Post-Secondary Education in Canada

If you made up your mind about studying in Canada, make sure you apply several months in advance for a post-secondary program at a university or college. To do so, you need to take these steps:

1. Pass a language test. As a general rule, there is no need to get through the entrance exams. Although, if you’re a foreign citizen, you need to pass the academic IELTS or TOEFL tests to measure your English skills or the TCF test to assess your command of French. For instance, IELTS scores are required to be no less than 6.0 meaning you can use and understand complex language. There is nothing to worry about: there is a great number of language learning courses in every country of the world. Plus, some colleges in Canada offer language programs that allow entering a Canadian university without passing IELTS or TOEFL tests. There are also independent language schools. An intensive course may include three kinds of lessons per day: general English, IELTS preparation and Pathway (preparation to study in a Canadian college or university).

2. Find a school, apply to a program of choice and receive a letter of acceptance from a college or university in Canada. Be sure to have on hand your ID and academic records.

3. Apply for a visa (a temporary resident visa or an electronic travel authorization (eTA)), if you come from a country for which Canada requires a visa. You can find out if you need a visa on the website of Government of Canada.

4. Apply for a study permit. If you are coming to Canada for college or university studies that last longer than 6 months, you need to apply for a study permit. You can do it online or in a visa application centre in your country.

5. Undergo a medical exam, if you come from a country for which Canada requires a visa and if you will be studying here for more than 6 months. You must see a doctor on the list of panel physicians.

How Much Time Does it Take to Study in Canada?

Colleges and universities are post-secondary learning institutions as they require to have a secondary school (high school) diploma. Secondary school’s final years in Canada are 11 (in Quebec) or 12 (in other provinces and territories).

Generally, it takes from 1 to 4 years to take a post-secondary education program in Canada. Although, it is quite possible to go on studying several more years as long as time and money allow.

There are three steps of post-secondary education in Canada:

  • Undergraduate education: a certificate (1 year of college) or a diploma (2–3 years of college) or a bachelor’s degree (3–4 years of university)
  • Graduate education: a master’s degree (1 to 3 years of university or 1.5 to 2 years in Quebec)
  • Postgraduate education: a doctorate degree (3 years or more of university)

In the majority of Canadian provinces and territories, it is possible to enter a university or a college right after school or take 1 to 4 years of Apprenticeship Vocational and Technical Training before applying to a college or university. In Quebec, you need to take a 2-year pre-university program in a college to get the Diploma of College Studies (DCS) or a 3-year technical training program to get the DCS Technical before applying to a university program.

Both colleges and universities in Canada allow receiving a high-quality education recognized worldwide and prepare for a career in the global marketplace, but they have different approaches to education. Colleges typically offer vocationally oriented programs, focus on career training and trades, and grant certificates and diplomas (certificates programs focus on specific occupations, and diploma programs prepare students for employment in a particular field or group of occupations). And universities focus on academic and professional programs and grant degrees.

Academic Credits in Canada

In Canada, students organize learning schedules themselves by choosing from obligatory and optional subjects. In most universities and colleges in Canada, an academic year is comprised of two semesters, or terms: normally September to December (fall term) and January to April (winter term). Students may also be admitted to start their programs in May or in January. Most schools also offer courses during summer break (usually May to August).

Canadian colleges and universities use the academic credit system that assigns a value to a course that counts toward program completion.

A full-year course with 3 hours per week from September to April has a value of 3 credits. And a half-year course with 3 hours per week from September to December or from January to April usually has a value of 1.5 credits.

Normally, the total number of credits required for graduation is the following:

  • Certificate or diploma: 30 credits
  • Bachelor’s degree: 90–120 credits
  • Master’s degree: 45 credits
  • Doctorate: 90 credits

Many universities in Canada allow students to transfer academic credit from other post-secondary institutions. 

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