4 Types of Undergraduate Studies in Canada: Know Before you Choose

Studying in Canada is appealing to international students as some of the top international universities are located there, but did you know that there are more options than just a Bachelor’s degree?

Depending on your goal, you can choose shorter courses such as certificates, diplomas, and associate degrees.

Never heard about them? Don’t worry! Let’s take a look at them to find out which one suits you best! 

Certificate Program 

6 months – 1 year of study (one to two full-time semesters)

You graduated high school and want to earn a qualification in the shortest time possible to start working in the real world. If this sounds like you, then keep reading…

The main goal of a certificate is to focus on a particular specialization and teach you practical skills rather than academic knowledge.

Offered at colleges, certificate programs are typically more affordable than university degrees; the tuition cost starts at just $2,000 CAD/ year but may change depending on the field.

  • Pros: Completing a certificate will boost your skills and make you industry-ready
  • Cons: While all degrees in Canada are globally recognized, shorter courses might not hold much value in other countries. 
  • Popular certificate programs: Business, IT, Health Care Administration, Construction, and Industrial engineering technicians.


2 years minimum (four to six full-time semesters) 

We are still talking about shorter courses, but want to step it up a notch? Take this in.

Just like the certificates, the diploma also focuses on practical skills to meet the demands of industries, however, they also offer co-op and internship opportunities for you to gain work experiences in your field of studies.

The diplomas are usually offered at colleges and are earned within 2-3 years depending on the course load.

  • Pros: It is affordable and a faster way to enter the job market. You can then pursue higher education after working and saving money.
  • Cons: You will learn about a specific area instead of getting a broader education.
  • Popular diploma choices: Pharmacy Technician, Hospitality Management, Electronics Engineering, and Architecture.

Associate Degree

Usually 2 years (four full-time semesters)

You may want to dream bigger and earn a more valuable qualification, but your grades are not high enough. We got you!

Offered only in British Columbia, an associate degree is a 60-credit program that combines technical education and academic knowledge. 

An associate degree allows you to learn both the general subjects and major in an area of interest, unlike the diplomas and certificates which only focus on a particular specialization.

You can pursue your degree and transfer to a university in the third year.

There are 4 types of associate degrees:

  • AA (Associate of Arts)
  • AS (Associate of Science)
  • AAA (Associate of Applied Arts)
  • AAS (Associate of Applied Science)

The first two types (AA and AS) focus on higher levels of study for students who want to gain a bachelor’s degree after. The last two (AAA and AAS) focus on training and preparing you for future jobs. 

  • Pros: The entry requirements are typically much less competitive as they ask for lower grades. They also have lower tuition fees! 
  • Cons: The salary might be less for associate degree holders than bachelor’s degree holders. 
  • Popular associate degrees: Computer science, Criminal justice, Accounting, Dental hygiene, and Psychology.

Bachelor’s Degree

4-5 years (eight or more full-time semesters)

Let me guess…it’s probably the most familiar option on the list, right? It is the traditional path taken by international students who just graduated high school. 

Bachelor’s degrees focus on theoretical knowledge and research while also incorporating practical aspects to teach you how to apply it in the real world. 

You can earn a bachelor’s degree in Canada by completing 4 years (120-credit) of full-time education – even though some programs can take up to 5 years. 

Over the 4 years, you will learn general knowledge in the first two years, then specialize in a major.

  • Pros: While the tuition fees are typically higher, getting a bachelor’s degree in Canada will grant you endless opportunities across the world. 
  • Cons: Higher fees – around CAD $29,714  according to Statistics Canada.
  • Popular bachelor’s degrees: Business, Sciences, Engineering, and Humanities. 


Now that you know more details about these great options, which one will you choose? Share your answers in the comments!


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