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Online Certificate vs. Degree

Certificate vs. Master's Degree

A master's or graduate degree is a longer academic program designed to comprehensively build your knowledge and skills. They typically involve one to two years of classes, though some programs can take longer to complete, especially if students attend part-time. Master's degrees are often designed to expand on your bachelor's degree, or they can facilitate a career change to a new field entirely.

In contrast, a certificate program is typically a shorter set of skill-building coursework that focuses on a very specific topic or area. Admission may require a prerequisite degree or credential; most specify a completed bachelor's degree from an accredited institution. Depending on the curriculum, institutions often allow certificate graduates to transfer their credits to a corresponding master's degree program. In these cases, a certificate program can be an excellent first step into graduate studies without a major investment in time or funds.

Both types of graduate programs are often offered online and can be well suited to working professionals. The question of pursuing a certificate program vs. a master's degree is ultimately up to your needs as a learner and your goals as a professional.

Benefits of a Master's Degree

When considering whether to pursue a master's degree or an online certificate program, there are a number of factors to consider. A master's degree program provides a more comprehensive opportunity to explore an academic field over a year or longer. Your career skill-building will be incorporated into the curriculum, and you also have more time to hone those competencies. In addition, an online graduate program is typically designed to foster more faculty and peer interactions, serving as valuable networking and collaborative learning opportunities. A master's degree is perfect for the student who is ready to dive deep into their particular area of study. 

Depending on the master's degree you choose, coursework may be fully online or use a hybrid format for a partially in-person experience. Many graduate curriculums are designed to allow a level of flexibility and customization, so you can tailor your education to align with your professional goals. Certain programs even let you incorporate one of their graduate certificates into the master's curriculum as an option to specialize your degree. 

When considering how a graduate degree will affect your career trajectory, an online program is often designed to fit into your schedule as a working professional. Additionally, earning a master's degree is a widely recognizable credential that is well respected by employers across numerous industries and can also serve as a stepping stone to certain doctoral programs in the future.

Miami University offers an extensive selection of graduate degrees and certificate programs for students in various fields.

Why Choose A Certificate Program?

A certificate program is best for the student who is interested in growing a particular skill through a shorter credential. Certificates offered through an academic institution versus other sources are often considered more reputable due to instructional quality and accreditation influencing the content of coursework.

For working professionals who want to upskill efficiently, online classes make earning a certificate convenient. It can also be an excellent introduction to graduate studies for those who are unsure if they are ready to pursue a full master's degree program. The online certificate is a lower commitment and more affordable starting point, especially if credits will later transfer into the master's program.

Learn More About Miami Online’s Graduate Programs

Miami University offers an extensive selection of graduate degrees and certificate programs for students in a variety of fields, including business, education, and technology. Our online graduate programs are taught by the same faculty that teach in-person at our Ohio campuses.

This list of Miami Online programs specifically includes master's degrees that also have a certificate counterpart. As you consider enrolling in a master's or certificate program around your professional obligations, explore our Miami Online graduate program offerings here.



List of Miami Online Degrees and Certificate Counterparts



Master of Education in Special Education

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Certificate

Master's in Entrepreneurship and Emerging Technology

Entrepreneurship and Emerging Technology Certificate

Master's in Esports Management 

Esports Management Certificate 


Sport Analytics Certificate

M.Ed. in Educational Technology

Instructional Design and Education Technology Certificate

Ready to apply? Learn more about Miami Online's admissions process.