Common pathways to college and university in Canada

After you complete high school, the path to higher education opens. To enter a college or university in Canada, you must have a high school diploma.

Making the right choice for you

What’s next? You’re now ready to decide on your education pathway and the route you’re going to take to your future career. Your post-secondary options in Canada include:

University

  • Bachelor’s degree (3 years) pre-requisite: high school diploma
  • Bachelor’s with Honours (4 years) pre-requisite: high school diploma
  • Master’s degree (1 to 2 years) pre-requisite: Bachelor’s degree
  • PhD or doctoral studies (3 to 5 years) pre-requisite: Master’s degree

College or university

  • Certificate (1 to 2 years) pre-requisite: high school + other requirements depending on the program
  • Professional degree (3 years) pre-requisite: high school + other requirements depending on the program

College

  • Diploma (2 to 3 years) pre-requisite: high school diploma

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While some students know exactly what they want, college or university, many others do both. You can too! Combining college and university can prepare you with the skills and critical thinking capacity to excel at your chosen career. You may choose to do a college diploma first, and then have your credits transferred to university so you can complete a university degree after. Other students go to university first, and then attend college to gain the focused skills they need to succeed.

University leads to academic excellence and a rewarding career

Canadian universities offer programs at three levels: Bachelor’s, masters and PhD or doctoral studies. Some universities also offer short programs that give students certificates, diplomas or professional degrees. These may appeal to you if you’re a mature international student who has been working and wishes to acquire new skills to advance your career.

College offers a straight path to jobs

If you’re looking for practical, hands-on career training, a Canadian college education will get you there. College aims to prepare you for your chosen career, so you can get a good job in Canada or in your home country when you complete your studies.

Colleges in Canada may be known as:

  • Colleges of applied arts and technology
  • Community colleges
  • Institutes of technology   
  • Polytechnics

Some colleges offer applied bachelor’s degrees. Colleges in Canada do not offer master’s or PhD degrees.

In Quebec, there are also CÉGEPs, or collèges d’enseignement général et professionnel. High school students in Quebec who wish to attend university are required to complete studies at the CÉGEP (or equivalent) level.

Transferring credits to a Canadian college or university

Canadian universities and colleges can transfer your credits from your home institution to Canada if you would like to pursue or complete your studies here.

If you’re still in your home country, ask your current institution if it has a credit recognition agreement with colleges or universities in Canada. The international studies office at your school should be able to help you.

Next, ask the Canadian college or university you wish to attend whether they will allow you to transfer some or all of your credits. They’ll likely request a copy of your academic transcripts. If so, you can use one of these services to send your records:

Improve your language skills first

You may feel you need to improve your language skills before starting college or university in Canada. If so, why not come to Canada to study English or French at one of our excellent language schools? We’ll help prepare you for a successful higher education experience in Canada.

Search for a Canadian college or university program

Ready to find your perfect program and take the next steps to a rewarding career? Start your search for college and university programs here. Our search tool will also help you plan your budget for studying in Canada.

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