Difference Between Diploma and Associate Degree

In earlier times, once a student completed his or her post-secondary education, the most common career choice was to pursue a graduate degree. The traditional way was to go to a college for a four-year degree.


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With the changing times, there have been so many options introduced for a student. Gone are the days when building a career meant going to a college for four years.

There are so many options available for students to choose from they have completed their post-secondary. These options include- a certification, diploma or a degree program.

The most suitable option depends on the kind of job a student is looking for and the amount of time he or she has to commit to his education.

Nowadays, more and more people tend to change their jobs and careers. Quite a few people realise their passion, at a later stage in life.

In such cases too, there are various options that a person can choose from while changing career paths. Out of the various options, a diploma and associate degree are the most common one.

Diploma vs Associate Degree

The difference between diploma and associate degree is that a diploma is for a shorter period of time and is focussed on acquiring a specific skill. On the other hand, an associate degree is for a longer period of time and it is more of general education in a specific field of study.

Diploma vs Associate degree


Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonDiplomaAssociate Degree
FocusA diploma focuses more on technical knowledge than on theoretical knowledge.An associate degree focusses more on theory-based on learning.
Completion timeA diploma is for about 1 year.An associate degree is for 2-4 years.
CostDiplomas are cost-effective programsAssociate degree programs involve a higher amount of costs.
Career OptionsAfter completing a diploma career options are limited to a specific or a particular field.After completing an associate degree vast level of careers options are available.
Class ScheduleIn a diploma program, the class schedule is flexibleIn an associate degree, the class schedule is a strict one.
AttendantsIn a diploma program, most of the attendants are working professionals.In an associate degree, most of the attendants are students.
Institutions offeringA diploma program is offered mostly in technical and vocational schools and in community colleges.An associate degree program is offered in 2 and 4-year colleges and universities.


What is Diploma?

In simple words, a diploma is a certificate that is issued by an educational institution which confirms that the person receiving it has finished a particular course of study. The duration of a diploma course is for about a year or two.

Diplomas focus on helping the attendant acquire a specific skill in a particular field. They do not concentrate on general training. They are more technical and less theoretical.

They help acquire the required knowledge in a specific field of study. They also help by providing hands-on experience in the specific field.

This enables the attendant to learn the practice the skills rather than just reading about them in books.

A diploma is a perfect option for people who decide on changing their career paths. They can be completed in a short period of time and are cost-effective methods of acquiring knowledge.


What is Associate Degree?

An associate degree is an educational program which is awarded by colleges and universities. The duration of an associate degree program is two years.

This program helps to train students for a particular career. It is focussed vocationally.

This program is considered to have a greater level of education as compared to a high school diploma.

These applicants of this program are usually students who have completed their secondary school. The aim of this program is to provide the applicants with some basic academic knowledge and some transferable skills which in turn help them while seeking employment or while pursuing any studies further.

After the completion of an associate degree, students can transfer to a four-year college or university to achieve a full-fledged degree.

Having an associate degree makes it easier for students to have a better job in the market. They stand a better chance of earning high salaries because they are prepared for jobs above the entry-level.

associate degree

Main Differences Between Diploma and Associate Degree

  1. A diploma is completed in about a year whereas an associate degree is completed in two-four years.
  2. A diploma focuses more on technical and practical knowledge. On the other hand, an associate degree focuses on a theory-based form of learning.
  3. A diploma is a cost-effective method of acquiring knowledge whereas an associate degree is costlier as compared to a diploma.
  4. After a diploma course, an attendant has limited career options. Jobs can be found in a specific field. On the other hand, after an associate degree, an attendant has a variety of career options open.
  5. A diploma program is offered in technical and vocational schools, whereas an associate degree program is offered in 2 and 4-year college and universities.
Difference Between Diploma and Associate Degree


  1. https://psycnet.apa.org/record/1983-21933-001
  2. https://journals.lww.com/nursingresearchonline/citation/1971/03000/some_characteristics_of_freshman_students_in.16.aspx
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