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Higher Education in Canada- Types of Degrees, Colleges, Universities

Mansi Topa Mansi Topa
Content Curator

Canada does not have any federal department or national system of education. It varies with every province of the country. There are more than 10,000 degree programs offered to study in Canada, for students. At present, Canada has the highest number of graduates in the world.

Canada is ranked 5th in QS world ranking for the Education System Strength.

It has bilingual status with English and French being the most preferred languages. In Quebec, 90% of the people speak French.

Education System Categorization in Canada

The types of schools available in Canada, starting from kindergarten to post-secondary institutions are: -

  • Primary/Secondary
  • Language Schools
  • Trade/Vocational
  • Institute/College

Education system of Canada is divided into three levels: -

  • Elementary Education
  • Secondary Education
  • Post-secondary Education

Elementary and Secondary Education

The education in Canada begins from the age of 4 or 5 which may go up to the age of 16 to 18. The education covers kindergarten and secondary school. Students who successfully complete their secondary school earns a diploma.

The table specifies the range of age between which the students must be attending the school for all the provinces in Canada.

ProvinceAge of compulsory Education
Alberta6 to 16
British Columbia6 to 16
Manitoba7 to 18
New Brunswick5 to 18
Newfoundland6 to 16
Northwest Territories5 to 18
Nova Scotia5 to 16
Ontario6 to 18
Prince Edward Island5 to 16
Quebec6 to 16
Saskatchewan7 to 16
Yukon6 to 16

Students attending elementary school, are aged between 6 and 14 who pursue studies from Grade 1 to Grade 8. Further, Grade 9 to Grade 12 students pursue secondary school. Ontario has Grade 12+. In Quebec, students attend high school till the age of 16.

Check Canadian Universities Ranking

CEGEP, Quebec

From 17 onwards, students under CEGEP (General and Vocational College) in Quebec either pursue university preparation diploma or vocational diploma.

Depending upon the student’s preference, some may join a university of their choice while others may hone in technical studies for practical knowledge.

There are 48 CEGEPs in Quebec. Out of these, 42 are French language institutions and 6 are English language institutions.

Post – Secondary Education

Listed are the post-secondary programs and their duration in Canadian education system.

Post-Secondary ProgramsDuration
Certificate1 year
Diploma1 to 2 years
Advanced Diploma2 to 3 years
Bachelor’s Degree4 years full-time study
Post-Graduate Diploma or Certificates1 or 2 years
Master’s Degree1 to 2 years
Doctorate or Ph.D.4 to 7 years

Terms of study

  • September to December
  • January to April

Different types of post-secondary schools


It provides degrees in many subjects. There are three- types of degrees that are offered by universities:-

Colleges and Institutes

  • Community Colleges – These are government regulated colleges which provides 1 – 2 years of pre-professional certificates, diploma, associate degree, or even specialized bachelor’s degree.
  • Colleges – Offers degree or could be a tertiary educational institution or may offer vocational education.
  • CEGEP, Quebec – It is a pre-university and technical college which is publicly funded in Quebec’s education system.
  • College of applied art and applied technology – Offers diploma and degree as a polytechnic institute.
  • and Institutes of technology and science

The colleges which are completely private are known as Career Colleges.

Fact:Centennial College is the first community college in Ontario. It is recognized as a most culturally diverse post-secondary institution in Canada.

Language Requirements

Out of the two official languages of Canada i.e. English and French, student needs to be well acquainted with any one of these languages compulsorily. English is widely known language, around 95% of the Canadians speak English. French is also found across the country but more than 90% of French speaking population is found in Quebec.

French is mainly known to be found in Quebec but some areas of Ontario, New Brunswick and Manitoba also have the hints of the language. New Brunswick has both English and French as its official language.

Those who are looking forward to learn English can enroll themselves for ESL (English as second language) or FSL (French as second language) for learning French.

As there are numerous immigrants landing in Canada each year, for them, ESL is the best language support while FSL is also useful, especially for students in Quebec.

Students can stay in Canada for 6 months without study permit if they are enrolled for either ESL or FSL or both.

Whether it is a classroom or a job, students must be well-acquainted with the language of that area. Most jobs in Canada requires:-

  • Fluency in either English or French
  • A strong knowledge of the language spoken at workplace
  • Understand phrases and expressions of the localities

Generally, Federal, Provincial and Territorial government funds language classrooms for the students.

English/French Proficiency Language Tests

In places where there is a demand of English or French language test scores, there are few language tests acceptable to the organizations so as to prove the proficiency of the language for a student.

For English,

  • IELTS (International English Language Testing System)
  • TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language)
  • CELPIP (Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Program)

For French,

  • TEF (Test d’évaluation de français)
  • DELF (Diplôme d’études en langue française).

Co-operative Work Program

In Co-op, students get an on-the-job training while being in touch with their regular studies. It generally last between 12 to 17 weeks. This program is the output of various subjects considered together for relevant work. For international students, it’s an excellent opportunity to build a network with Canadian companies.

Why Canada is emerging as the best option for Education?

  • Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) study reveals that Canada’s students are educated at the best level in the world.
  • Immigrants are able to integrate at a fast pace in Canadian schools.
  • In Pisa tests, if level of education is evaluated on the basis of provinces then the three universities – Alberta, British Columbia and Quebec would be counted under top 5 places of science in the world.
  • The teachers hired in Canada are very selective and highly paid.
  • To improve literacy, experienced staff and resources such as exams and assignments help identify struggling schools or individuals.

Check Research Opportunities in Canada

Programs including certificates, degree, associate degree and more, help students to broaden their view in the field of education. The degrees of Canada earned, are accepted world-wide and are equal to what US or other countries offer.

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