Post-secondary credential types

Learn about the types of academic credentials available to Alberta post-secondary students.


A post-secondary credential is a standard of learning. Earning a credential confirms you’ve reached a specific educational standard and have certain:

  • knowledge
  • skills
  • experience

Credentials like an industry certification or a bachelor’s degree can be used to help you build skills to find a job or further study.

Differences between types of credentials can include:

  • the length of the program
  • specific admission requirements, such as an earned degree
  • program outcomes

Every credential offered by an Alberta post-secondary institution must meet certain standards:

  • bachelor's, master’s and doctoral programs follow the Canadian Degree Qualifications Framework
  • certificate, diploma and degree programs are approved by the minister responsible for advanced education

Learn more about post-secondary program standards in Alberta.

Apprenticeship credentials

Journeyman Certificate

You receive a Journeyman Certificate when you complete an apprenticeship program.

You earn a Journeyman Certificate after you complete:

  • a specific number of on-the-job training hours provided by an employer
  • technical training with an approved technical training provider
  • industry examinations

An apprenticeship program lasts 1 to 4 years, depending on the trade. You may also be able to use your certificate to work in other provinces. Read about apprenticeships and industry training.

Undergraduate credentials


Certificates offer short-term learning that prepares you for work in specific occupations. Certificates can:

  • take one year or less of full-time study to complete
  • need some high school studies for admission
  • sometimes be transferred as earned credit or used for admission to a diploma program


Prepare you to work in a particular field or group of occupations, and

  • take up to 2 years of full-time study
  • may need high school completion or specific grades and subjects for admission (except in universities)

Bachelor’s degree

Bachelor’s degrees provide theoretical or academic learning:

  • usually 4 years of full-time study, though program length can vary by program and post-secondary institution
  • programs longer than 4 years often include co-op education or work study
  • admission requirements vary by program, though are usually high school graduates with specific grades and subjects
  • can lead to direct access to graduate studies

Bachelor's degree programs in Alberta are approved by  the Minister responsible for advanced education (except for degrees in divinity).

Post-diploma or post-baccalaureate certificate

Some institutions offer certificate programs that require a completed diploma or degree for admission. These programs:

  • vary in length
  • are generally focused on increasing specialized skills

For example, some programs ask for an undergraduate degree and some work experience.

Graduate credentials

Master’s degree

Master’s degree programs build on a student’s undergraduate or graduate degree. They:

  • generally need a completed bachelor’s degree for admission
  • usually involve 2-4 years of full-time university study
  • can be either thesis or course-based

Doctoral degree

When you pursue a doctoral degree, you plan and conduct research about a specific topic. These degrees:

  • usually involve 2-4 years of full-time university study and research
  • generally need a master’s degree for admission
  • need you to prepare and defend a dissertation about an approved topic

Although many programs are research-based, others provide instruction in research methods to prepare students for work in a specialized field.

Graduate certificate or diploma

These programs provide graduate-level study options, without committing to a master’s program:

  • certificates are generally 1 year or less, with at least 12 credits
  • diplomas are usually 1-2 years, with at least 18 credits
  • need a bachelor’s degree and other program-specific pre-requisites for admission

Post-master’s certificate

These certificates help expand your knowledge or skills within a specific discipline. They can also strengthen both your professional and research skills. These programs:

  • are 1 year or less, with at least 12 credits
  • generally need a master’s degree and other program-specific pre-requisites for admission

Post-master’s diploma

A post-master’s diploma deepens your systematic knowledge in a discipline and fosters professional development. These diplomas:

  • are between 1-2 years, with at least 18 credits
  • usually need a master’s degree or post-master’s certificate and other program-specific pre-requisites for admission

Post-doctoral certificate or diploma

These programs integrate advanced research competencies with professional skills or knowledge. They can also help you build leadership capacity in a specialized field of study:

  • certificates are 1 year or less, with at least 12 credits
  • diplomas are 1.5 years or less
  • need a doctoral degree for admission

How to choose

The type of credential you need depends on the career you want to pursue, and how you want to learn. For example:

  • apprenticeships and certain professions, such as pilots, need industry-specific certification
  • university transfer courses and partnerships between institutions can help learners who don’t meet some programs’ admission requirements complete a degree
  • you can start your learner pathway by earning a certificate or diploma, and move up the career ladder by pursuing a degree

Learn more about laddering your education.

Admission requirements

The education and experience you need to register in a post-secondary program varies by program and institution.

Use EDinfo to find programs or institutions that match your interests and research admission requirements.


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