Education in Canada: Post-secondary
On this page
- Types of post-secondary schools
- Educational credential recognition
- The costs of post-secondary education
- Part-time and distance education
- Government ministries in charge of post-secondary education by province and territory
Types of post-secondary schools
In Canada, there are 3 different types of post-secondary schools
At most post-secondary schools, the school year is divided into 2 main terms and an optional summer term.
- Term 1: September to December
- Term 2: January to April
- Optional summer term: May to August
Each province and territory makes sure each school and its programs meet a certain set of standards. Schools aren’t officially recognized until they’re certified.
A recognized school can grant
- other qualifications
If you’re not sure if a school is officially recognized, contact your ministry or department of post-secondary education.
The Canadian Information Centre for International Credentials (CICIC) also maintains a directory of recognized schools in Canada.
Study at a university
Universities offer programs on a wide range of topics at different levels of difficulty and complexity. When you successfully complete a university program, you’re awarded with a university degree that reflects the type of program you completed. There are 3 types of degrees.
- Bachelor’s degree: This is the simplest degree offered by Canadian universities. It typically takes 3 to 4 years to complete.
- Master’s degree: This is a more advanced degree that usually takes 1 to 3 extra years of study after you get a bachelor’s degree.
- Doctoral degree: This is the most advanced degree offered by Canadian universities. It can take another 3 to 4 more years of study and research following a master’s degree.
In regulated professions, students must complete an internship or pass a standardized test (or series of tests) after getting the degree. You can’t work in these professions until you get the degree and pass the tests. Regulated professions include
Get help choosing a program
Universitystudy.ca can help you plan for your education. Learn about
- universities in Canada
- programs of study
- how to choose a program
- application and admission requirements
- financial planning information
Study at a college or institute
There are many types of colleges and institutes recognized by provinces and territories, including
- community colleges
- colleges of applied arts or applied technology
- institutes of technology or science
- collèges d’enseignement général et professionnel (CEGEPs) in Quebec
- career colleges
More about “career colleges”
These institutions are privately owned and run. They offer programs that focus on specific careers like
- personal support workers
- early childcare assistants
While they’re reviewed and recognized by the provinces and territories, they’re not publically funded. They’re entirely funded through tuition fees.
Colleges and institutes usually offer shorter programs than universities (1 to 3 years). Instead of degrees, they issue diplomas and certificates that qualify graduates to do specific jobs in different industries.
These industries can include
- computer and mechanical technologies
- health care
- social services
- trades (such as carpentry, electrical or plumbing)
Many colleges are also starting to offer bachelor’s degrees and master’s degrees in certain industries.
Get your educational credentials recognized
To study at post-secondary school in Canada, you need to have your existing level of education assessed. The assessment verifies your foreign degree, diploma or certificate (or other proof of your credential) is valid and equal to a Canadian one.
Contact the post-secondary schools you are interested in to find out what kind of educational assessment they accept.
The costs of post-secondary education
All post-secondary schools charge tuition fees for their programs. For Canadian citizens and permanent residents, tuition fees are between $2,500 and $11,400 a year, depending on the school and program you’ve chosen. Tuition fees can be much higher for international students.
Students will also have to pay for
- course materials, like textbooks and supplies
- other expenses
Many students depend on financial support programs to help them cover these costs.
Get financial help
The federal and provincial/territorial governments all have programs that provide low-cost loans, grants and scholarships for students.
There are 2 main types of financial help for students:
- Student loans from a bank or the federal government: These need to be repaid according to the terms of the loan.
- Grants, scholarships or bursaries, which you don’t have to repay.
You can get information from
- National Student Loans Service Centre
- The university or college you plan to attend
Student financial help by province and territory
- British Columbia
- New Brunswick
- Newfoundland and Labrador
- Northwest Territories
- Nova Scotia
- Prince Edward Island
Registered Education Savings Plans
A Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP) is a tax-free education savings account that lets parents, family members and friends save money for a child’s post-secondary education.
When you open an RESP account, the Government of Canada will help you save by adding money to your RESP through special programs. This encourages people to save more money for their child’s education.
These programs include
- Canada Education Savings Grants (for children aged 17 or younger)
- Canada Learning Bonds (for children aged 15 or younger)
Part-time and distance education
Many post-secondary schools offer part-time programs and distance education. These programs can help you get an education if you have limited time or can’t attend the school in person.
Contact schools directly to learn about their part-time study and distance education options.
Ministries of post-secondary education
- Alberta Innovation and Advanced Education
- British Columbia Ministry of Advanced Education
- Manitoba Advanced Education
- New Brunswick Ministry of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour
- Newfoundland and Labrador Department of Advanced Education, Skills and Labour
- Northwest Territories Ministry of Education, Culture and Employment
- Nova Scotia Department of Education
- Nunavut Department of Education
- Ontario Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development
- Prince Edward Island Department of Workforce and Advanced Learning
- Quebec – Ministère de l'Éducation et de l'Enseignement supérieur
- Saskatchewan—Ministry of Advanced Education
- Yukon Department of Education
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