess? Will it also cover books? I am currently in school and have 2 more semesters left, will I have to change school to get the full coverage or will I get partial coverage for not going to a lower cost school or school of choice and lastly how do I go from here?

  • Daniel Sigmon says:

    I am currently a social work student and a OTR driver for tyson. I love it here at tyson, I would love to see if tyson would help me pursue my educational goals. I’m not sure if social work would be covered but I would love to look into a degeee in finance.

    Thanks 🙏

  • Jodie Larson-borden says:

    I am interested in business management or supply chain management

  • Jennifer Winter says:

    I am VERY interested in a Bachelor’s degree in business Administration. Please sign me up for all information. Thank you so much!

  • Latonya Maria Jordan says:

    I have already started class as of yesterday. Will I still be eligible for the 100%?

  • Blanca Verganzo says:

    What schools is Tyson Partnering with? what programs are offered?

  • Tanwir Sheikh says:

    What do you offer in health care specially in pharmacy courses

  • Angel Cheng says:

    I’m interested and would like like at least a bachelor’s degree in business.

  • Aileen Garcia says:

    I want to do the certificate program. Please send me information on what to do to join the program. Thank you.

  • Samina neelofer says:

    Certification in early childhood education

  • Maria Garay says:

    I would love to get a degree while working at Macy’s.Is there a coach to talk about how to sign up for this. Do we pay for school first then get back that money? Classes at my community college already started. Are we only suppose to go to classes online verses going classes in person. Where can I find more information? Thank you!

  • Stella Ayers says:

    I have my associate degree. I am interested in finishing my degree. I have approximately 20-25 more hours left to earn my bachelor’s in general business/management. I will like to complete my degree. How do I begin?

    Thank you!

  • Mignon says:


  • Charles R DeLoach Jr says:

    How can I get started?

  • Mary Behrens says:

    Would a DMin be a degree that is covered by this continuing education program?

  • Carolyn White says:

    I’ve been thinking about taking Cyber Security courses. Not sure if it has certification or AA degree. I wonder if Target will help paying the tuitions and books for me so I can attend Ivy Tech Community College. Please let me know real soon. Thanks!

  • Andrew says:

    What are the 40 schools we’re partnered with?

  • Josiah says:

    Would a trade school such as UTI be covered? The program I’m interested in at completion you receive an associates.

  • Chanacey Graves says:

    I recently completed a bachelors in Human Relations

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