How to choose the right post-secondary credential for you

With nearly one million job openings expected in British Columbia (BC) between now and 2033, about 75% of these jobs will require some form of post-secondary education or training. Whether you’ve recently graduated high school, are looking to advance your career, or want to make a career change, there are many different types of post-secondary credentials to choose from.

In helping you better understand the various types of post-secondary credentials, we’ve provided explanation on seven different types of post-secondary credentials offered at BCIT:

Associate certificates and certificates

Certificates are relatively short but specialized training programs that give you a taste of applied theory and practical skills in a particular field. Admission to a certificate program usually requires a high-school diploma, while associate certificate programs may have differing requirements, such as completion of two years of full-time study in high school.

“An associate certificate is the smallest official certificate, comprised of a minimum of 15 credits and can be completed in one term,” Eric Fry, Chair of BCIT Education Council, and Associate Dean of Agile and Work Integrated Learning explains. “It serves as a great entry-pathway.” Comparatively, a certificate has a minimum of 30 credits and takes two terms to complete. One term is equivalent to 15-20 weeks of full-time study.

Eric suggests that many post-secondary students get started with a certificate or associate certificate, especially if they’re unsure of their future career paths. “It provides a well-rounded view to get started in the industry. You’re only required to commit to a year of training, versus a four year degree program. A smaller credential allows you to try things out,” he says.

Once you’ve completed a certificate, you have the option to ladder it with other certificates or work towards a diploma or degree, enabling you to explore your interests and find the industry that’s best suited to you. “For instance, you can ladder the BCIT Associate Certificate in Applied Computer Information Systems into a Computer Systems Certificate (CSC),” Eric says. He encourages students to meet with Student Advising to learn more about laddering certificates with other programs.

BCIT offers over 70 Associate Certificate and 60 Certificate programs in a range of sectors from Airport Operations to Financial Planning, Graphic Design, and Facilities Management. Full-time and Flexible Learning options are available and many of our programs are offered online or blended meaning a mix of on-campus and online delivery.


Diplomas are more intensive, longer programs of study, which prepare you for employment in a variety of occupations. Diplomas are a minimum of 75 credits, completed in the equivalent of four terms, and require a high school diploma or the equivalent to enter.

“Diplomas are useful when it comes to the context of any sort of career,” Eric says. “It is a great entry pathway for high school students into post-secondary. The diploma is more rigorous than a certificate but is more accessible to laddering. Many of our diplomas are created with the 2+2 model, meaning you can pursue a degree, but decide to graduate with a diploma at the two year mark or decide to do another two years and get a degree.”

 BCIT offers over 40 diploma programs in everything from Financial Planning and Residential Interiors to Aviation Management and Occupational Health and Safety.

Bachelor’s Degrees

The rigour increases with Bachelor’s degrees, but a degree from BCIT gives you the best of both worlds: a recognized bachelor’s credential and practical training to step right into a job. All BCIT degrees include academic specialty courses, management studies, and general education. Many programs can be done by either full-time or part-time study.

Bachelor’s degrees typically take students four to five years to complete when studying full-time. “A lot of our degrees can be completed through flexible learning, meaning you have seven years to complete them and you can keep working,” Eric adds.

Many BCIT degrees are structured as a 2+2 model (diploma laddering into degree), so a degree’s credit count is calculated based on the number of credits required for the equivalent diploma plus 60 upper level credits. A bachelor’s degree requires students to have a high school diploma for entry.

Eric recommends that students entering a bachelor’s degree be more certain on the area of study, clear on their future career paths, and eager to gain a deeper depth of knowledge. Students have the option of laddering a bachelor’s degree with an advanced certificate, graduate certificate, or master’s degree.

Here are some of the bachelor’s degrees offered at BCIT: Accounting, Architectural Science, Business Administration, Engineering, Health Science, Interior Design, and Nursing, and Technology Management.


Microcredentials are short specialized modular programs totaling three to nine credits and designed to help industry professionals gain in-demand skills and knowledge essential for industry. These programs align with industry needs, positioning you to be adaptable as new opportunities arise.

Learning is short, industry-focused, customizable, and self-paced so you are making the most out of your time and resources. This is particularly beneficial if you’re seeking a shorter-term recognition for the skills and competencies needed to ladder you into in-demand jobs – rather than investing more resources into a longer program. Some microcredentials can also be laddered into associate certificate programs.

BCIT offers microcredentials in several areas of study, including Applied and Natural Sciences, Business and Media, Engineering, and Trades.

SEE MORE: What’s a polytechnic, college, and university? Similarities and differences explained

Graduate Certificates

Graduate certificates are for learners with a bachelor’s degree who are looking for a mix of practical skills and theory at the graduate level. Since these programs can help you gain new skills to make a career advancement in as little as one year, typically students have prior work experience.

Graduate certificates are a minimum of 15 credits and take one or more terms to complete, half the time of a Master’s degree. Similar to the 2+2 model of a diploma and bachelor’s degree, you can ladder a Graduate Certificate into a Master’s degree.

BCIT offers graduate certificates in the following areas: Business Administration, Business Analytics, Global Leadership, and Building Energy Modelling. The programs are a mix of full-time and part-time and blended and in-person delivery.

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Master’s Degrees

All of BCIT master’s degrees include both a coursework and a research component. They meet all the same requirements in their quality and rigour as other institutions’ master’s degrees, but you’ll take a practical approach, solving real industry problems as part of your thesis or master’s research project.

Master’s degrees are double the number of credits than a graduate certificate (30 credits) but are similarly for students with a bachelor’s degree and typically prior work experience. The programs typically take one or two years to complete.

BCIT offers three types of master’s degrees: Applied Science, Engineering, and Science. The programs are a mix of full-time and part-time and mostly in-person delivery.

Find the right path for you

Whichever path you choose, BCIT programs are all practical, relevant, and industry-focused to ensure you are ready for in-demand jobs and skills needed across the workplace. In fact, 98%* of our degree graduates and 91%* of our diploma and certificate graduates are employed.

To find the credential that is right for you, start exploring programs at BCIT.

(*Source: BC Student Outcomes, prepared by BC Stats, 2002)

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