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Post-graduate vs. Master's Degree: How to Decide

With the recent changes made to the International Study Program in Canada, many students have been faced with the tough decision of choosing between pursuing a post-graduate degree/certificate/diploma versus a Master's degree.

In this post, we aim to break down the differences, advantages and disadvantages of both options to help you make an informed decision.

  • Post-Graduate Degree/Certificate/Diploma: is a program of study pursued after completing an undergraduate (Bachelor's) degree program, which results in the credential of a diploma or certificate being conferred upon completion.

  • Master's Degree: is a more specialized post-graduate degree that involves more in-depth learning in a specific field and results in a higher-order credential upon completion.

Here are the major differences between the two:


Post-Graduate Degree

Master's Degree


8 months - 2 years

1 year - 2 years (or longer in some instances)

Average Cost

CAD$11,000 - $24,000/year

CAD$16,000 - $48,000/year

Provincial Attestation Letter (PAL) Required



Spouse Eligible for Open Work Permit



Post-Graduate Work Permit Tenure

For programs less than 2 years: equivalent to the duration of the program completed. For programs 2 years or more: 3 years

3 years, regardless of the duration of the program completed

Post-Graduate Degrees:

Postgraduate degrees are advantageous in that they generally afford lower tuition costs than their Master's degree counterparts. Pursuing a postgraduate program that lasts two years or longer also affords the maximum tenure of a three-year post-graduate work permit, which is advantageous for students who wish to pursue permanent residence pathways upon completion of their studies. Students pursuing shorter postgraduate degrees still have the option to pursue permanent residence pathways, however, the process may prove more challenging, given the relatively shorter tenure in which they have to undertake that process. A good option to improve the chances of success in those cases is to pursue a field of study with a high labor demand in Canada. Prospective students may engage resources such as the Job Bank, made available by the Canadian government, to help them choose a program that is aligned with an in-demand job sector.

Also, post-graduate degrees may prove more ideal for applicants who are single or do not wish to immediately transition with their spouse and/or family, given the higher financial requirements necessary to transition with additional family members and the spouse not being eligible for an open spousal work permit. There are other pathways through which the spouse of a post-graduate student may obtain a work permit, it is best to engage the services of a trusted immigration representative for further guidance. Here are three of our recommended partners:

Competitive Edge:

  • More cost-friendly than a Master's degree.

  • More favorable for applicants who are single or not seeking to immediately transition with family.

Master's Degrees:

While a Master's degree may prove more costly than a postgraduate degree, the derived benefit of pursuing a Master's degree, in light of the Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Centre's (IRCC's) recent changes, is commensurate to the cost in many respects. Master's students are exempt from the PAL requirements, and therefore able to secure study permits with greater ease than their post-graduate studies counterparts. Master's students also experience greater ease in transitioning with their families, as their spouses are eligible to obtain a spousal open work permit (SOWP) for the duration of their studies. Upon completion of their studies, Master's graduates also fare better than their postgraduate counterparts in some respects, benefitting from the maximum tenure of 3 years for a post-graduate work permit, regardless of the tenure of their studies. Also, as Canada moves to retain the best talent for their labor force, graduates of Master's doctoral and professional studies will invariably have greater access to permanent residency opportunities than their post-graduate counterparts.

Competitive Edge:

  • Shorter timelines to apply for a student visa after obtaining a valid offer of acceptance, given a PAL is not required for Master's applicants.

  • Longer post-graduate work permit tenure relative to their postgraduate counterparts, for persons pursuing programs two years or less.

  • Ease of transitioning with family, given spousal eligibility for an open work permit.

  • Greater permanent residence opportunities, given Canada's thrust to secure a more talented and qualified labor force.

In conclusion, choosing between a postgraduate vs. graduate program is a matter of personal preference, decided by factors that best suit the needs of the individual including budget, family dynamic and post-graduation goal, whether it is to obtain permanent residence upon completion or return to your home country.

Leave us a comment and let us know what field of study you are interested in pursuing so we may tailor our upcoming blog posts to recommend possible program options based on demand.

*Disclaimer: The information found on this site is for general information purposes only and is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. 

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