Understanding Québec’s education system

College studies: first level of higher education

The first level of higher education in Québec is also referred to as “college education.” It’s important to distinguish it from French colleges, because college education in Québec is unique in the world and is open to young people (after the baccalaureate in France) and adults, no matter their age. College education is the bridge between compulsory schooling in Quebec (elementary and secondary) with university education and can also serve as a springboard into the job market.

Public college education is offered by institutions referred to as CEGEPs and private college education is provided by private colleges. There are four CEGEPs and two private colleges in Québec City.

Colleges offer:

  • a two-year pre-university training that prepares students for university and leads to a college diploma (DEC);
  • technical training, which lasts three years and prepares for entry into the job market. These are professional and vocational training programs comparable to the French BTS/DUT Studies and lead to a technical college diploma (DEC);
  • a credited, intensive, one-year training program, which is made up of courses that comply with labour market requirements and leads to an Attestation of College Studies (AEC).

These technical programs also prepare students for higher education, creating a bridge between college and university-level learning.

Source: Ministry of Education

Diploma Program type Duration Unlocked
College diploma (DEC) Pre-university programs 2 years University
Technical programs 3 years Job market
Attestation of College Studies (AEC) Intensive technical programs 1 year Job market

University studies

University education is offered by universities and comes after successful completion of pre-university college training. This level of study is also available to students who have completed an equivalent number of years of study in their country of origin. The structure of university education in Québec is similar to that found elsewhere in North America.

There are four universities in Québec City that offer a variety of programs and specializations.

University education comprises three levels of study:

  • Bachelor’s degree (Cycle 1): 3 to 4 years depending on the discipline;
  • Master’s degree (Cycle 2): 1 to 2 years;
  • Ph.D. (Cycle 3): 3 years and more.

Most universities also offer short programs of varying lengths such as certificates or specialized graduate diplomas (DESS).

Source: Ministry of Education

Cycle Diploma Duration
Cycle 1 Certificate 1 year
Bachelor's degree (B.A.) 3 to 4 years
Cycle 2 Specialized graduate diploma (DESS) 1 year
Master’s degree 2 years
Professional master's degree 2 years
Cycle 3 Ph.D. 4 to 5 years

Québec’s education system stands out from the rest of Canada.

Once you wrap your head around how Québec’s education system works, you can choose the right program and institution based on your academic background and interests. This will help you secure a future that lives up to your hopes and dreams!

What level is right for me?

Higher education in Québec

I want to study in Québec City!

First, take some time to explore the 700 or so programs offered in Québec City and remotely. You’ll then be able to choose the program(s) and the higher education level that best suit your interests and academic path.