Dictionary, Census of Population, 2016
Highest certificate, diploma or degree

Release date: May 3, 2017 Updated on: November 29, 2017


Highest certificate, diploma or degree is the classification used in the census to measure the broader concept of 'Educational attainment.'

This variable refers to the highest level of education that a person has successfully completed and is derived from the educational qualifications questions, which asked for all certificates, diplomas and degrees to be reported.

The general hierarchy used in deriving this variable (high school, trades, college, university) is loosely tied to the 'in-class' duration of the various types of education. At the detailed level, someone who has completed one type of certificate, diploma or degree will not necessarily have completed the credentials listed below it in the hierarchy. For example, a person with an apprenticeship or trades certificate or diploma may not have completed a high school certificate or diploma, nor does an individual with a 'master's degree' necessarily have a 'certificate or diploma above bachelor level.' Although the hierarchy may not fit all programs perfectly, it gives a general measure of educational attainment.

This variable is reported for persons aged 15 years and over in private households.

Users are advised to consult data quality comments for this variable, available in the Education Reference Guide, Census of Population, 2016.

Statistical unit(s)



Highest certificate, diploma or degree

Reported in

2016 (25% sample); 2011Note 1 (30% sample); 2006, 2001, 1996, 1991, 1986 and 1981 (20% sample). For availability prior to 1981, please refer to Appendix 2.0.

Reported for

Population aged 15 years and over in private households

Question number(s)

Derived variable: Questions 25, 26a), 26b) and 26c)


No certificate, diploma or degree; High school diploma or equivalency certificate; Certificate of Apprenticeship or Certificate of Qualification; Other trades certificate or diploma; College, CEGEP or other non-university certificate or diploma from a program of 3 months to less than 1 year; College, CEGEP or other non-university certificate or diploma from a program of 1 year to 2 years; College, CEGEP or other non-university certificate or diploma from a program of more than 2 years; University certificate or diploma below bachelor level; Bachelor's degree; University certificate or diploma above bachelor level; Degree in medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine or optometry; Master's degree; Earned doctorate.


The following qualifications are to be noted:

A. For this variable, the category 'High school diploma or equivalency certificate' includes persons who have completed the requirements for graduation from a secondary school or an equivalency certificate, but no postsecondary certificate, diploma or degree. Examples of secondary (high) school equivalency certificates are General Educational Development (GED) and Adult Basic Education (ABE).

B. The 'Certificate of Apprenticeship or Certificate of Qualification' category includes Journeyperson's designations. This category includes persons who have successfully completed a registered apprenticeship training program, consisting of supervised on-the-job training which may be accompanied by course work or 'in-class' technical training, and have received a Certificate of Apprenticeship (C of A) or a Diploma of Apprenticeship and/or a Certificate of Qualification (C of Q) or Journeyperson's designation (JP) in their trade. Certificates of Qualification and Journeyperson's designations in the trades are obtained after successfully passing a provincial/territorial examination. Candidates for the exam must have several years of work experience in the trade or have received their trades designation through a combination of on-the-job training and in-school training.

C. The category 'Other trades certificate or diploma' includes brief trade programs completed at community colleges, institutes of technology, vocational centres, and similar institutions. Persons who obtained trades qualifications from secondary-level vocational training programs in the province of Quebec, such as the 'Diplôme d'études professionnelles'/Diploma of Vocational Studies (DEP/DVS), are included in this category.

D. College, CEGEP and other non-university certificates or diplomas are obtained from: a community college; a CEGEP (both general and technical); an institute of technology; a school of nursing; a private business school; a private or public trade school; or a vocational school. Included in this category are teaching and nursing certificates awarded by provincial departments of education, with the exception of teachers' or nurses' qualifications obtained at university-affiliated faculties of education or nursing. College certificates or diplomas of two years or more usually have a minimum entrance requirement of a secondary (high) school diploma or its equivalent.

E. University certificates or diplomas (below or above bachelor level) are awarded for non-degree programs of study completed through a university. They are often connected with professional associations in fields such as accounting, banking, insurance or public administration. If the university certificate or diploma program does not require a bachelor's degree to enrol, then it is classified as below the bachelor level. If a university certificate or diploma program normally requires a bachelor's degree as a prerequisite, then it is classified as above the bachelor level.

F. University degrees are obtained through universities and other degree-granting institutions, including degree-granting colleges.

G. Examples of postsecondary institutions include community colleges, institutes of technology, CEGEPs, schools of nursing, private or public trade schools, private business colleges, and universities.


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