Education in Canada: Post-secondary

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Types of post-secondary schools

In Canada, there are 3 different types of post-secondary schools

  • universities
  • colleges
  • institutes

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

  • degrees
  • diplomas
  • certificates
  • 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

  • medicine
  • law
  • education

Get help choosing a program 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

  • colleges
  • 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
  • estheticians

While they’re reviewed and recognized by the provinces and territories, they’re not publically funded. They’re entirely funded through tuition fees.

Learn more about regulated career colleges.

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

  • business
  • computer and mechanical technologies
  • health care
  • social services
  • agriculture
  • trades (such as carpentry, electrical or plumbing)

Many colleges are also starting to offer bachelor’s degrees and master’s degrees in certain industries.

Find out more about the available degrees.

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
  • housing
  • food
  • transportation
  • 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:

  1. Student loans from a bank or the federal government: These need to be repaid according to the terms of the loan.
  2. Grants, scholarships or bursaries, which you don’t have to repay.

You can get information from

Student financial help by province and territory

Registered Education Savings Plans

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

Find out how to open an RESP account

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

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