Graduate Certificate vs. Master’s Degree: How to Choose

Graduate Certificate vs. Master’s Degree: How to Choose

Master’s degree students learning in classroom

An advanced degree can increase your career prospects, enabling you to pursue higher-paying roles with greater responsibilities. You have multiple options for gaining the additional education necessary to apply for these jobs, and two of the most common are master’s degrees and graduate certificate programs. How do the two differ, and which is best for you?

Faulkner University is a Christian university offering numerous on-campus and online academic programs in Alabama for students at different points in their educational and career journeys. Here, we discuss the differences between a graduate certificate and a master’s degree to help you decide.

Difference in Purpose

The primary difference between a graduate certificate and a master’s degree program is what the student achieves. Master’s degrees represent a more comprehensive academic achievement. These are postgraduate degree programs students complete once they earn a bachelor’s degree to gain specialized knowledge in a particular field. For instance, a student may earn a bachelor’s degree in business administration and go on to earn a master’s degree in management.

A graduate certificate is less intensive than a master’s degree program but can be equally valuable in advancing your career. It takes less time to earn a graduate certificate than a master’s degree, and usually less money. Individuals may seek graduate certificates to learn new skills when transitioning into new fields.

Curriculum and Coursework

Completion times vary for both depending on the specific program. However, since master’s degree programs involve more in-depth study of a subject, they usually take longer. The average program takes one to two years to complete.

The curriculum of graduate certificate programs is more concentrated. These programs include only topics the person needs to learn to advance career opportunities. The average program takes between six months to a year.

Cost Considerations

As with coursework and time to completion, the cost of any higher education program depends on multiple factors. A graduate certificate generally costs less because it requires earning fewer credits. The average cost of graduate certificate programs ranges between $1,000 and $5,000. Compare this to the cost of the typical master’s degree program, which ranges between $54,000 and $73,000.

Consider your career goals, and don’t base your decision on cost alone. Will a master’s degree help you attain the role you want? It may be worth the investment. Otherwise, a graduate certificate might be the better option. Factor in associated costs, too, such as transportation and textbooks.

Career Outcomes and Professional Advantages

Both a graduate certificate and a master’s degree have significant implications for your career. Earning either will increase your professional network as you meet others working in similar fields and with similar aspirations.

Completing a graduate certificate program conveys to a potential employer your willingness to continue learning — an asset in most fields. Many companies require a master’s degree or higher for mid-level and executive positions, so completing a program can increase your chances of landing the job. Typically, more advanced roles bring higher pay.

Thesis Requirements

Graduate certificate programs will not involve a thesis or capstone, but this final project is fundamental to earning a master’s degree. A thesis is an extensive research project about a specific topic within the field. Be sure to investigate the thesis requirements to determine if you can realistically accommodate the coursework of the master’s degree program.

Graduate Certificate vs. Master’s Degree: Which Will You Choose?

There’s no right or wrong answer — the correct choice comes down to what your career goals necessitate. If you decide a master’s degree is best, consider enrolling at Faulkner University. With campuses in Montgomery, Birmingham, Mobile, and Huntsville, Alabama, Faulkner University offers flexible master’s degree programs designed to meet the educational needs of adult learners. We also provide various online programs.

Request information to learn more about our graduate programs, or apply today.