What’s the Difference between a Certificate and a Degree Program?
A common question is “I just want to code, so what type of program should I take?” The answer is – it depends! What are your long term goals? The pathfinder will assist you with that, but let’s discuss the fundamental differences between vocational training and academic preparation.
Vocational training offers the student a certificate of completion and is offered in a variety of formats:
- Vocational-Technical Centers offered by the state
- Community College Continuing Education Programs
- Private schools
- Private consultants offering Boot Camp seminars
The emphasis in vocational training is to get a student “job ready”. In the HIM discipline that means taking a coding certificate program in order to apply for a coding position. Students attending certificate programs typically receive training comparable to that offered in a degree granting college. For example, all AHIMA Approved coding certificate programs must meet the same set of standards regardless of the type of program, or how they are set up to operate.
However, for students that choose to attend a vocational training institution for classes, they will have limited or no success at getting college credits for the classes taken in the vocational program. In other words, in order to have the courses count toward a future degree you should consider enrolling in a certificate program at a community college within a HIM degree granting department . In that case, it is common to have your coding certificate courses transfer easily into the Health Information Technology (HIT) associate degree program. Some programs will advertise as being a 1+1 Progression Program. This means the first year is spent earning the coding certificate, and later the student may choose to enroll in the HIT associate degree program in order to qualify for a RHIT credential.
If you are fairly certain that you will not be interested in getting a degree in HIM, or that five or more years will pass before you do – then select the coding certificate program of your choice as the transfer credit issue is null.