Quebec is Canada's largest province by area and its second-largest by population. It is also commonly known as Canada's French province, and with good reason: It is the only one to name French its sole official language, and the vast majority of its residents speak the language as their native tongue. Quebec's shared border with the United States draws a fair number of English-speaking tourists, however, so many residents speak both languages quite well. There are even a few colleges and other institutions established primarily for English speakers.
Nonetheless, in Quebec, French dominates. According to World Atlas, Montreal — the largest city in Quebec and second-largest in Canada — is also the second-largest francophone city in the world, behind only Paris. The province's second-largest city is its capital, Quebec City. Other major cities include Laval, Gatineau and Longueuil. The cities are not just population and cultural centers: They are economic powerhouses that set the pace for industry and job growth province-wide.
Careers in Quebec
Quebec's bustling French Canadian population may influence the region's culture and cuisine, but the province's rich natural resources and Atlantic coastline are what drive its economy. The Government of Quebec reports that broad forests have given rise to a healthy lumbar industry, and its metal and mineral deposits support thousands of mining-related jobs. Quebec's topography also makes it a leader in green, renewable energy (think wind and hydroelectric power), not to mention a major tourist center.
Of course, Quebec offers a diverse and thoroughly modern economy, and one that is increasingly high-tech. Invest Quebec reports that the province's skilled and innovative workforce has helped it establish itself as a leader in areas like aerospace, microelectronics, biotech, and information and communication technologies. These budding investments have not only helped grow Quebec's already sizable economy, but they have also generated thousands upon thousands of new jobs.
For students eying colleges and universities in this part of Canada, it can often pay to know which industries are growing the fastest and have the potential to produce the most jobs. The Canadian Government projects strong demand in the following industries through at least 2016:
- Professional, scientific and technical services
- Business support services
- Information technology
- Culture and recreation
- Health care
- Social assistance
Many of these new jobs will require some degree of formal education, notes the Government, which means students who study related disciplines will likely fare best. This is where Quebec's colleges and universities come in.
Universities and colleges in Quebec
The Canadian Government says that an academic education is increasingly important for anyone who hopes to work in Quebec, and it has the data to prove it. In 2011, the unemployment rate among people aged 25 to 54 without a high school diploma was 18 percent. For those with at least a bachelor's degree, unemployment was a much lower: 5 percent. This is a wide gap, and according to the Government, it is only widening.
Thankfully, dozens of Quebec schools are up to the task of meeting employer demand for more educated workers. The trick is knowing where to go. Unlike many other Canadian provinces, Quebec schools fall into two wholly distinct tiers: colleges and universities. Students must earn a college diploma before they can be admitted to a university, so it is important to understand the distinctions between the two systems.
Colleges, or CEGEPs
Colleges in Quebec often specialize in professional or vocational education, much like community colleges in the United States. They are often referred to as CEGEPs, which stands for Collège d'enseignement général et professionnel (officially "General and Vocational College" in English), though technically that acronym refers to publicly funded colleges in Quebec.
Most CEGEPs, or colleges, offer two primary educational paths: Pre-University and Vocational. Pre-University programs are professional in nature and generally serve as precursors to university degree programs. They usually require two years of study. Vocational programs, by contrast, focus primarily on technical or skilled trades. These programs usually take three years to complete and focus on a career-ready education. Graduates tend to go directly into the workforce, not to a university.
Colleges in Quebec usually fall into one of three categories: public, private or government. CEGEPs usually refer to public colleges, which do not charge tuition. Most college students attend this type of school, so there are plenty of them. According to Le service régional d'admission du montréal métropolitain, or SRAM, there are more than a dozen CEGEPs in Montreal alone. Private colleges are plentiful, though they do charge tuition. Government colleges are few and far between and tend to be quite specialized. The Quebec Music Conservatory is a prime example of a government college in Quebec. Students can attend French or English colleges.
Universities in Quebec serve as a means to earning professional degrees, much like four-year universities in the United States. Students tend to earn pre-university diplomas from a college, which usually require two years of study, before advancing to universities. University degree programs typically require an additional two years of study at the baccalaureate level. Some of the best-known universities in Quebec are private institutions like McGill University and Concordia University, which offer instruction in English, and the Universite de Montreal, a French-focused university.
The University of Quebec is a large system modeled after public, state-run university systems in the United States. Another unique university is The Télé-université, or TÉLUQ, which specializes in online education specifically. Of course, many other universities, private or otherwise, also offer online degree programs, expanding educational access dramatically both in and out of Quebec. Students can learn more about online education in Quebec through an organization like the Comité de liaison interordres en formation à distance, or CLIFAD.
Financial aid in Quebec
Canada in general — and Quebec in particular — has long prioritized affordability in higher education. Public colleges, or CEGEPs, for instance, do not charge tuition; students need only pay a small administrative fee. Private colleges and most universities do charge tuition, however, so not all students can earn a diploma or degree without financial aid. Quebec's official office of financial aid, or Aide financière aux études, helps link students with government-sponsored loans and bursaries. Unlike loans, bursaries do not need to be repaid. Students can apply for government aid online.
Another source of financial aid is work-study programs, which allow students to offset their educational expenses by working part-time on campus. Students who do not qualify for government aid, or who need additional help covering their educational costs, can apply for private aid, including private loans and scholarships. Students can often learn more about their options and apply for aid by visiting their colleges' or universities' financial aid offices. Many schools also offer financial aid information on their websites, as do many private lenders and scholarship funds.
- Mission, Comite de Liaison Interordres en Formation a Distance,
- Overview, Aide Financiere aux Etudes, Government of Quebec,
- "2012-16 Scenario on the Labour Market in General," Job Futures Quebec, Government of Canada,
- Natural Resources, Government of Quebec,
- Industries: Quebec is open for business, Investissement Quebec,
- "SRAM Affiliated Cegeps," Service Regional d'Admission du Montreal Metropolitain,
- Montreal, World Atlas,