Chances are you’ve seen a job posting (or two) that requires a bachelor’s degree, even if the responsibilities do not require that level of understanding. That’s because companies frequently rely their expectations on credentials. “Jobs do not require four-year degrees,” Harvard Business School claimed in a recent study. “Employers do.”

According to the Economic Policy Institute, one reason for this preference is that businesses with educated workers have higher output rates. However, when the average job posting draws 118 candidates, a degree can be utilized to narrow the applicant pool. It becomes a form of shorthand. Manjari Raman, program director of Harvard Business School’s Managing the Future of Work program, told the BBC that “many companies [have taken] the easy route of using the four-year college degree as a proxy” for a specific competence or skill set.

However, we have started to see changes. Whether it’s the rise of data-driven business models or the thrilling possibilities of AI, what firms expect from their workforce has shifted—and they frequently can’t find the competent personnel they need. In fact, the World Economic Forum believes that reskilling and upskilling will be important to ensure that workers have the necessary skills. And we aren’t just talking about technical skills. Workplace skills, such as critical thinking, are still incredibly valuable. According to The Burning Glass Institute, more companies have chosen to reduce bachelor’s degree requirements to address this issue, which brings up an important point.

Professional Certificate or a degree

Let us be clear: you cannot go wrong in either case. Finally, the answer is determined by your short and long-term career goals. It is vital to comprehend both your current and future desires. There is schooling that meets you exactly where you are. You can find short-term programs, such as Professional Certificates, to help you learn skills faster. But, what will you need if you wish to advance in your career? Zooming out and thinking about a few years ahead might be a helpful thought experiment when making a decision.

This is where some light research can be really useful. Once you have a general idea of your short- and long-term career objectives, look through job ads for job titles associated with each level: entry-level, associate, mid, and senior. What are the education and credential requirements? If possible, dig a little deeper: Try to find individuals who are further along in the same career and look at their education history on LinkedIn. If possible, look for informational interviews. Typically, these help you understand a specific function, but you may also ask about the person’s educational history to see whether it’s a suitable fit for you.

Professional Certificates vs. degrees

When you have a clearer understanding of the total qualities you’ll require, examine what you need now and what you could need later. Professional certificates take less time to complete than degrees, are less expensive, and emphasis technical skill development above all else. In actuality, they’re intended to help you complete certain projects in months rather than years. When you’re first beginning out in the workforce, a Professional Certificate might help you develop important skills for the job you want. Alternatively, if you’ve already obtained your bachelor’s degree and found that your heart is in a different sort of employment, a Professional Certificate can be a fantastic opportunity

Bachelor’s and master’s degrees take longer to complete than Professional Certificates and are significantly more expensive. However, degrees can be valuable. They increase your topic knowledge, improve your skill set, and are frequently designed to generate well-rounded graduates capable of thinking critically and creatively about the world around them—abilities that, according to the World Economic Forum, are among the most important for employees. There is also a lot of evidence that any form of degree enhances pay and reduces the likelihood of unemployment when compared to high school diplomas. Furthermore, while a bachelor’s degree is not required for entry-level work, it may be required later in your career to grow.

Differences Between Professional Certificates and Degrees, Where’s the Best Starting Point for You?

The solution may be to start with a short-term program, such as a Professional Certificate, to develop the skills you need right now, and then return to pursue a longer-term program, such as a degree, when you have the time and wish to continue your education. On Coursera, you can discover both alternatives.

According to Marni Baker Stein, Coursera’s Chief Content Officer, “Professional Certificates are ideal for entering a new field. You quickly learn job-relevant skills from the best in the industry and earn a meaningful credential that helps one out of every four graduates find a new job.” “While Professional Certificates are great for getting your foot in the door, a degree is usually what opens up opportunities for advancement. Before applying, find out whether you can get college credit for your prior learning and take an open degree course to see what it’s like.

There is also a rising number of performance-based online master’s degrees offered on Coursera, with admission based on completing three route courses in a relevant field. These can be a fantastic option if you have substantial experience or training in a technical field. “Getting admitted to the program that way, it’s really innovative,” said Atahan Ünal, a University of Colorado Boulder student.

Deciding what type of school to pursue requires comparing your short-term aspirations against your long-term goals. We’re at a juncture in history when education is evolving to meet you where you are, rather than expecting you to fit into a preset mold. Education, in any form, is important regardless of the path you eventually take. So where will you go next?

Begin your career with a Professional Certificate. Learn from industry leaders like Google, Microsoft, and IBM to boost your career in data analysis, cybersecurity, web development, and marketing. Learn more about cheap degrees on Coursera. Learn from world-class faculty and earn a degree for less than $20,000 USD—all online, no application required.

Explore open degree courses in business, data science, and computer science to determine if an online degree is suitable for you, and hear from more current degree students working toward their goals, one course at a time.

 

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