What's the difference between colleges and universities?

Universities focus on academic and professional programs, whereas colleges specialize in career training and trades programs.

What is a college?

Colleges offer training in the trades and in applied fields. Generally, they focus more on hands-on training.

Colleges have full- and part-time studies. Most colleges in Ontario offer three kinds of certification:

  • Certificate: takes 1 year of full-time studying
  • Diploma: takes 2-3 years of full-time studying
  • Bachelor degree in applied fields: takes 3 to 4 years of full-time study

What is a university?

Universities have academic and professional programs, like law or philosophy. Universities offer:

  • Bachelor (undergraduate) degree: takes 4 years of full-time studying
  • Master’s degree: takes 1 to 2 years of full-time studying
  • Doctoral (PhD) degree: takes 4 to 6 years to complete
  • Professional program (Law, Medicine, Dentistry): takes about 2 to 4 years to complete

Do I have to choose one or the other?

There's no one "right" path to getting higher education and finding a career that suits your skills and interests.

Some students go straight to university, especially if they're determined to get a professional degree (e.g., in law, medicine, dentistry, etc.). Even if decide to get a job right after getting their bachelor's degree, they may upgrade their skills after a few years in the workforce by going to college and getting a post-graduate or professional certificate.

For many students, money is a factor and that's why they decide to go to college first, which is cheaper. A lot of times they transfer their credits to a university after saving up for a few years. 

Still, colleges and universities allow students to change their careers if they're not satisfied with the path they chose, or if they're just looking for different opportunities. 

Take your time making your decision, and do what's best for you.