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Athabasca University

Frequently Asked Questions

Program Questions

How is a Professional Arts degree different from an Arts (BA) degree?

The BPA is designed as a degree-completion program (see also question 3) for those who already possess a post-secondary diploma credential or a combination of post-secondary education and professional experience. Entering students already possess the equivalent of the first two years of university study, and the BPA program provides the third and fourth year of studies.

A BPA degree is also designed for those who have already obtained work experience in their chosen major area of study, and courses are designed to bring practice and theory together. So, you bring your professional knowledge and experience, and we provide the wider context such as politics, theory, history, economics, sociology, psychology, etc. associated with your major area of study.

How is a Professional Arts degree different from an Applied Arts (BAA) degree?

A BPA degree is designed primarily for individuals who already hold a college diploma and/or have been working in a field related to their area of BPA study (see also question 3).

A BAA degree, on the other hand, is designed for those who do not have either post-secondary or related work experience. A BAA will typically provide four years of study along with a practicum component that provides students the opportunity to apply what they have learned.

Is this a four-year degree?

Yes. However, this degree is designed as a degree-completion program:

  • This means that you must present the equivalent of the first two years of university study for admission.
    • We have formally recognized many two-year college diploma programs as equivalent to two years of university study.
    • We have also formally recognized some three-year college diploma programs as equivalent to 72 credits of university study.
  • Or you may have a combination of education and work experience that we might also consider equivalent.

We then provide courses at the third- and fourth-year levels. Each year of full-time course work is worth 30 credits, giving you 120 credits in total by the time of graduation.

How long do I have to finish my degree?

At Athabasca University, completion times for programs are based on a combination of your individual needs and certain predefined parameters, depending on the course of study taken.

Ask an Athabasca University Student Advisor for a copy of the university’s individual program regulations.

Please note: Your Athabasca University file will remain open, as long as you are taking a minimum of one course per year.

You will become an inactive student if you have not registered in an Athabasca University course within 12 months of the completion date, the contract date, or the date of withdrawal of your last course.

How many credits must be taken from AU for this degree? (Residency)

Of your entire degree, only 30 credits must be taken directly from Athabasca University (AU). These are commonly called “residency credits.”

Residency is defined as the minimum number of Athabasca University credits that must be completed to fulfill a program's requirements. In some cases, specific Athabasca University courses are prescribed as part of the overall residency requirement for a given program. For accurate information on the university's policy, always check AU's Calendar.

Admission and Credit Transfer

Do you accept only people with Athabasca University approved two-year or three-year diplomas?

No, we may be able to consider other forms of education, training, and/or experience.

For the BPA in Communication Studies (CS) and Human Services (HS) there are three routes to entry:

  • An Athabasca University approved two- or three-year college diploma
  • You may also present a combination of post-secondary study and professional experience for degree entry. Professional experience is assessed through a Prior Learning Assessment process. For more information about this process, please go to Centre for Learning Accreditation
  • An undergraduate university degree and a minimum of one year of work experience related to your major

For the BPA in Criminal Justice (CJ), there are three routes to entry:

  • An Athabasca University approved two- or three-year college diploma
  • You may also present a combination of post-secondary study and professional experience for degree entry. Professional experience is assessed through a Prior Learning Assessment process. For more information about this process, please go to Centre for Learning Accreditation
  • An undergraduate university degree and a minimum of one year of work experience related to this major

For the BPA in Governance, Law and Management (GLM) , there are three routes to entry:

  • An Athabasca University approved two- or three-year college diploma
  • An undergraduate university degree and a minimum of one year of work experience related to this major

The BPA-GLM program coordinator is working with the Centre for Learning Accreditation to develop a process to assess combinations of post-secondary and / or the knowledge acquired through related experience for entry.

For further information, please see Information for Prospective Students – Degree Completion.

How do I know if my diploma is approved for entry into the BPA-CS, CJ, HS, or GLM degree program?

You can check to see whether your diploma has been approved for block transfer credit by checking the University's transfer credit database.

What is Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition (PLAR)?

PLAR can award you credit for your prior learning that can be used toward Athabasca University degrees or university certificates.

PLAR recognizes that you may have acquired university-level learning from life experience, job training, workshops, seminars or other experiences.

Please note: PLAR is a choice. You are not required to use PLAR. Doing PLAR may not suit everyone's learning style.

To learn if the BPA major in which you are interested offers a PLAR process, please see our website page Our Program: Prior Learning and Recognition.

How do I apply for admission?

To apply to Athabasca University, simply complete Athabasca University's General Application Form, and submit along with the one time, non refundable General Application fee.

Athabasca University has a year-round admission and enrolment policy for its undergraduate courses and programs. Undergraduate individualized study courses begin on the first day of each month throughout the year. To receive a specific start date you must have your registration in by the tenth of the previous month.

Please note: You may pre-register for courses up to five months in advance of the intended start date. Learning resources will be sent as soon as the registration request is processed, providing they are available.

You mayadd an alternate course(s) when completing a course registration. You will become registered in your alternate course choice only if your first course choice is unavailable and you have an alternate course listed.

Register online at myAU. You may also print this form in pdf from myAU and fax it to: (780) 675-6174 or mail it to

Office of the Registrar
1 University Drive
Athabasca, Alberta, T9S 3A3

In order to process your course registration(s), you must also include the appropriate fees.

Further questions regarding your course registration can be sent to

I have a transcript. Can I send in my copy?

No. The transcript must be “official,” and must travel from Registrar to Registrar. Most institutions charge a small fee for this service.

Please note: In order to have your transcript assessed, you must enroll first in the BPA program.

Have your transcripts sent directly from your previous post-secondary institution(s) to Athabasca University, and submit your evaluation fee at the time of application. Once all the documentation and fees are received, your file will be placed in queue waiting evaluation. It takes about eight to twelve weeks for a file to be evaluated. Time will vary due to volume or the need for additional information.

If you are applying for transfer credit from post-secondary institutions outside of Canada or the United States, you will be forwarded an information and application package for International Qualifications Assessment Service (IQAS), and you will be responsible for any fees associated with this independent assessment.

How long will it take to assess my transcripts?

It depends on how long it takes the originating institution to send them to Athabasca University and on how busy our Registrar's office is (e.g., spring convocation is a very busy time)

Normally, you should plan for the process to take between 8-12 weeks.

Do I have to register in September?

No. Generally, individualized study courses start on the first day of every month. You will be given your requested start date provided your application has been received and processed by the 10th of the previous month, and the course is open and available for registration. It is recommended that you submit your application in ample time to allow for unexpected delays. You may also register up to five months in advance for a course.

You will receive your materials prior to your start date. If you wish you may go ahead and start to work on your course. You will, however, have to wait until your official start date to submit assignments, contact your tutor (professor), or write any exams.

Career and Academic Opportunities

What can I do with this degree? (career options)

  • acquire the knowledge and skills to perform a broader and more responsible range of tasks
  • gain a promotion
  • make a career change and/or
  • gain entry to graduate school

Can I go to professional or graduate school with this degree?

Yes. Several of our students have used their degrees in order to enter, for example, law schools or graduate schools in various fields. However, you must check with the graduate school in which you are interested to confirm if they will accept this degree for entry.

Can I enroll in the degree program while taking a diploma program?

No. You must finish one credential before beginning the next.

However, you may wish to enroll in an AU course as an unclassified student while you are completing your diploma. If you choose to take an AU course before you graduate from your college program, the course can be counted toward the degree once you have been accepted to your BPA program.

Since it is in your best interests to focus your energies on successfully completing your diploma, we encourage you to contact an Athabasca University Student Advisor before making your decision.

Courses and Learning Environment

How many courses should I take at one time?

This will vary from one student to another. AU offers maximum flexibility. If working full-time, begin with one course and asses how this impacts your work and family responsibilities and workloads.

People working full-time normally do not take more than two courses at one time. As well, you can stagger start dates. You can register to start at the beginning of any month (you have to have registered by the 10th of the previous month to your desired start date.)

You have up to 6 months to complete a 3-credit course, but you can complete the course any time before that.

Which courses should I take first?

You can start with any course that you like. We strongly recommend that you begin with the core courses; others start on the required major courses.

If you wish assistance in program planning and course selection, please contact Advising Services.

Can I challenge a course if I have completed the work elsewhere?

For many of the BPA courses, the answer is yes. This process is called challenge for credit. It allows students to demonstrate that they have acquired a command of the subject matter, knowledge, and intellectual and/or other skills that would normally be found in a university-level course.

In order to challenge a course,

  • the course must be approved as a challenge-for-credit course, and
  • you must receive approval from the professor in charge of that course.

If you are interested in the challenge for credit option, or to obtain the specific course coordinator's email address and phone number, please email

For more information about process, please go to Challenge for Credit.

Can I take a course even if I am not enrolled in the degree program?

Yes, you are welcome to enroll in any BPA course

  • for interest
  • to learn a new skill
  • to bank credit towards a program at Athabasca University or another university
  • to simply discover if university is right for you.

If you are not in the program then you are considered an "unclassified student."

For more information, please go to About Becoming an AU Student

Do you offer any courses in a classroom (on-site) setting?

Yes.However, at this time we offer only some program courses in selected colleges in Alberta.

To see if there are on-site offerings near you, please go to Classroom Courses.

Can I get some advice about which courses to take?

Yes. After your transcripts and/or Prior Learning Assessment portfolio have been assessed, the University sends you a letter outlining how many credits are left to complete.

If you would like to work with an advisor in planning your program, please go to Advising Services.

Cost, Financial Aid and Related Questions

How much will an AU course and the degree cost?

We have some of the most reasonable tuition fees in Alberta and Canada.

Each course fee includes

  • the cost of tuition
  • all texts and learning resources (e.g., articles, videos, audiotapes, CDs)
  • a pro-rate on the student union fee

For the complete and current fee schedules, please refer to Undergraduate Fee, Financial Assistance, Refunds, and Awards

Is there student financial assistance?

Typically, the answer is yes, but you must check with your provincial or state financial assistance agency.

Canadian students: Please refer to Provincial Financial Aid Locations.

If you are from another country, please contact your local financial aid agency.

Should I ask my employer to support my studies?

Many of our students are being funded by their employers to take this degree.

Employers are happy to have employees who upgrade their skills while staying on the job. They also know that graduates of distance education degrees have high levels of commitment and performance.

For these reasons, employers are often willing to hire applicants with AU degrees and to support employees who wish to take AU degrees.

Who do I contact for more information about student awards?

Athabasca University offers a number of student scholarships and awards, and there are also a number of external awards and scholarships for which you may be eligible. For more information, please go to Student Awards.

Please note: If you do apply for an award, it is important to follow the instructions exactly. In the past, some students have been disqualified for incomplete or inaccurate submissions. Instructions for each award are included within the award description that can be found at the link provided.

Updated July 27 2021 by Student & Academic Services

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