Diploma vs Degree: What’s the Difference?

Choosing between a diploma and a degree program can be a big decision, especially if you’re trying to map out a career plan.  

There are significant differences between a diploma and a degree. A college typically provides diplomas, whereas a university offers degrees. In some cases, a college will provide a degree program, or a University will offer a diploma program, but that’s not the standard.  

Program duration and scope, tuition fees, job prospects, and post-graduation salaries may vary depending on which pathway you choose.  

Let’s do the deep dive. 

Is a Diploma Higher Than a Degree? 

If we define “higher” as meaning being more valued in the workforce, a bachelor’s degree would typically be considered higher than a diploma. This is because a diploma usually focuses on one particular area of interest (such as a trade career), while a degree will focus on your specialty and also provide general elective courses such as English, history, economics, etc., to round out your education. There will also be a lot of theory. Because of the comprehensive nature of degree programs, you may qualify for a wider range of jobs upon graduation (and a higher salary). 

Keep in mind that it really depends on the type of career you are pursuing. For instance, if you want to be a software developer, then undertaking a diploma program is likely more than adequate for this career track.

If you wish to run a gaming studio that produces video games, then you’re going to need some serious leadership and business skills toothose that you would typically find taught through a degree program.  

Is a Diploma the Same as a Degree? 

No. A degree typically carries more weight with employers and takes longer to achieve (four years compared to a diploma, which can be anywhere from one to three years).  

If you’re concerned about job availability in your field depending on whether you have a diploma or a degree, start by not ruling either of them out. Instead, research job postings in your field. Find out what companies are looking for: if they’re asking for candidates with degrees over diplomas, then consider going to university. If a diploma seems standard for the type of job you’re interested in, then you may save time and money by undertaking a college program.  

What Is the Benefit of a Diploma Program Over a Degree Program? 

Curriculum aside, there are benefits to a diploma program. Diploma programs are shorter in duration, ranging anywhere from a year or 18 months to two or three years. This is ideal for people who want to get specialized job training fast. Typically a bachelor’s degree will take at least four years.  

Diploma programs usually cost less than degree programs.   

There are other types of diplomas and degree programs available in Canada, watch this video for more details: 

Which Is Better: Diploma or Degree in Canada? 

This depends on the type of job you’re looking for. If you want to study early childhood education, hospitality and tourism, graphic design, filmmaking, writing or marketing, then maybe all you need is a diploma. If you want to work in construction management, financial services, or health care, maybe you need a degree.   

Think about the job prospects that both a diploma and degree will open up for you and imagine where you’d like to be ten years from now. Which one will help get you there, or get you there the fastest?  

Is 2 Years a Degree or Diploma? 

2 years is typically associated with a diploma program. However, some universities offer a degree program in two years or less depending on your prior education (for instance, a certain period of work experience or transfer credits from a previous school may help qualify you for entry into a university program). 

Does Toronto Film School Offer Diplomas and Degrees? 

Toronto Film School (TFS) offers students the opportunity to earn a creative diploma (in 12-18 months) followed by a Bachelor of Creative Arts (BCA) Degree at our sister school Yorkville University (in 2 years or less).  

The TFS diploma programs allow you to specialize in a particular creative field, whereas Yorkville’s BCA Degree Program teaches you the business and leadership skills that will allow you to take on more senior roles in the industry.  

How Do I Apply for the BCA Degree Program? 

Let’s use an example.  

Niko has graduated from high school and is interested in a creative career. He explores all of Toronto Film School’s programs as listed here: 

On-Campus Programs: 

Online Programs: 

Niko chooses the Film Production program and 18 months later graduates with his diploma. Since he has a GPA of 2.0, he applies for entry into the Bachelor of Creative Arts (BCA) Degree Program offered by Yorkville University (YU). He is accepted and attends his classes there. He graduates in just under two years. He is now fully qualified for a number of roles. In addition to filmmaker, he is also fully trained to be a production executive, a development executive, an executive producer, studio head and more.  

Niko’s story is an example of one admission pathway into the program, there are others.  

Read more about YU’s BCA on-campus program and requirements here, and YU’s BCA online program and requirements here 

International students take note: To enrol in the BCA, equivalent credentials earned in a country other than Canada are accepted. Completing a BCA is an ideal way to apply for Canada’s Post Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) Program, which provides approved applicants with a work permit valid for up to three years.  

 

How Do I Choose Between a Diploma or Degree Program? 

There is no right answer, it depends on your particular situation. Ask yourself: 

Q:  How Fast Do I Need to Get Out in the Workforce? 

If you need to be making a full-time income right away, then maybe a diploma program is the route to go.  

Q:  Will I Have to Work Part-Time to Fund My Studies? 

If you do, this may be harder with a degree programas typically there are more courses, meaning more homework. Keep in mind that some schools, like TFS, do offer bursaries to help offset the cost of tuition, which means maybe you can work fewer hours. You should check if you qualify for a bursary or financial aid as part of your decision-making process. 

Q:  Will the Programs I’m Interested in Qualify Me for the Positions or Career Outcomes I’m Hoping For? 

These should be simple answers to get; go through the curriculums closely, but also find out what extras the schools you’re interested in offer as part of your enrolment package. For example, which programs provide networking opportunities to make securing your dream job after graduation easier?  

Does the school have a Career Services Centre whose counselors will assist you in writing proper cover letters and resumes, and practice job interviews with you? Will you have access to the centre after you graduate?  

Narrow the list and visit the schools you’re interested in, and casually approach and talk to students already enrolled. If you live outside the country, reach out on social media to students or graduates of your program of interest. This could be a big help.  

Final Thoughts on Diploma vs Degree 

Finally, keep in mind that a degree does not necessarily make you more employable than someone who has a diploma. This is why it’s best to map out your career plans in advance through research, and by carefully choosing a program that aligns completely with your career path. Colleges and universities in Canada provide descriptions of their curriculums online and often list career outcomes too.  

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Garry Murdock
Born in Montreal, Garry Murdock is the marketing copywriter for Toronto Film School. He got his start in television production at YTV, and then later worked as a promo producer and commercial director for a number of television networks. He was the supervising producer of Cineplex’s national in-theatre pre-show, providing creative direction and leadership on over 600 produced segments, and directed on-location interviews around the world with Hollywood celebrities such as Steven Spielberg, Tom Cruise, Ben Affleck, Chris Evans, Kermit, Miss Piggy and many more. He has a bachelor’s degree in Radio and Television Arts from Toronto Metropolitan University and a certificate in Digital Marketing Management from the University of Toronto.

Garry Murdock

Born in Montreal, Garry Murdock is the marketing copywriter for Toronto Film School. He got his start in television production at YTV, and then later worked as a promo producer and commercial director for a number of television networks. He was the supervising producer of Cineplex’s national in-theatre pre-show, providing creative direction and leadership on over 600 produced segments, and directed on-location interviews around the world with Hollywood celebrities such as Steven Spielberg, Tom Cruise, Ben Affleck, Chris Evans, Kermit, Miss Piggy and many more. He has a bachelor’s degree in Radio and Television Arts from Toronto Metropolitan University and a certificate in Digital Marketing Management from the University of Toronto.

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