Post-secondary Education

Post-secondary education

In Canada, there are different types of post secondary institutions and many forms of post-secondary education. Some institutions are “recognized,” which means that a provincial or territorial government has given them the authority to grant degrees, diplomas, certificates or other qualifications. Governments have processes in place to ensure that these institutions and the programs they offer meet their standards. Other institutions do not go through government quality control and are not officially recognized. To find out whether an institution is officially recognized, contact the ministry responsible for post-secondary education in your province or territory of residence using the information in Table 9.1 or check the directory of universities and colleges at (click on “Studying in Canada,” then “Directory of Universities, Colleges and Schools in Canada”).

At most post-secondary institutions, there are two main terms of study per year: September to December and January to April. From May to August, many students take a break from studying to work. However, most institutions still offer courses during the summer months for those who wish to continue their studies during this period. In almost all cases, you will have to pay tuition fees to receive post-secondary education in Canada. You can expect to pay up to several thousand dollars for each four-month term. For more details, see the information on costs and financial assistance below.


In Canada, universities are independent institutions that are partly funded by the government although you must still pay tuition fees. Universities offer programs that lead to different types of degrees in many disciplines and subjects. A bachelor’s degree is the basic degree awarded by Canadian universities and generally takes three to four years to complete. A master’s degree is a more advanced degree that usually requires one to three additional years of study. A doctoral degree is the most advanced degree offered by Canadian universities and generally requires three or more years of study and research following a master’s degree. In regulated professions, such as medicine, law and education, students must complete an internship or pass a standardized examination in addition to completing their degree. They must complete all of these steps before they can become licensed to work in their profession.

University, colleges and institutes

There are many types of colleges and institutes. Some are formally recognized by governments, which partly manage them and provide most of their funding out of taxpayer dollars. They have a variety of names: “colleges,” “community colleges,” “colleges of applied arts or applied technology,” “institutes of technology or science,” or “collèges d’enseignement général et professionnel” (CEGEPs) in Quebec. Other colleges and institutes are entirely private and are usually called “career colleges.”

Public and private colleges and institutes usually offer programs of study that last one to three years. They issue diplomas and certificates that qualify graduates to work in specific professions within many different fields. These fields include business, computer and mechanical technologies, health, social services, agriculture, trades (such as carpenter, electrician and plumber) and many others. Some colleges and many institutes specialize in a particular field, while others offer a variety of programs across many different fields. In Quebec, trades are offered by school boards.

A growing number of recognized “colleges” also offer bachelor’s degrees and, in some cases, master’s degrees, in addition to college diplomas and certificates.

Choosing a program of study and applying to post-secondary institutions

To learn about different programs of study offered at Canadian universities, colleges and institutes, visit or go to (click on “Studying in Canada,” then “Recognized Post-Secondary Education Programs in Canada”). You can also read information provided by the organizations listed in Table 9.2, which represent different types of post-secondary institutions. You can also find information on programs directly from post-secondary institutions by researching their websites or calling them for a “calendar” of the programs they offer.

Lists of post-secondary institutions are available from (click on “Studying in Canada,” then “Directory of Universities, Colleges and Schools in Canada”).

Apply for admission

Once you have found one or more post-secondary programs that interest you, the next step is to apply for admission. To do this, you will need to get information about the admission requirements and procedures directly from the university, college or institute that offers the program you wish to take. Contact the “office of admissions” in person or by telephone, or check the institution’s website or its “calendar” of programs. You can also find general information about admissions at (click on “Studying in Canada,” then “Admission to Universities and Colleges in Canada”).

Admission to many post-secondary institutions in Canada is competitive and you may not be accepted unless you meet the admission requirements. In cases where spaces are limited, you may need to exceed the requirements. If you plan to pursue post-secondary studies, make sure to research programs and application procedures well in advance. Most institutions have firm deadlines and non-refundable application fees for applications, so you may have to apply as long as six months before the program begins.

If the language of instruction in the program you are applying to (English or French) is not your native language, you will be required to demonstrate your proficiency in that language by taking a language test. The institution provides a list of the tests it accepts and the required scores. For general information on language proficiency tests, see the section on Improving your English and/or French. Most universities and colleges have services that provide extra support to students who speak English or French as a second language.

Source: Welcome to Canada: What you should know

www.cic.gc.caCitizenship and Immigration Canada. Reproduced with the permission of the Minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada, 2013

© Copyright 2019