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:
- bachelor's, 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 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.
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
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
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, 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