University degrees are offered at three consecutive levels — bachelor's, master's, and doctoral — with the possession of a degree from the lower level generally a prerequisite for admission to the next.
Many universities also offer diploma and certificate programs. Generally speaking, university diplomas and certificates require one or two years of study in a specific field or discipline. However, these programs vary widely from institution to institution, and from province to province. University calendars are the best sources of information about the nature and requirements of university diplomas and certificates.
Students at the baccalaureate or bachelor's level are known as undergraduates. Successful completion of the secondary school program, or the two-year Cégep program in the case of Quebec, is the normal prerequisite for admission to undergraduate study. Bachelor's degrees normally require three or four years of full-time study, depending on the province or whether the program is general or specialized. An honours baccalaureate degree usually signals a higher degree of concentration in the honours subject, as well as a higher level of academic achievement. At some universities, an honours degree may require an additional year of study.
A master's degree typically requires two years of study after successful completion of an honours baccalaureate. Although the normal prerequisite for a doctoral program is a master's degree, students have been allowed, in special circumstances, to go directly from an honours baccalaureate program into a doctoral program. A minimum of three years and up to four or five years of study and research, as well as a dissertation are the normal requirements for a doctorate. The degree is generally known as a PhD; however, doctoral degrees may also be granted in particular fields of study such as music (DMus) or law (LLD).
In regulated professions such as medicine, law, education, and social work, an internship is generally required in order to obtain a licence to practice.
University colleges undertake degree programs as their primary activity and provide three-year and four-year bachelor's degrees. They generally offer smooth university transfer opportunities.
Colleges and institutes undertake diploma and certificate programs as their primary activity, and some offer degrees in areas of particular specialization. Where they are offered, degree programs may be two-year associate degrees or four-year applied degrees.