Distinguishing Between a Diploma & a Degree

What is a Degree?

An academic degree is an award provided by a university or college. It signifies that the recipient has successfully completed a course of education at a specific level, such as Bachelor’s, Master’s, or Doctorate. A Bachelor’s degree is the basic academic degree conferred on a person who has completed a 3 to 4-year undergraduate course. A Doctor’s degree, also known as a Ph.D., is the highest academic award conferred on a person by a university. A Master’s degree is in between both. In some countries, only universities can award degree certificates, while others have authorized university colleges that can award degrees. However, in the U.S., both universities and colleges can award degree certificates.

What is a Diploma?

A diploma is a document issued by an educational institution, such as a university, which testifies that the recipient has earned a degree or has successfully completed a particular course of study. The term is usually applied to a certificate, which people receive when they have completed their studies in college, trade, high school, professional schools, or universities. However, this term is not used by all countries, or some countries use this term more restrictively than the U.S. In the United States, the term generally indicates successful completion of study and refers to the document received at a formal ceremony or after the ceremony.

In countries like the U.K., Canada, and Australia, a diploma is a qualification received upon the successful completion of a course of study at a college, high school, or vocational institution, the duration of which is typically two years or less. The level of study is considered to be below the degree level courses. Many Asian countries also follow the same system. However, in the U.S., a college diploma means a Bachelor’s Degree from a college or university. While technically a college diploma could be any degree according to the American Heritage Dictionary, it is not used with Master’s and Doctor’s degrees.

Key Takeaways

  • Diploma: A diploma is a certificate awarded after successful completion of a course of study. However, this term is not used by all countries or to its full meaning.
  • Degree: An academic degree is an award offered by a university or college.
  • Level: Diplomas are awarded for college-level, trade, or high school courses, which are below the level of degree programs. Degrees are awarded for undergraduate courses conducted by universities.
Maria Nguyen
Maria Nguyen
Maria Nguyen is a talented writer with a flair for developing captivating content in a range of formats. Her commitment to thorough research and producing top-notch material has contributed to over 4 years of professional writing and editing experience. Outside of work, Maria finds pleasure in solitary activities and immersing herself in nature. Her introspective nature and passion for self-reflection inspire her creativity. She believes that spending time alone and observing the natural world can provide valuable insights and foster personal growth, broadening her perspective as a writer.


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