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 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 science) will depend on your study program. Your academic advisor will help you create a transfer plan specific to your goals. An associate degree may also qualify you for employment in your chosen career field. Did you know you can complete an Associate of Arts degree online? This is one of the most popular associate degrees for students intending to transfer to a four-year university. 

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

ECC offers several associate degrees 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 on the ECC campus! View our University Transfer & Partnerships or our Transfer Guides for more information.

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 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 two years of study if attending school full-time. Contact the ECC Admissions Department to discuss our programs and degree options to ensure that 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 qualifies you to enter a chosen career field, typically at a higher skill level than a certificate. An AAS degree requires 20 or more courses (60 credit hours). ECC offers transfer options to four-year colleges and universities for some AAS programs for those who wish to continue coursework toward a bachelor’s degree after earning an AAS.