Degree or Diploma


One of the many questions among students finishing their high school studies, is what to pursue for higher studies? Take a Degree or get a Diploma? Some vouch for the regular degree programme, while others talk of the importance on how focussed diploma programmes are.

We compare both these type of programs to find out the basic difference between them, and what is that a degree or a diploma programme has to offer. The comparision involves years of study involved in each, the flexibility offered in terms of subjects to study, their scope in terms of higher studies and so on.

1) Years of study

The years of study involved in a Degree program is longer. It takes around 3 to 5+ years to complete a degree programme, depending on the type of programme one has chosen.

A regular degree programme for Commerce and Arts (Humanities) stream will take 3 years, while the same programme with “Honors” takes an additional year. For example, an Economics (Honors) degree takes 4 years of study.

Technical and professional degree programmes like engineering and medicine, take 4 years and 5.5 years of study respectively.

Then there are integrated degree courses, that involves combined Graduation plus Masters Degree (PG) that takes 5 years.

Comparatively, Diploma courses are shorter and around 1 to 3 years, depending on the level of study involved in the programme student is opting.

Diploma programs in technical field usually takes around 3 years, while a diploma course in, say, a teaching course viz., Diploma in Education (D.Ed) is 1 year program.

2) Course flexibility

In a degree course with Honors, or technical fields like engineering, students are allowed to choose their specialisation/electives in the final year of their studies.

While, in diploma, the curriculum is set at the beginning for the full course, and no specialisation is offered. The reason being, a diploma already has a focussed curriculum and hence further specialisation is not offered during the course period.

3) Programmes offered by

Degree courses are only offered by Universities, which are Government recognised.

Diploma programmes are offered by Private Colleges / Institutions and even Government Universities.

4) Scope of study

The degree curriculum covers a wide area of study related to various fields viz., engineering, science, history, psychology, commerce, management, environment etc.,

It provides scope of specialisations and research in different areas of study viz.,

  • civil, mechanical, aviation etc., (engineering),
  • astronomy (science)
  • architecture, culture (history)
  • accounts, finance (commerce)
  • business, human resources, finance (management),
  • climate change, pollution (environment)

In short, degree with its wider scope of study focuses on trade as well as research.

A Diploma on the other hand covers course designed by the institute that is related to a specific trade/profession viz.,

  • technical (engineering viz., automobile, electronics etc.,)
  • computers
  • nursing
  • teaching

In short, diploma is trade/profession specific.

5) Route to higher studies

After a graduation degree, a student can go for Masters level course, followed by Doctorate (PhD) programmes. A Student holding a degree can choose a Post Graduation Diploma programme after her/his graduation studies.

Student from Diploma can pursue higher studies at Post Diploma level courses. In some cases, like engineering, Diploma holding students are allowed admission directly in second year of graduation program. This is called lateral entry.

6) Recognition

Degree course are recognised by all major institutions (including global) and industries (private and public) for higher studies and professional work.

Diploma courses are recognised by Private institutions and specific industries for higher studies and professional work respectively.

Which one to Choose?

Students who are looking for short-term, hands-on courses, preferring more practical than theoretical curriculum , may choose a Diploma program.

Students who wish to explore more general and theoretically designed courses, wishing to keep their options open to specialise later in higher studies, may choose Degree program.

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