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Educational attainment, Canada

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EDUCCA variable indicates the highest educational level that the person in Canada had attended or completed. The variable indicates the highest grade attended through primary and secondary, and the highest year or degree completed post-secondary.

Comparability — General

The education system in Canada follows a 6-6 structure overall, including 6 years of elementary and 6 years of secondary education. However, each province and territory can organize differently primary, secondary, and post-secondary levels. Therefore, the division of grades within level varies across provinces, being the most common structures 6-3-3 (elementary, junior, and senior high school), 8-4 (elementary and secondary school), and 6-6 (elementary and secondary education.)

Regardless of the division adopted by the province or territory, secondary education starts at the end of grade 6. At the end of secondary education (grade 12), students obtain the high school graduation certificate or the trades certificate. Apprenticeship certificate programs are also offered to high school students who want to learn a profession. In some provinces, students who want to go on to university must complete an additional year (grade 13). In the case of Quebec, students who want to pursue higher education must to complete 2 years at a Collège d’Enseignement Général et Professionnel (CÉGEP). The CÉGEPs also provides 3-year vocational and professional programs that prepare students to access to the labor market.

Higher education offers various types of degrees. Certificate programs require the completion of 1 year of study; a diploma takes 2 to 3 years of study; bachelor degrees last at least 4 years; master's degree programs last 2 years and doctoral degree program 4 to 5 years.

The 2011 sample does not have information about completion of grades/levels before graduation from secondary. For this sample, "less than elementary or secondary" includes persons with no schooling, complete or incomplete elementary, and incomplete secondary education.

The 1971 sample offers detailed years of secondary and tertiary level schooling, while later samples provide less detail. The 1981-2011 samples separately identify high school graduation and trades certificates, while the 2011 sample includes also apprenticeship certificates.

Post-secondary non-university education is not identified in 1971. Other samples generally distinguish between trade and college certificates for persons with non-university education. The categories for university education are broadly comparable, but different level of detail is offered across samples.

The universe has changed significantly: from all persons in 1971 to persons age 15 and older in later years.


  • Canada 1971: All persons
  • Canada 1981: Persons age 15+ not in prison
  • Canada 1991: Persons age 15+
  • Canada 2001: Persons age 15+
  • Canada 2011: Persons age 15+


  • Canada: 1971, 1981, 1991, 2001, 2011