Career and Technical Education Certificate Programs

College Degrees and Certificates 101


What’s the difference between a certificate and a degree?

Typically, your desired job or profession determines what level of education you should pursue. For some technical careers, a certificate is sufficient. Other jobs require either an associate’s or a bachelor’s degree. Some professions don’t need a degree but offer better pay or room for growth if you have one.

Why start with an associate degree at a community college?

An associate degree generally takes two years to complete if you attend college full time and requires about 20 to 30 courses (60 credit hours). This degree is designed to fulfill the first half of a bachelor’s degree and prepares you for transfer to a four-year school. ECC offers many transfer plans and education pathways so you can transfer smoothly. The type of associate degree you earn (associate in arts or associate in science) will depend on your study program. Your academic advisor will help you create a transfer plan that is specific to your goals. An associate degree may also qualify you for employment in your chosen career field.

Can an associate degree be applied to a bachelor's degree?

ECC offers several associate degrees designed to transfer smoothly into bachelor’s degree programs. We have partnerships with universities throughout Illinois and across the country. There are even opportunities to complete your bachelor’s degree through universities right on the ECC campus! For more information, view our University Transfer & Partnerships or our Transfer Guides.

Which type of associate degree should I get?

ECC offers two main types of associate degrees:

  • Transfer program degrees (such as Associate in Arts, Associate in Science, Associate in Engineering Science, etc.) prepare students to transfer to a university to complete a bachelor’s degree.
  • Career and Technical degrees (such as Associate of Applied Science, in areas like nursing, culinary arts, or automotive) equip students with the knowledge and skills needed to enter a specific career immediately upon completion. However, some Associate of Applied Science degrees provides university transfer opportunities to complete a bachelor’s degree.

All associate degrees at ECC typically require about two years of study if attending school full time. Contact the ECC Admissions Department to discuss our programs and degree options to make sure that you select the associate degree that is right for you and your academic and career goals.

What’s the difference between an Associate of Applied Science degree and a certificate?

An Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree qualifies you for entry into a chosen career field, typically at a higher skill level than obtained through a certificate. An AAS degree requires 20 or more courses (60 credit hours). For those who wish to continue coursework toward a bachelor’s degree after earning an AAS, ECC offers transfer options to four-year colleges and universities for some AAS programs.