There is one major difference between a degree and a credential: Degrees are conferred after taking a requisite number of classes, and credentials are attestations about your ability made by a third party who is qualified to do so. Credentials can come in a variety of forms, including degrees, certificates, licenses and endorsements. Degrees are always credentials, but credentials are not always degrees.
Several different degree types are available to students. These include: Associate degrees, usually requiring a minimum of 60 credit hours, earned at a junior or community college; Bachelor's degrees, requiring a minimum of 120 credit hours, earned through a university or college; and Masters degrees and Doctoral degrees, which require coursework and published work above and beyond that of the traditional undergraduate degrees.
Attaining a certificate means you're certified to participate in the work required. Many certificates simply require success on a certification exam. Professions that require certification are nursing assistant, teacher and public accountant. Though all of these professions also require specific coursework, without passing certification scores, you can't get a job. Certificates usually require the person holding them to earn continuing education credits but rarely require people to retake certification exams.
Endorsements, often added to certificates, add to the level or degree of work the holder is certified to do. For example, in Florida, a certified teacher can earn a Reading Endorsement or an English for Speakers of Other Languages Endorsement, also known as an ESOL, according to the Florida Department of Education. This allows the teacher to teach reading and students for whom English isn't a first language, respectively. Endorsements can often be earned once you attain a position in a certain profession.
Like certificates, licenses are earned through coursework combined with the passing of the required examination. People may earn a license to practice medicine, law or to sell insurance. Also like certificates, licenses require the holder to participate in continuing education courses. However, unlike certificates, license holders may be required to retake their license exam at some point during their career.
Michelle Beckert has been writing professionally for various websites since 2011, focusing primarily on exercise, education and parenting. Beckert is also a public school teacher for the Pinellas County School District and a 2005 graduate of the English Education Department at Florida State University.