Canada can be a tempting choice for American students looking to pursue their higher education internationally. Not only is Canada close geographically and easy to access by airplane or train, but it also offers a wide variety of excellent academic resources. Because some areas of Canada are French-speaking, the country's public universities and private colleges may offer degree programs in English or in French, depending on the area. Therefore, students also have the opportunity to expand their language abilities while pursuing their undergraduate or graduate studies.


Canadian degrees are usually recognized as the equivalent of American degrees by institutions in the United States and in Commonwealth countries. Canada does not have a nationwide accreditation process as the United States does; however, Canadian schools go through rigorous examinations to obtain regional charters and membership in a nationwide membership organization, AUCC, for Canadian institutions of higher learning.

Differences in Bachelor's Degrees

While in many cases Canadian colleges, like their American equivalents, require that students study for four years to complete a bachelor’s degree, some programs only require three years of study. In general, students studying for four years are awarded honours degrees. An honours degree is not the same thing as a bachelor’s degree with honours, which is the equivalent of the American cum laude. Canadian students can obtain a bachelor’s degree with honours usually by writing a short thesis. An honours bachelor’s degree, on the other hand, is usually required to pursue graduate work.

Differences in Graduate Degrees

While American master’s degrees usually take between one and two years to complete and may consist mostly of coursework, Canadian master's degrees usually take one year and require a thesis or a research paper. A PhD is an additional three years (unlike in the United States, where it is normal for a PhD to take five years or even longer) and normally requires that students live on-campus for at least the first year.

Differences in Cost

Unlike in the United States, where study at a private university can cost upwards of $40,000 for one year of tuition and fees, the Canadian government estimates that students need between $15,000 and $20,000 USD to cover their tuition and living expenses for one year. This does not include an estimate for transportation from the student’s home country. Costs will change depending on where the student studies and what academic program she chooses to follow.

Additional Considerations

The weather in Canada is significantly colder in the winter than in many parts of the United States, and American students considering studying there need to prepare accordingly. While the weather is roughly equivalent to the weather in the Northeastern United States, students from the Southern and Western United States need to be prepared for heavy snow and cold temperatures.

Related Articles