College of Contract Management United Kingdom
College of Contract Management
United Kingdom

Diploma vs Certificate Courses: What You Need to Know

Diploma vs Certificate

Diploma Vs Certificate Courses: The Ultimate Guide


In this article we will be discussing the diploma vs certificate debate. Discussing the advantages and disadvantages of each and helping you decide which course is best for you.


Diploma vs Certificate: The Rundown


Certificate and diploma courses are similar in many ways, they are courses which are offered for a specific field of study and can be useful for a fast progression into a particular area. Furthermore, they can allow individuals to discover what they want to do later on in their professional career, or kick start a career change. They are offered in a variety of subjects and can be learnt online or in centres. There are varying levels of qualification you can take. Diploma and Certificate courses allow individuals to learn but not commit to full-time intensive programmes.

This article will provide you with the information that you need to know. It will discuss the types of diplomas and certificates, which you should choose, their differences and their benefits.


The Types


There are many types of certificate and diploma courses. Here is a brief overview:



A diploma course is a qualification which relates to the level of education chosen. They can be awarded from entry-level upwards to level 8.

There are various types:

  • National diplomas
  • Graduate diplomas
  • Postgraduate diplomas
  • Advanced level diplomas

In addition, there are HNDs which are Pearson qualifications and DipHEs. These two qualifications are very similar (but not the same) and are both Level 5 qualifications. Level 5 is the same level as the first 2 years of a university bachelor’s degree. 

A level 3 diploma is recognised as an equivalent level to A-level.


A certificate is usually less advanced and can be the starting course before further study. Lots of certificates are introductory courses whilst others are additional qualifications to obtain alongside in-depth courses or fast qualifications for those who already have experience. They can also be used to bridge the gap between studies. Certificate courses are often offered in the same subject areas as diplomas.


Diploma vs Certificate: Some Course Examples…

The College of Contract Management offers all kinds of diplomas at varying levels. It is important to note that they are all different.

Level 3 in Site Supervisory is one of the lowest level diplomas offered, up to a CMI Level 7 Extended Diploma in Strategic Management and Leadership.

In addition, they offer HNDs in a variety of subjects like Business Law, Marketing and Management at Level 5.

In terms of certificates, they offer a Level 2 in Business Administration all the way up to a Level 7 Certificate for Strategic Management and Leadership which is a shorter course for those who have lots of experience.


Diploma vs Certificate, Which Do You Choose?


Firstly, research which level of education is required for the job you would like to enter. As an example, if you wish to become a site supervisor you need a Level 3 Diploma and a number of years experience in construction-related work.

Some institutions will advise you on which courses to take for particular jobs. In addition, they should tell you whether you need to complete additional courses. If you wanted to be a counsellor, you would need to do a Level 1 Certificate in Counselling Skills before you could take the next courses which are usually level 3 and 4 diplomas.

Higher National Diplomas are ideal for those who may want to complete their third year at university. However, it can be used as an entry to job roles on its own. It is important to note that HNDs are BTECs awarded by Pearson and are not a generic term for a particular level of diploma. Ensure that any HNDs you take are official and awarded by Pearson.


The Difference Between a Diploma and a Degree

  • A degree typically involves Level 4, 5 and 6. It allows for a more in-depth learning experience of your chosen subject. However, they require 3 or 4 years of commitment if studied full time.


  • On the other hand, Diplomas are broken down into shorter courses. They are also often offered online.


  • Diplomas also allow you to build on your original qualifications. If you are already a manager, for example, you can take a diploma in strategic management which would help you build on your skills and excel within the realm of strategy.
  • Degrees may be required for some job roles, but this is not always the case. Experience plus a diploma is often enough for some job roles.


Diploma vs Certificate: Benefits

Diploma vs Certificate: The Benefits of a Diploma


Certificates and diplomas can have considerable benefits. Here are a few:

They have higher acceptance rates

In comparison to degrees, entry into a course is much easier. In universities, they often have such a huge number of applicants that the competition is high and many people will not get accepted. With online diploma courses, entry is even easier due to the fact that online teaching can hold higher numbers of students.

Moreover, if you do not get into university and that was your first plan, a diploma gives you the opportunity to still progress into an area that you would like. You may even find you prefer it.

Better value for money

Another benefit of the Diploma is that they are in more specific subject areas. In contrast, degrees usually involve modules that you may not be that interested in, but you have to make up the required credits. For example, you may love criminal law and want to be a criminal lawyer, however, you have to learn lots of other areas of law to get the degree. You may have to learn commercial law and public law which are not directly related.

Degrees are a lot more expensive, for a bachelor’s degree, it is currently £9,250 per year for most universities. Diplomas are both cheaper and involve less time focusing on unnecessary topics.  Therefore, they are worth your money.

Less Time to Complete

Completion of a Diploma takes less time. There are short courses that you can take which may only take a matter of weeks or longer courses that will take 1-2 years on a part-time basis. Most certificate courses only take up to 6 months. On the other hand, a bachelor’s degree can take 3-4 years and is full time. Due to the shorter nature of these courses, you have lots more time to do other things like working and socialising.

Diplomas are flexible

Diplomas can be considerably more flexible than a degree. They can be delivered with home study, part-time, and usually allow for more flexibility when it comes to the time that you have to complete them. With some degrees, you will have strict deadlines and dates for exams. With some online examinations, you will have longer to complete them.

Allows more time to explore your career options

With long degrees, you dedicate lots of time and money into them. It is almost as if you must progress your career in that direction. If you do not continue to find a job in the chosen industry after completion, it will feel as if your money went to waste. A benefit of shorter diploma courses is that you can try out new areas without fully committing to them. You do not have to choose that area to direct your professional life.


Diploma vs Certificate: The Benefits of a Certificate Course


Increased chances of promotions

Certificate courses are short, they allow you to build on your skills. Further, they can be taken at any point in your career. You can take multiple certificate courses and this can show that you are dedicated to self-development and wish to progress to more advanced positions in your industry.

The ability to transfer across your industry

Courses in specific areas within your industry could allow you to grow into those areas. Further, you could find yourself transferring into a different job role. For example, a certificate in business administration may allow you to transfer from a business marketing role into the admin side. This allows you to work within the same business, but a different department.

They are a great way to reinforce skills

If you have a considerable amount of experience already then a certificate could be what you need to put a professional recognition with your name. For example, the CMI Level 7 Certificate in Strategic Management and Leadership is for those who are already experienced and a short course is all they need to obtain the recognition of a certificate. Moreover, this will help individuals if they wish to progress as it proves their experience and expertise.


Diplomas vs Certificate: How Are they Assessed?


There are a few different ways they can be assessed. As many of them are delivered online, assessment can be quite different from traditional schooling, or degrees at universities.

One of the perks of online assessments is you will have a healthy amount of time to complete them.  Furthermore, they are likely to be open book due to the lack of a controlled environment.

Moreover, there will be fewer assessments in comparison to university degrees due to their shorter length and fewer modules.

As well as fewer assessments, they will likely be assessed primarily by coursework which will assess your overall skill and understanding of the course.


How to Find the Right Course for You


Some career paths recommend that you take certificates and diplomas. One example is a construction worker. The majority of courses for those who want to enter the industry are diplomas. One relevant course is the certificate in commercial management. This can set you up for the professional diploma. In addition, many take diplomas in site management. Within this area, diplomas are what keeps construction professionals progressing to more advanced roles. With construction management roles you can earn an average of £43k in the UK.

The College of Contract Management offers a whole range of diplomas and certificates that can steer your career direction into something new or add on to your existing skills.

Finding the right course for you comes down to research. Research what skills you have, and what interests you. There are so many different types of courses that could suit anyone. Furthermore, ensure that you meet the requirements for a career path. You may have taken a course on the same topic, however, it may not be the same standard or level that is required.

Diploma vs Certificate: The Conclusion

In conclusion, this article has discussed information about diplomas and certificate courses. It has also discussed some reasons why they may be right for you. They can be great ways to provide education without the need for full-time intensive degree programmes. Some are taught in-house but many of them are delivered online. In addition, their flexibility allows them to be studied part-time. It is important that education is still available for those who cannot attend university or travel to centres. These courses have allowed this to continue without restricting people.

Education is vitally important throughout childhood, but also in our adult years too. Short courses like these allow us to continue learning no matter the circumstance. When we are young, it is easy for us to attend school full time as we do not work. However, once we start working full time, flexible courses like this are fantastic. Continued learning can help our long term mental health and create more synapses in the brain to help prevent illnesses.

If you have any questions about any of our courses, please do not hesitate to get in touch and start a conversation today.