Degree Options in Canada

Postsecondary institutions issue degrees, diplomas and certificates, depending on the nature of the institutions and the length of the programs. At universities and university colleges, there is an emphasis on degree programs. Applied degrees are offered by some colleges. At all other institutions, the emphasis is on diploma and certificate programs.

Diploma and Certificate Programs - Associate Degree (1-2 years)

Colleges and institutes offer diploma and certificate programs as their primary activity, while some offer degrees in areas of particular specialization. Where they are offered, degree programs may be two-year associate degrees or four-year applied degrees. Generally speaking, university diplomas and certificates require one or two years of study in a specific field or discipline. However, these programs vary widely from institution to institution, and from province to province.

Community colleges are government-regulated post-secondary institutions offering one- to two-year academic and pre-professional certificates, diplomas, two-year associate's degrees and even three- and four-year specialized bachelor's degrees. More than 150 community colleges accommodate approximately 900,000 full-time and 1.5 million part-time learners at over 900 campuses across Canada. Thousands of international students come to Canada for community college study each year.

Canada's community colleges are also sometimes called institutes, institutes of technology, technical colleges, regional colleges, CEGEPS (an acronym for Collège d’enseignement general et professionnel) in Québec, university colleges or simply colleges. Community colleges fill a unique niche in Canada’s education system. They combine high quality, comprehensive academics with employer-centred programs, industry connections and internship opportunities. Community colleges offer academic courses in the arts and sciences, as well as specialized career and language training. The college itself may be a general education school, offering a variety of programs in different fields (such as health, business, technology, trades, academic upgrading, applied and creative arts, social services, hospitality and university preparation), or it may be a single field-, industry- or culture-specific college (for example, college of forestry, art and design, justice and public safety, or Native studies). You can also transfer their Certificate or Associates Degree from a Community College to a bachelor degree granting institution for further study.

Undergraduate – Bachelor’s Degree (three-five years)

Students at the baccalaureate or bachelor's level are known as undergraduates. Successful completion of the secondary school program is the normal requirement for admission to undergraduate study. Bachelor's degrees in Canada normally require three or four years of full-time study, depending on the province or whether the program is general or specialized. An honours baccalaureate degree usually signals a higher degree of concentration in the honours subject, as well as a higher level of academic achievement. At some universities, an honours degree may require an additional year of study.

Postgraduate – Master's Degree/Doctoral Degree in Canada

A master's degree in Canada typically requires two years of study after successful completion of an honours baccalaureate. The normal qualification for a doctoral program is a master's degree. However, students have been allowed, in special circumstances, to pass directly from an honours baccalaureate program into a doctoral program. A minimum of three years and up to four or five years of study and research, as well as a dissertation, are the normal requirements for a doctorate. The degree is generally known as a Ph.D.; however, doctoral degrees in Canada may also be granted in particular fields of study such as music (D.Mus.) or law (LLD).

In regulated professions such as medicine, law, education and social work, an internship or practicum is generally required in order to obtain a license to practice.

Many colleges and universities offer one- or two-year postgraduate diploma and certificate programs to students who wish to augment their undergraduate degree with specialized training.