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Master’s Degree vs Graduate Certificate


Master’s degree vs graduate certificate, there are several differences between these two graduate levels of education. For one, the average cost of tuition is lower with a graduate certification than that of a master’s degree. This is a huge benefit since many students do not want the headache of taking out student loans or applying for financial aid. At the same time, this can also be a downside if the student needs help to pay for school. Students in graduate certificate programs do not always qualify for federal financial aid.


What is the Difference Between a Master’s Degree and a Graduate Certificate?

Here is a list of some of the most common differences that help students choose from enrolling in a graduate certificate, compared to a master’s degree program.

  • Unlike the master’s degree, graduate certificate students usually do not need to provide GRE scores as part of their application.
  • Certificate programs may also help in advancing in specific industries of choice.
  • Graduate certificates also take less time to complete compared to master’s degrees.
  • Graduate certificate students may also have a shorter application process compared to master’s degree-seeking students.
  • Certificate programs are a fast way to get your foot in the door. Once in, you decide how far you go in that particular field.

What Types of Graduate Certificates are Commonly Offered?

First, there are a wide variety of certificates available to graduate students. Depending on your field of study or interest, students can also choose anywhere from Nursing to Information Technology to Cybersecurity. Furthermore, most graduate certificates are available as an additional comprehensive study format or concentrated subject of the study chosen.

For instance, many students may choose a certificate in Cybersecurity as a specialization, to go along with their BS in Information Technology. Another graduate certificate option may be the Family Nurse practitioner, commonly called the FNP-MSN degree. However, this certificate is provided to only graduates of the BS in Nursing programs and is listed as a master’s degree instead of a certificate itself. Yet, as you can see with the Cybersecurity certificate, the FNP is also an additional program on top of an original bachelor’s degree.

Here are several types of certificate programs commonly offered to graduate students. Each provides additional coursework and may also provide internship opportunities.

  • Business
  • Criminal Justice & Legal
  • Education
  • Fine Arts & Design
  • Health & Medicine
  • Liberal Arts & Humanities
  • Math, Science & Engineering
  • Public Affairs & Social Sciences
  • Religious Studies Certificate Programs
  • Technology

Potential Salaries for a Master’s degree or Graduate Certificate.

Continuing your academic aspirations by going to college, or in some cases, back to college is one of the smartest moves many students make. Especially if they have the desire to make a considerable salary from a promising career field. Getting a bachelor’s degree will provide entry-level positions in a variety of positions.

However, for grad students who want to specialize in a particular line of work or field, getting a master’s degree or graduate certificate is the better choice. But, does earning a college degree really lead to a higher pay rate?  And if so, is it actually higher or worth the time, the effort, and the money it takes to do it? The answer is Yes. By advancing your academic education with a graduate certificate or Master’s degree, it can also lead to higher annual salaries and increases in earnings over a lifetime.

Below are some of the average salaries from several job positions that require either a graduate certificate or a master’s degree. To make it simple, they are broken down into fields or categories. As you can see, there are quite a few salaries that provide relatively high pay rates. Some even six figures, making them a very attractive career option to many graduate students. In addition, the salary information provided is recent wage amounts that come from the BLS. So, no matter which field a student is interested most in, there are always opportunities to reach higher with a graduate certificate or a master’s degree.

MBA or Business-related positions

  • IT Manager- Median Salary: $146,360/year. Growth by 2028: 11 percent.
  • Marketing Manager- Median Salary: $135,900/year. Growth by 2028: 8 percent.
  • Business Operations Manager- Median Salary: $100,930/year. Growth by 2028: 7 percent

Engineering degree options

  • Engineering Manager- Median Salary: $152,350/year. Growth by 2030: 4 percent

Master of Science in Finance

  • Financial Manager- Median Salary: $131,710/year. Growth by 2030: 17 percent
  • Financial Analyst- Median Salary: $81,410/year. Growth by 2030: 6 percent

Master of Science in Computer Science

  • Software Developer- Median Salary: $110,140. Growth by 2030: 22 percent.

Master of Science in Nursing

  • Nurse Practitioner- Median Salary: $120,680/year. Growth by 2030: 52 percent
  • Nurse Anesthetist- Median Salary: $195,610. Growth by 2030: 13 percent

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