I am used to European university system and I don't know much about how things are working overseas.

I already hold a Bachelor degree and a Master degree. I will soon be looking for a PhD. If I am not mistaken, in the USA, someone directly jumps from a Bachelor degree to graduates studies which include a Master degree + a PhD, is it correct? Is it also the way it works in Canada (Vancouver, UBC)? Is it possible to make a PhD in Canada without having to take time for the Master degree?

I read somewhere that a Canadian PhD last between 4 and 7 years. Does it include the Master degree? If yes, how much time does the PhD only represents?

3 Answers 3


Canada is different from the USA, in that direct entry for a PhD after a bachelors degree is rare. The typical path is a bachelors, followed by two year masters, followed by four to five years for a PhD.

As far as I know, no typical Canadian PhD program also grants a masters, as in Canada, it's sort of implied that you already had one going into the PhD.

This is of course, based on my understanding of the sciences: Humanities and Engineering may vary.

EDIT: One note about courses: Course requirements vary dramatically from program to program, university to university. Some will require relatively few courses, others, many more.

  • This is also true for computer engineering, at least.
    – user6782
    Commented Dec 11, 2013 at 0:51
  • Same in CS, although there is often a possibility to "fast-track" to the PhD after one year of masters. For the courses requirement, even PhD students usually have to take a few (at least in Qc universities), but those done at the master can count.
    – Zenon
    Commented Dec 12, 2013 at 5:14
  • @Zenon true. Seems to happen pretty rarely in my experience, but is definitely a possibility.
    – Matthew G.
    Commented Dec 12, 2013 at 16:25

I completed a PhD in Canada. I started in a MSc program, but after one year transferred into the PhD without completing the MSc. My total length of graduate studies was 5 years. This is not uncommon in biology at the schools I've been associated with. I'm not sure if you can technically apply directly to the PhD, but many students enter the MSc program with the expectation that they will transfer after one year, so it amounts to the same thing.

In my experience Canadian schools with a PhD program also grant MSc degrees in the same program. There are schools that only offer MSc without PhD though.

  • It's good to see the counterpoint to my answer; My experience has always been that transfer has been rare, but I don't hang out with many biology grad-students.
    – Matthew G.
    Commented Dec 13, 2013 at 21:42

I started a Canadian PhD program after completing a European Master's program. This is the typical progression in Canada; the combined Master's-PhD programs are the exception, not the norm. PhD programs typically take between 3 and 5 years. The exact length depends mostly on how quickly your research progresses.

That said, there are significant differences between Canadian and European PhD programs:

  • Most Canadian PhD programs require you to take some courses. In my case, I had to take 3 graduate classes in various disciplines.
  • You are not an employee of the university. You do not get a salary from the university for being a PhD student, and instead have to pay quite hefty tuition fees. You should make sure that your funding is enough to cover the tuition and living expenses. This funding can include salary from TA (Teaching Assistant) or RA (Research Assistant) work for the university, scholarships, and money from your supervisor's grant.

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