Understanding Postsecondary Education in Quebec

For a Canadian citizen living outside the province of Quebec or from any other country, it may be confusing when it comes to making decisions with regards to studying in Quebec.

The province has its own education system and some may need to be guided when it comes to choosing a program or a university. Studies completed abroad or in another Canadian province are compared to the main diplomas in the Quebec education system. Here is a brief description of the Québec education system and its main diplomas that will ultimately help you understand postsecondary education in Quebec.

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Secondary Education

After six years at the elementary level, students begin their secondary studies. The duration of these studies is five years for general education and varies for students enrolled in vocational training programs.

The Secondary School Diploma (SSD) marks the successful completion of five years of general studies. It also provides access to higher education.

The Secondary School Vocational Diploma (SSVD) is awarded for study programs lasting an average of 1,350 hours (a year and a half). Training leading towards a SSVD starts after the third, fourth or fifth year of secondary studies, depending on the particular requirements of the program of study.

The Attestation of Vocational Specialization (AVS) is issued after a training period of six or twelve months. Holders of a SSVD can choose from some 50 programs leading to this diploma.

The Attestation of Vocational Education (AVE) is issued after a training period that lasts a maximum of 900 hours. Undertaken after the second year of secondary studies by a student at least 15 years of age, this training program takes place in a company setting and prepares students for semi-skilled occupations.

Higher Education

Please note that postsecondary education in Quebec includes college and university level education.


College is the first stage of higher, or post secondary education in Quebec. Offered mainly in the public network through general and vocational colleges (known as CÉGEPs for the French designation collège d’enseignement général et professionnel), academic instruction is also available at other institutions such as private colleges.

CÉGEPs and colleges deliver two year pre-university programs leading to university studies and three year technical programs that prepare students for the job market while, in some cases, leaving them the option of continuing their studies at the university level.

The diploma of collegial studies (DCS) is awarded for education completed under a pre-university and technical study program. It is also possible to obtain an attestation of collegial studies (ACS) upon completion of 1 to 4 semesters of technical education leading to the job market.


University education is divided into three levels of study.

The first level of university study (undergraduate level) generally leads to a bachelor’s degree. This degree is made up of at least 90 credits, usually completed over three years on a full-time basis. Some programs, most notably education, engineering and medicine, require more credits and take from four to five years. After completing bachelor-level studies, students may enter the job market or continue their studies at the second or third level.

There are different types of bachelor’s degrees: a specialized bachelor’s degree, a bachelor’s degree with a major and minor, and a general bachelor’s degree. With a specialized bachelor’s degree, each and every course taken focuses on a single discipline or field of study, or on related disciplines or fields of study. A specialized bachelor’s degree is made up of 90 credits or more, depending on the program.

A bachelor’s degree with a major and minor combines two disciplines. It is made up of:

  • a major as its main component. A major is a 60-credit program generally completed over two years on a full-time basis, with most courses focused on a single discipline or a single field of study;
  • a minor as a complementary component. A minor is a 30-credit program generally completed over one year on a full-time basis, with most courses focused on a single discipline or a single field of study.

A student may register at the university to obtain either a diploma or a certificate. A diploma marks the successful completion of a 60 credit program, while a certificate marks the successful completion of a 30 credit program.

A general bachelor’s degree combines three 30 credit certificates.

There are two types of second, or graduate, level university programs. A master’s degree is issued following completion of a professional master’s program referred to as the master’s without a thesis or a master’s research program referred to as the master’s with a thesis. These programs involve specialization in a program of study or an introduction to research in one or several disciplines. A master’s program is generally made up of 45 credits and usually takes two years to complete.

The second kind of graduate studies leads to a diploma or certificate. In this case, the program of study is generally made up of 30 credits and takes one year to complete.

The third level of university study introduces students to scientific research and prepares them for a career in research. Students can obtain a doctorate (Ph.D.) after earning at least 90 credits over a minimum of three years of full-time study. They must write and defend a thesis as part of their doctoral studies.

This concludes the system of postsecondary education in Quebec.


The article above provides all the information you need to know to understand how postsecondary education in Quebec works, but below provides a visual summary of everything in order to make it as clear as possible for you:

Alex Dorward

Alex Dorward

Alex is the co-founder of UniversityHub (now CampusRankings) and current Technical Director for CampusRankings. Alex grew up in Ottawa before attending St FX in Antigonish, NS. After graduating, he joined Accenture and is currently a Manager in Accenture Digital.