Consider these post-grad education options: Part 2


If you haven’t already done so, please see Part 1 of Alison’s series on post-grad education options.

You’ve chosen a field that interests you and now you need the education to get you there.

Luckily, in Canada, there are many options across the country. If you’re thinking about going back to school in the field of business, you typically have two options: a post-graduate diploma program or an MBA.

Post-graduate diploma program

Post-graduate programs fall under a variety of names: Advanced diploma, post-graduate diploma, post-graduate certificate, post-baccalaureate diploma or DESS (Quebec).

The typical post-graduate program in Canada is one year in length. It generally consists of two or three semesters and includes a work placement. These programs are for individuals with undergraduate degrees in any discipline that either want to focus or specialize subject matter obtained in their current degree or gain knowledge in a specific field they have not previously studied.

The college-based system has a hands-on approach and tailors the skills of its students to meet the demands of employers in a specific industry. The idea is that it is industry led learning. These programs try to maintain current with employment trends and needs to allow their graduates to be cutting edge when they enter the workforce. There are opportunities to meet industry professionals through guest speakers and networking events. These programs have a ‘get a job‘ mentality, therefore the work component is a very integral part of the learning experience.

An MBA is more expensive but, aside from that, how is it different from a post-grad?

An MBA is a master’s degree at the university level which typically lasts two years, is conducted similarly to undergraduate classes with a higher level of analysis, a large time commitment and sometimes a thesis.

For the purpose of this series, I am going to use MBAs as a comparison, which tend to vary slightly from a typical master’s program, generally with no required thesis component.

Preparing for the GMAT, or GRE? To enter an MBA program, applicants are typically required to have two years of full-time work experience. MBAs often include a lot of case-based learning individually and in teams, as opposed to lecture series. MBA students also experience traditional academic coursework, with an education focusing on challenges found in real-life business situations. This degree prepares students for management responsibilities in business. MBA students can specialize their area of interest, gaining in-depth knowledge about a particular area of business, as well as completing coursework in all general areas.

After a lot of research, looking at programs offered by different institutions and speaking with graduates of both programs, I have come to some conclusions in terms of similarities and differences in terms of the type of program offered.


Programs are geared toward providing a career in business. Although post-graduate diploma programs are hands-on, this is often done through case-based learning, similar to MBA programs. Both have instructors or professors with “real life” business experiences to share.


MBA Post-grad diploma
Often requires two years of work experience Geared toward recent grads with little to no experience
Usually no work term Required work term
Focus on management Focus on specific jobs within an industry
Big picture Specialization

The postgraduate diploma can be a double-edged sword. If you enter a specialized program, you’ll end up with a specialization which cannot be transferred easily. Say you have a diploma in marketing and decide you want to do finance instead, chances are, you would have to retrain yourself in order to get that job. MBAs on the other hand, even though you’re not an ‘expert’ in a small area, there are many more doors available.

Stay tuned for the next installment where I’ll be looking at trends in these programs. Specifically, how these programs are evolving (or not) to better suit the needs of students and employers.

About the author

Alison Backman is a student at Ryerson University's Global MBA program, with an interest in international business and marketing. She holds a BA in psychology and sociology from Acadia University. After completing university, she worked with the YMCA at a not-for-profit children's camp and travelled Central America. This past year, she completed a marketing post-graduate program at Humber College.