Professional Certifications versus Academic Diplomas: Making the Right Choice

Essowe Abalo

Hello everyone! Today, we are going to delve into a critical question: What's the difference between a professional certification and an academic diploma? And how do you decide which one is right for you? Let's get started!
Academic Diplomas: What are they?
An academic diploma is a degree awarded by a university or higher education institution after completing a course of study. These degrees reflect theoretical and practical knowledge in a specific area.

Here are a few examples:
  1. Bachelor's degree in Law
  2. Master of Business Administration (MBA)
  3. Doctorate in Philosophy (PhD)
  4. Engineering Degree
  5. Bachelor of Science in Computer Science

Professional Certifications: What's that?
On the flip side, a professional certification is granted by a professional or industrial organisation. It validates a specific skill or qualification in a specific field.

Here are a few examples:
  1. Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)
  2. Project Management Professional (PMP)
  3. Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
  4. Google Certified Professional Cloud Architect
  5. Certified ScrumMaster (CSM)
What's the Difference?
The key differences between an academic diploma and a professional certification lie in the scope, cost, duration, and recognition. Diplomas have a broader scope and are generally internationally recognised, while certifications focus on specific skills and may vary in terms of recognition.
How to Choose?
To decide which to pursue, follow these simple steps:
  1. Identify your career goals.
  2. Examine the requirements of the field you wish to enter.
  3. Assess the time and money you can invest in your education.
  4. Consult with experienced professionals in your field of interest.
Reference Books
To aid in your decision-making, here are some reference books:
  1. "The Adult Student's Guide to Survival & Success" by Al Siebert and Mary Karr.
  2. "Never Too Late: The Adult Student's Guide to College" by Rebecca Klein-Collins.
  3. "How to Get a Job You Love" by John Lees.
Article References
You can also refer to these articles for further insights:
  1. "Certification vs. Degree and the Future of Education" - Forbes
  2. "The Benefits of Professional Certifications" - The Balance Careers
Is it recommended to have both?
Yes, having both an academic diploma and a professional certification can be highly beneficial. A diploma shows a broad and deep understanding of your field, while a professional certification demonstrates specialised competency that can give you an edge in certain positions.
Which to pursue first?
This depends on your personal and professional goals. If you're already sure of the career you wish to pursue and need a certification to advance, it may make sense to start there. If you're still uncertain or if you want a broader base of education, an academic diploma might be a better starting point.
I hope this article has helped clarify the difference between professional certifications and academic diplomas and prompted you to think about what might be the best choice for you. Good luck on your educational journey!

What are the benefits of Studying and getting certified in Project Management?

Improved Job Prospects: Earning a certification in project management can help you stand out from the competition and give you an edge when applying for jobs. It shows potential employers you have the knowledge, skills and abilities to manage projects successfully. 

Increased Salary Potential: In some industries, having a project management certification can help you command a higher salary. According to the Project Management Institute’s (PMI) 2020 “Earning Power: Project Management Salary Survey,” those with a PMP certification can earn over 20% more than their non-certified counterparts. 

Improved Problem-Solving Skills: Studying and preparing for a certification exam will help you develop and hone your problem-solving skills. This is an important skill in project management, as it helps you make decisions and develop strategies to ensure successful project completion. 

Widened Career Options: Project management certifications are widely recognised and accepted in many industries, allowing you to explore different career paths. With the right certification, you may be able to transfer your skills from one industry to another. 

Increased Job Security: Because of the current demand for project managers, earning a certification can provide you with job security. Employers will be more likely to keep you on staff if you are already equipped with the skills and knowledge to manage projects effectively.