What Are the Requirements of a Career Diploma?

Earning a career diploma can lead to new job opportunities and better pay. Community and technical colleges across the country offer career diplomas that can be completed in a year or less. Admission for career diploma programs is generally less stringent than for degree programs.

Requirements for Earning a Career Diploma

In comparison to associate's or bachelor's degree programs, career diploma programs are designed to be more accessible. They typically have fewer requirements and consist of more focused coursework than degree programs. Here is what you'll need to earn a career diploma.

Important Facts About Career Diplomas

Online Availability Yes
Fields of Study Basic electronics, bookkeeping, appliance repair, locksmithing
Continuing Education Most programs prepare students to take certification exams related to the field they are studying
Possible Careers Paralegal, occupational therapy aide, computer programmer, carpenter
Median Salary (2018) $50,940 (for paralegals and legal assistants)
$28,160 (for occupational therapy aides)
$84,280 (for computer programmers)
Job Outlook (2016-2026) 15% growth (for paralegals and legal assistants)
25% growth (for occupational therapy aides)
7% decline (for computer programmers)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

High School Diploma

Career diploma and other higher education programs require at least a high school diploma or GED. Schools also might ask students to meet a minimum grade point average. For those without a high school diploma, some of the same vocational and technical schools that offer career diplomas also offer GEDs.

In certain places, career diploma are available to students still in high school. In Louisiana, for instance, a career diploma program is offered to students at risk for dropping out of high school, to prepare them for work in industry.

Qualifying Examination

Most schools require that students complete some form of testing to evaluate their initial skills. These schools usually have a unique entrance exam or placement test. If the student has previously taken the SAT or ACT, that score can often be submitted instead. The minimum score required for acceptance varies by school.


A career diploma program doesn't always include the general education courses found in an associate's or bachelor's degree program. Classes are focused on teaching only the skills needed for a particular career. Some programs will include externships or work experience options to provide hands-on training in the field. A career diploma program usually takes one year to complete, though some can be completed in six or nine months.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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