If you're interested in a particular career, at some point you've probably thought about the education necessary to get you there. Two of the most prominent options are the vocational certificate and the associate degree. While both can be earned in a variety of career fields, the programs that lead to each of them are somewhat different, so make sure you know your career goals before you get started.
Advantages of the Associate Degree
One advantage of the associate degree is that it will give you academic credit while allowing you to start working more quickly. According to the U.S. Department of Education, associate degrees are "recognized higher education" degrees, meaning that if you should choose to go back to school, your associate degree program will be recognized as evidence of higher education, and many of your credits may even transfer toward your Bachelor's degree. This is a good option if you want to keep your options open for more education and career advancement.
Advantages of the Vocational Certificate
The advantages of a vocational certificate is that, depending on the program, it can be completed in as little as a year of study and it leads specifically to certification within your field. Unlike an associate degree, it does not usually carry any academic credit; in other words, you may not be able to apply your classes to any other degree you decide to earn. However, your certification is usually approved by a specific industry or professional association, so if you know exactly what you want to do in life, a vocational certificate is a good way to prove your skills to employers.
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