This is a great question. I would say that there are two or three big differences.
First, academic degrees in many ways are theoretical in nature. Hence, they are taught by professors in their respective fields. Moreover, you discuss matters and write papers. When it comes to workforce degrees, these are much more practical and hands on. There is an actual "doing" part to it all.
Second, academic degrees usually take longer to do. For example, an undergraduate degree takes 4 years, a master's degree usually takes 2 years and a doctorate degree takes even longer (5-7 years). Certificates can be done at your own pace in many ways and take much shorter.
Third, academic degrees for the most part are incompatible with work. People take off work, often to do them, whereas workforce degrees/certificates are done along with work.
In the end, these are generalizations, but they should get you some guidance.