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Degree vs Diploma: Key Differences

Updated on 05 January, 2024

Shivangi Mishra

Shivangi Mishra

Sr. Content Editor

What is the difference between a diploma and degree? There are quite a few that you should know about for sure. That being said, you should also know that both degrees and diplomas can be solid academic foundations for rewarding careers across diverse fields. Higher education is never a one-size-fits-all formula; hence, you should know more about the difference between a diploma and a degree before deciding, based on your learning and job interests. 

Difference between a diploma and a degree- Key highlights

Here’s outlining the diploma vs. degree pointers for your understanding: 

ParameterDegree Diploma
Core MeaningIt is a certificate given to a student by a university/college upon the successful completion of programs at either the undergraduate, postgraduate, or other academic levels in any preferred stream.  A certificate that is given to a student by an educational institution for pursuing a specific course and for passing the examination thereafter. 
Salaries Higher Comparatively Lower 
Flexible NatureYesNo 
Time Threshold3-4 years  1-2 years 
Specialist Knowledge and Overall DepthMoreComparatively Lower 
Fees/CostsHigherComparatively Lower 

On that note, here’s examining a few of the differences below: 

  • Time Required- Degree programs are longer than diploma programs. Diplomas may be pursued in 1-3 years, while degrees may require 1-5 years for completion. 
  • Costs- Fees are higher for degree courses at universities while diploma courses are more affordable options since they have shorter timelines. 
  • Job scope- Degrees may ensure higher job opportunities in several fields, depending on the field. However, diplomas/certificate programs may enable good employment options for fields requiring technical skills. 
  • Training Type- Degrees combine academic/classroom learning with extensive coursework, subject-specific classes, hands-on training, and more. Diplomas usually have fewer classes with more hands-on training and skill development
  • Admissions- Admissions usually take place yearly for degree programs, while they  may take place yearly or half-yearly for diploma courses. 
  • Minimum Qualification- The least qualification for undergraduate degree program admissions will be 10+2, while it is 10th for several diploma programs. 

Degree and Its Types 

Knowing the difference between diploma and bachelor's programs or the difference between PG diploma and masters programs is possible if you look at the various kinds of degrees. These include the following: 

  • Associate’s degree- These are initial starting points for gaining entry into bachelors courses and usually take 2-3 years for completion. 
  • Bachelor’s degree- These are courses at the undergraduate level and may require 3-6 years for completion, depending on the field in question. 
  • Master’s degree- These degrees are offered at the postgraduate level and usually take 1-3 years for completion. These are research and extensive learning-based programs with a thesis required in most cases. 
  • Doctorate- These degrees are the highest in academia and may require 4-7 years for completion. Students usually have to undertake thorough research and complete projects, dissertations, or academic theses along the way. 

Benefits of Pursuing a Degree 

Here are some of the advantages of pursuing degrees: 

  • Most employers require degrees even when they are only sometimes specifically tailored to the job at hand. 
  • Starting and completing an academic degree is also a positive indicator of educational commitment. 
  • Degrees are regarded as specializations in particular fields, while serving as testimonials of students’ training and in-depth learning. 
  • Degrees offer more scope of employment in most fields, along with higher salaries. 
  • They are more marketable and coveted for employment options from the mid-level onwards. 
  • They offer better networking options for the future along with better job perks such as retirement benefits, insurance, and more. 

Diploma and its types 

Diplomas are usually qualifications at the college level, earned by students post completion of college courses in any specific discipline. 

Here are the types of diplomas that are usually available: 

  • Graduate Diplomas- These are qualifications at the undergraduate level, requiring 1-2 years for completion. 
  • Postgraduate Diplomas- These are at the postgraduate level taken after completing bachelor's programs. They are given to students who have finished masters courses in common scenarios, and wish to continue one-year advanced programs. 
  • Technical Diplomas- These diplomas emphasize particular skills required in specific fields and needed by several employers. These examples include carpentry, engineering, and more. 

Benefits of Pursuing a Diploma 

Some of the advantages of pursuing diploma courses include the following: 

  • Diplomas can be helpful for those looking to change careers in a quicker time span and if the field does not need a degree. 
  • Diplomas are often more trade-based or technical and may help pursue careers in specific fields requiring more technical skills. 
  • They require a shorter duration for completion and are more affordable, while the admission procedures are simpler and quicker. 
  • Most diplomas have flexible schedules, since they may cater majorly to working professionals. 

Diploma vs. Degree: Popular Courses 

Some degree course types include the following: 

  • BA/MA (Bachelor/Master of Arts) in various disciplines 
  • MCom/BCom
  • Bachelor/Master in Fine Arts
  • BSc/BTech/ME/MSc/MTech/B.E.

A few popular degree courses include the following: 

Some popular diploma courses include the following: 


Diploma vs. Degree: Which is in more demand? 

Technically speaking, it all depends on your chosen field of study and your career goals. Degrees may usually open up higher professional opportunities than diplomas in professional fields like law, medicine, and engineering to take a few examples. These are fields where degrees may be minimum academic and professional requirements for indicating specialist knowledge. However, professions which need technical skills and competencies like carpentry, for instance, may require diploma programs instead. 

Degrees are thus more suitable for fields which have higher learning qualifications as their prerequisites. Many companies usually prefer candidates with bachelors/masters degrees, depending on the job type and responsibilities. MSMEs and medium enterprises may prefer candidates with bachelors degrees for managerial positions, while bigger conglomerates may seek those with masters/doctorate-level degrees for these positions. Those with degrees are also likely to get higher salaries than those with diplomas. However, some technical diploma programs like engineering may come with higher salaries for aspirants. 


To state the obvious, a degree or diploma's efficacy depends on your specific job or career interests, along with your current educational aptitude and preferences. Focusing on your aptitude and strengths will help you decide better. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Which is better, diploma or degree?

Degrees are better for professional fields where they may be prerequisites for future progress and higher learning evidence. Diplomas are more technical skills-based and trade-oriented. 

Can I take a diploma after a degree?

You can simultaneously pursue a diploma and degree program. You can also do a diploma after your degree course. 

Shivangi Mishra

Sr. Content Editor

She is an experienced writer and journalist who has extensively covered the education sector in India and Abroad. Now helping Indian aspirants realise their foreign education dream by providing them with relevant content and information through upGrad Abroad. Amateur traveller, loves to read Architectural Digest!

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