Differences Between Professional Qualifications and University Degrees:
A professional qualification is a professional designation obtained in a particular field (Accounting, Audit, Investment, Management, Law, Engineering, Public Relations, Marketing, Banking, etc.). Such a qualification is awarded by internationally recognised bodies/associations (Associations or Institutes) of countries such as the United States of America, Great Britain and others, upon successful completion of studies in a specific field and approved work experience. In Great Britain for example, many renowned multinational business consulting firms (Deloitte, PwC, EY, KPMG e.t.c.) set as a prerequisite for their associates or partners either the CPA (Certified Public Accountant), ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants- UK), the ACA by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales, or CIA (Certified Internal Auditor). In the U.S.A., high-ranking executives working for large banks or investment organisations such as American Express, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, etc. are usually holders of the CFA (Chartered Financial Analysts, USA).
Nevertheless, the internationalisation of markets, the ever-changing financial environment and the rapid growth of the EU had created a new global reality for graduates and professionals searching for a job with real and substantial career perspectives. The labor markets globally and the requirements of large multinational businesses are far more demanding than they used to be in the previous decades (1980’s-1990’s). Recent (2007 – 2014) unemployment trends globally support the above argument.
University degrees on the other hand are awarded by university institutions throughout the world and include the widely known Higher National Diplomas, Bachelors, Masters and Doctorates of Philosophy or Business (HND, BA, BSc, MA, MSc, MBA, MPhil, PhD, DBA and others). Each university awards its own degree and it is therefore important for a student to enroll/enter a university or school having a 'good name' in their selected fields. Exams are held by the universities and degrees are also awarded by them, whereas previous work experience is not a prerequisite.
Summarizing the differences:
University degrees Differences Professional Qualification
Held by the university Exams Worldwide
Decided by the university Exams topics Equally worldwide
Not necessary Work experience Necessary
By university institution Qualification By prof. association
As stated previously, during the '60's and the '70's a university degree was enough to guarantee a stable job and a career. Today, the reality is very different. The labor market of the 21st century has become extremely demanding. The large and multinational businesses of today have vastly different needs. They are looking for professionals with (a) practical training after their graduate studies that must be certified by internationally recognized professional associations and (b) approved previous work experience, who are ready to undertake leading positions. The combination of worldwide exams and highly relevant work experience is exactly what has made the difference in many countries.