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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 degree 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 usually takes two years to finish if you go to college full-time and involves around 20 to 30 courses (60 credit hours). It's meant to cover the first part of a bachelor’s degree and prepare you to move to a four-year school. ECC has lots of plans to help you transfer smoothly. The kind of associate degree you get (like an associate in arts or science) depends on what you study. Your academic advisor will help you make a plan that fits your goals. An associate degree might qualify you for a job in your chosen field. Did you know you can do an Associate of Arts degree online? It's one of the most popular associate degrees for students planning to transfer to a university.

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

ECC gives you different associate degrees that help you easily enter bachelor’s degree programs. We work with universities all over Illinois and the country. With our university partnerships, you can even finish your bachelor’s degree here on campus at ECC! Bachelors at ECC

Which type of associate degree should I get?

ECC offers two main types of associate degrees:

  • Transfer program degrees (like Associate in Arts, Associate in Science, Associate in Engineering Science, etc.) prepare students to move to a university for a bachelor’s degree.
  • Career and Technical degrees (like Associate of Applied Science in nursing, culinary arts, or automotive) teach students what they need for a particular job right after they finish. Yet, some Associate of Applied Science degrees also let students transfer to a university for a bachelor’s degree.

All associate degrees at ECC typically require two years of study if attending school full-time. Contact the ECC Admissions Department to discuss our programs and degree options to ensure you select the associate degree 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 enables you to step into your desired career path, usually at a more advanced skill level than a certificate. Typically requiring 20 or more courses (60 credit hours), an AAS degree provides a comprehensive education. ECC extends transfer pathways to four-year colleges and universities for select AAS programs, allowing students to pursue further coursework toward a bachelor’s degree post-AAS completion.

  • Associate of Applied Science Department