What is The Difference Between a Certificate, Diploma and a Degree in Malaysia?

Just finished your SPM examinations and is now deciding on a course to take after high school?

This is a common question we get a lot from students who inquire at SENTRAL college. Should I join a certificate program? Or should I jump into a diploma programme and move along to a degree after it?

In this post, we’ll explain the benefits of each of them and leave you with some guidelines that would help you choose your study and career path correctly.

Let’s get started.

Certificate Courses

You may find many types of certificate courses in Malaysia, offered by institutions and colleges. So what is a certificate course exactly?

Certification courses are generally courses taken by people who aim to gain a new-found skill or ability – to be eloquent or get hired in a specific industry. They are also usually shorter, as they focus on more practical training that would be immediately applicable to real-industry work. A typical certificate course can take anywhere from few weeks to few months to complete, depending on the type of study that you are going for.

There are many Malaysian students who are unaware of the educational pathways and possibilities after SPM or A-Levels. As for certain certificate programs, you only need a single credit in SPM or A-Levels to enroll into. In fact, we also see many working adults joining the certificate courses at SENTRAL College to further enhance their skill sets, earning them a higher paying salary.

An example of a certificate program offered at SENTRAL college is the certificate in business information technology course, which equip students with strong foundation in business and computing.

Generally, certificate courses are great if you already know exactly what you intend to do. You prefer not to spend more than 2 years to get a job title and want to shortcut your way to find a job.


  • Less expensive than earning a diploma or degree
  • Quick route to employment


  • Limit to your skillset
  • Limited job opportunities
  • Education not well-rounded

Diploma Courses

In Malaysia, diploma courses are more similar to certificate programs, varying in the time taken to complete. Diploma courses are meant to be more in-depth, with more academic and theoretical studies.

While many students view this negatively, the addition of more academic studies will allow you to gain a deeper understanding of your chosen field.

Choose to go for a diploma course if you want to gain the necessary skills, abilities, and knowledge in your chosen field. A diploma also gives you a better chance of employment in most junior positions in corporations and business organizations in Malaysia.

In fact, because of the many positions offered by many business corporations in Malaysia, it has been reported once that a business diploma graduate has a higher chance of securing a job as compared to a business degree holder.

A typical diploma course in Malaysia takes about 2 years to complete.


  • Time effective. Takes typically around 2 years to complete
  • Prepares students to take on a job
  • Covers a wider range of subjects


  • Higher budget entry compared to a certificate course
  • You’ll only have a diploma at the end. Diplomas can be seen as a low-level certification and might demand lower starting salaries.

Degree Courses

A degree course is an advanced study program where you’ll pick an area of specialization, to be your major. To complete a degree, you will also be subjected to complete general classes such as English, Malaysian Studies and more – providing an all-rounded education.

In general, there are three main types of degrees:

  • Bachelor degree
  • Master degree
  • Doctor degree

These days, many employers of corporations list a bachelor’s degree as a minimum requirement for executive positions. In fact, you’ll be at better odds of negotiating and securing a higher pay if you have a degree certifications of some sort. Some corporations also take into account the college or university you got your degree from — in short, it pays to be selective about the college and study you choose to enroll into.

A master degree is a higher level education or postgraduate programme that usually last between one to four years, depending on the study. It’s also something many students look for, to increase their chances of being hired into managerial positions. However, while having a master degree looks good on your resume and will improve your career prospects, the higher entry costs sometimes mean that it isn’t for everyone.
Technically, a master degree is most focused on one particular area of a subject, providing students with more specialist knowledge. While they offer more flexibility with study options, master degrees are also more intensive and tough.

Lastly, a doctorate degree or commonly abbreviated as P.h.D is considered the highest level of academic degree. Most Malaysians, including your parents, would be familiar with the medical doctor, holding a Medical Doctorate degree. But asides to that, you can actually earn a doctorate in any subject area. Some popular doctorate degree in Malaysia includes Doctor of Philosophy in Information Technology, Doctor of Philosophy in Hospitality & Tourism and more.


  • Completing a degree will provide you with bigger job opportunities.


  • Because of the higher cost & time needed, might not be the pathway everyone takes.


Each of the qualifications, whether a certificate, diploma or degree – all provide a certain value to you and your career. In choosing a study pathway, you need to take a few things into account, such as the duration that you’ll be investing your time for the program, the cost of the entire program and the type of specialization you’d like to be skilled for.

If you need more advice on choosing a right course pathway to study, allow our education advisors at SENTRAL college help with any inquiries you may have.