What does a PhD degree in Canada need

Study system in Canada

© Canadian Information Center for International Credentials

Structure of the study system in Canada

The Canadian study system is modeled on both the UK study system and the US study system. Accordingly, it is divided into two sections:

  • Undergraduate area (Bachelor)
  • Postgraduate area (master, doctorate)

In addition to the classic academic training, as we know it in Germany, the Canadian study system enables one Variety of opportunities for professional and academic training and further education. In addition to the degrees we are familiar with, there are a number of other degrees in Canada that can be obtained at various universities. For this reason, the university landscape appears very diverse.

The classic academic education in Canada

The classic university degrees are, building on each other, Bachelor, Master and Ph.D./Doctoral. This is established academic degreesrecognized almost everywhere in the world.


Bachelors degrees become ofUniversitiesand partly also fromColleges awarded. As a rule, the Bachelor's degree in Canada takes three to four years to complete, in which 90 to 120 credits are normally acquired through attending courses and through performance reviews. Once students have earned the required number of credits, they will receive their degree. A thesis or an exam is not common.

Most programs consist of general, overarching subjects (liberal arts) and electives (electives). Only in the later semesters does a slight specialization take place through a (major) or two (double major) Major subjects and / or a minor (minor). But also a purely general education, three to four year bachelor's degree is not uncommon. The degrees are called, depending on the focus of the course content, Bachelor of Arts (BA) or Bachelor of Science (BSc).

There are also a number of them job-oriented courses with specializations. The content of the program can then also be seen in the title, such as Bachelor of Commerce or Bachelor of Social Work. Here one also speaks of Applied (Bachelor’s) degrees.

Bachelor with Honors

The so-called Bachelor with Honors can also be found in Canada's study system. He is mostly Basic requirement for a master’s degree. Bachelor-with-honors programs are more time-consuming and require early specialization as well as a research-oriented focus. The Bachelor with Honors requires 120 credits and includes a thesis.


Master's programs (Graduate Studies) are offered by the various faculties of the universities. Only in rare cases, and only in cooperation with a university, can college students complete master’s programs.

A master’s degree in Canada lasts one to two years and can either be completed by attending events (Master by Coursework) or by writing a research paper (Master by Research) be completed. At the Master by Coursework (or Applied Master’s Degree) the focus is mostly on professional practice and the application of theoretical knowledge. The direction of the program is again reflected in the title.

The admission requirement for a master’s degree in Canada is a first degree (usually a four-year bachelor’s degree or a three-year bachelor’s degree with an associated one-year certificate or diploma). Depending on the university, faculty and course of study, other requirements apply.


The Ph.D. is the highest academic degree in the Canadian study system. Ph.D. programs are offered by the individual graduate schools of the faculties. The Course of studies usually looks like this:

  • Attendance at various courses for at least one year
  • Taking comprehensive oral and written exams (qualifying exams) based on the respective research content of the program
  • Writing, defending and publishing a research paper (dissertation)

The basic requirement for a doctoral program is usually a master’s degree. In the field of natural sciences and engineering, it is not uncommon to enable particularly promising students to obtain a doctorate after completing their bachelor's degree (Fast track). In this case, however, the doctorate will take longer. The duration of a doctorate depends on various factors and can be between three and five years.

The Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy) is common in disciplines. Next to the research-oriented Ph.D. there is also the Professional doctorates (Doctoral) like the Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or the Juris Doctor (J.D.).

Other types of degrees and specifics in Canada

The dual training system, that is, the change between practical phases in a company and theoretical phases at a vocational school, represents the classic vocational training in Germany and belongs to the upper secondary level. This form of training is largely unknown in Canadaeven if they are through so-called ApprenticeshipPrograms, especially in commercial areas, are becoming increasingly important. Traditionally, the Vocational training to the

  • Colleges
  • Community colleges
  • Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology
  • CÉGEPs
  • Technical Institutes

instead of. In college education, the first level of Postsecondary Education in the Canadian study system, the certificates and diplomas play a role (in the province of Québec one speaks of Attestation of college studies: AEC) plays an important role.

Certificates and diplomas

The vocational programs conclude with a certificate or a diploma. There are a large number of different certificates and diplomas and there is often a choice between different qualifications and levels differentiated, there is, for example, that Certificate of Apprenticeship or that too Certificate of Qualification. The certificate is below the level of a diploma. Certificate programs usually last one year, while diploma programs last one to two years longer.

Certificates and diplomas are not to be equated with training in Germany and are therefore also not acknowledged. However, the programs are suitable as further training and as an opportunity to acquire additional qualifications.

Advanced Diploma / Associate Degree

Besides the simple College Certificate / College Diploma there is also the so-called in some provinces Advanced Diploma or University Diploma: The course here lasts three years and has a larger theoretical component than the regular diploma programs. After completing the Advanced Diploma, students can a bachelor's degree after another year of study acquire.

It is similar with that Associate Degree which, based on the USA, are awarded by community colleges and university colleges in British Columbia. The duration of study here is two years. With appropriate cooperation between the colleges and the universities, it is possible to study via a Transfer program to continue at a university and to have the credits acquired in the associate degree recognized.

(Post) Graduate Diploma / Certificate: Continuing education at an academic level

These are continuing education programs for the acquisition of additional qualifications on a academic level. The programs usually last three semesters and require a bachelor's degree that has already been completed. That means that these degrees are for Postgraduate area belong and therefore represent a postgraduate course. They are particularly suitable for those who want to continue their education in a certain area but do not want to complete a full master’s degree. They are also suitable as “Replacement” for a Bachelor with Honors and to make up for missing qualifications for admission to a master’s program.

With regard to Certificate / Diploma degrees, German students must note that they are not recognized as academic degrees in Germany, as there is no equivalent. However, the programs can be used to Continuing education and the acquisition of additional qualifications be used.

Shorter study trips to Canada

A full degree in Canada, be it to obtain a globally recognized bachelor's or master's degree or for a doctorate, is attractive for many students. But it doesn't have to be a whole degree. The Canadian universities have for international students different programs on offer that enable you to get a taste of Canadian campus life:

  • Semester abroad Canada: At many Canadian universities, international students can take part in so-called Study abroad programs take part. These are usually designed to be flexible and students have a wide range of courses at their disposal.
  • Summer Sessions Canada: This is a "Compressed semester abroad" in Canada outside of the academic year. The summer sessions take place in three- to six-week units during the summer months.
  • Language courses Canada: The universities offer different forms: In addition to the general language courses, there are academically oriented courses as well as courses that specifically prepare for the TOEFL or the IELTS.

Differences between the German and Canadian study systems

While the German study system relates exclusively to academic training at universities and technical colleges, the Canadian study system goes much further. The Distinction between professional (professional) and academic (academic) Training can be found here within the study system takes place and is primarily expressed in the names of the respective study programs and their degrees. This can be quite confusing for Germans, especially since there are no equivalent for certificates and diplomas in Germany. When choosing the right university and the subject of study, you should always pay attention to the respective types of degrees and ensure that there are no problems with later recognition in Germany.

Differences between the two study systems can also be seen in the content structure of the classic academic study programs - Bachelor, Master and PhD - moor.

  • Bachelor: While the German Bachelor's degree is specialized right from the start, the Canadian Bachelor's degree is initially general in terms of course content (liberal arts). And that too Bachelor with Honors does not exist in Germany. Problems can arise when German bachelor graduates apply for a master’s degree in Canada: Canadian universities usually apply for a master’s program four-year bachelor's degree or a Bachelor with Honors, the standard period of study for a German Bachelor is only three years. German Bachelor graduates may have to acquire a Postgraduate Certificate / Diploma before they can start the Canadian Master’s program.
  • master: Canadian Masters programs can be either research-based (Master by Research) or more job-oriented (Master by Coursework / Applied Masters) be. This distinction does not exist in Germany.
  • promotion: The structure of the doctoral programs also differs in some points from the doctorate, which is typical in Germany: Canadian programs are generally more structured and the PhD students go through a Course and a dissertation phase, in the transition of which an intermediate examination takes place. There is also no tie to a single professor, the classic doctoral candidate / doctoral supervisor relationship in Canada.