EDUCATION | Education tips

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Certificates vs Diplomas vs Degrees in Canada


After high school, you have a few education options. Let’s break down what degrees, diplomas, and certificates are. 


Certificates are more about hands-on practice and less about theory. Rather than having electives and expanding outside of its core, it has classes that are directly related to its area of study. They are a condensed study and can usually be completed in a year if done full time. Depending on what the certificate focuses on, they are typically offered in most post-secondary institutions, if not all. 

What’s nice about certificates is that they can be completed regardless of your current education status. It can be done before, after, or even during the process of your Bachelor’s. For instance, a TESL certificate can be granted upon completing certain courses under a Linguistics degree. At the end of your study, you are then granted a certificate and a degree.

Some schools may categorize certificates as “Continuing Studies.” They can be used independently of a degree or to supplement it. Another reason for certificate programs is that they can be done alongside full-time work. They can give you certain skills and the upper hand for certain jobs, but keep in mind that they are used as transfer credit.  


In the middle of certificates and degrees comes a level of education where you can obtain a diploma. They’re a more in-depth study compared to certificates, but do not cover enough to be at a degree’s standard. Diplomas are usually offered in community colleges and take about two to three years to complete. 

Unlike certificates, diplomas can be used as a stepping stone towards degrees. They are cheaper and less intense than jumping right into a university. If you did not get into your university of choice or you just want to save some money before university, college diplomas are a good option.

The experience is rather similar to studying for a degree. Many colleges offer co-op programs or internships that give you relevant experience for your job prospects. Despite this, diplomas still have their limits. A diploma can’t guarantee jobs that require degrees can. 

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In summary, degrees are what people go to university for. Many people go straight into this level of education right after high school. There are four levels of degrees

  • Associate

Associate degrees do not take as much time or credits than the other kinds of degrees. They are similar to college diplomas and normally take about two years to complete. Some people are satisfied with this level of education and successfully find jobs. Others use it to transfer to even higher education.

  • Bachelor’s 

Bachelor’s degrees are the standard here in Canada and you do not need to finish an Associate’s degree to attain a Bachelor’s. They’re also known as an undergraduate degree. When you think about post-secondary education, you’re most likely thinking of a Bachelor’s degree. They typically take around four years to complete and every university offers this level of education. Most employers now require at least this level of education. 

  • Master’s

Master’s degrees are another level of education of the same subject that you have your Bachelor’s in. It’s also more career-oriented compared to undergraduate courses that are more exam and knowledge-based. This degree can take anywhere between two to four years to finish, depending on your thesis and presentation. 

  • Doctorate

Doctorate is the final level of education that any person can complete. In order to obtain this level, you must first complete your Bachelor’s and your Master’s. Compared to a Master’s or Bachelor’s, Doctorate degrees are more research-intensive and rely heavily on your dissertation presentation.  

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Getting Jobs

You’re probably still in the process of deciding what next step to take or what the best course of action is for your education. Ultimately, the best thing you can do is research what your career requires, be it time or finances. If you want to be an engineer, you’ll need to have at least a Bachelor’s whereas if you want to be a medical office assistant, you’ll only need a certificate. 

It’s also important to make note that education isn’t a single track. An English degree doesn’t mean your options are limited to being a high school teacher, nor does a Chemistry degree mean you’ll only work in a lab.

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