A post-secondary credential is a standard of learning. Earning a credential confirms you’ve reached a specific educational standard and have certain:
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:
- degree, master’s and doctoral programs follow the Canadian Degree Qualifications Framework (PDF, 86 KB)
- certificate, diploma and degree programs are approved by the minister responsible for advanced education
Learn more about post-secondary program standards in Alberta.
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.
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 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 offered by institutions that have received approval from the Minister responsible for advanced education (except for degrees in divinity).
Post-diploma or post-bachelor’s 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.
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 years of full-time university study
- can be either thesis or course-based
When you pursue a doctoral degree, you plan and conduct research about a specific topic. These degrees:
- usually involve 2 or 3 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
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
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 or medical professionals, 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.
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.
To connect with the Post-Secondary Programs Branch:
Hours: 8:15 am to 4:30 pm (open Monday to Friday, closed statutory holidays)
Toll free: 310-0000 before the phone number (in Alberta)
Submit questions and comments online
Post-Secondary Programs Branch
11th floor, Commerce Place
10155 102 Street
Edmonton, Alberta T5J 4L5