At the universities
Studies are organized into three basic levels:
- Licence: 3 years of study corresponding to 6 semesters and 180 ECTS credits.
- Master: 5 years of study, 4 semestres supplémentaires validés par l'obtention de 120 crédits ECTS.
At the master's level, two paths are possible. Students who choose a "research" master (formerly known as the DEA) typically intend to go on to earn a doctorate, whereas those who elect a "professional" master (formerly DESS) want to begin their careers directly after graduation.
Provided they have sufficient undergraduate experience, international students can enroll directly in a master's program for one or two years of specialized education.
In the grandes écoles and specialized schools
Long programs in the grandes écoles represent 5 years of postsecondary study, starting with 2 years of preparation within the grande école or in a preparatory class at a secondary school.
Preparatory classes for the grandes écoles, also known as CPGE or prépa, are demanding programs that enable graduates to sit for entrance exams for 3-year programs at one or more grandes écoles.
Upon the successful completion of a total of 5 years of postsecondary study, graduates are awarded their school's diploma, which is formally equivalent to a master's degree.
Graduates of private specialized schools receive a diploma that is specific to their school. That diploma may or may not be recognized as the equivalent of a master.