Have you been thinking about going back to school in Canada?
If you recently settled into your new life in Canada, but you’re having trouble taking your career to the next level, then you might need to acquire new skills or earn additional credentials.
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But going back to school is a big decision. You will need to research your options to ensure that this choice is going to help you move closer to your exact career goals.
Before going back to school in Canada:
- First, you will want to look into the local labour market, depending on where you live or expect to continue your education. Find out if there are good opportunities in the field you’re pursuing. Learn the requirements to work in that field (specific to your province), as well as what might help you stand out as a particularly well-qualified candidate.
- Next, you will want to learn about specific institutions and the programs they offer. In addition to reviewing each program’s coursework, you should explore its experiential opportunities (like internships). Then, consider its job placement rate for recent graduates.
- Finally, you can attend events—either on campus or in the community—to learn more about specific companies, specific roles, or your future industry in general. These events might also be good places to network with professionals in your future field of work.
Below, you will find more information about each of these categories to help you get started.
Learn About the Labour Market
It is important to understand the labour market in the province (or territory) where you might live, work, or study. Each region’s labour market is different; some industries thrive in certain areas, making jobs there plentiful, but the same industry in another part of Canada might offer very few jobs.
By exploring the labour market, you will learn how many jobs are available in the field you want to pursue. You’ll learn how competitive it will be to earn the title you want, and the credentials you need in order to compete for that role. In addition to needing certain qualifications, you might need a certain amount of experience in order to attain a specific title. That’s why it’s important to find out what experiential opportunities your academic program might offer—so keep reading!
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Choose the Right Program
After researching the labour market, you’ll know what’s required to get the career of your dreams. If you have determined that you need to bridge gaps in your skills or education, the next step is to choose the right program and the right college or university.
Choosing a “good school” can be different for everyone. You’ll want to look into high-ranking institutions for your specific field of interest and your province. It might seem obvious to look through a program’s curriculum and make sure that the coursework will help you pursue your dream job. In some cases, you’ll need to make sure that the program results in the correct certification, license, and so on. However, it might seem less obvious to look at the program’s graduation rate and its rate of employment for recent graduates. You can easily obtain this information from the school.
Additionally, you want to learn about experiential opportunities. These might be part of the program—for example, you might need to complete a practicum before you can pass the program. But there might be opportunities that are available only if you pursue them yourself once you enroll.
For example, at McMaster University’s DeGroote School of Business in Hamilton, Ontario, students can apply to either the regular MBA program—which includes an optional paid summer internship—or the MBA Co-Op, which includes up to 12 months of a paid internship as part of the built-in curriculum. (A cooperation, or co-op, is a paid working opportunity that’s arranged through your school.)
But you don’t want to complete just any experiential opportunity, you also want to find the right match. That’s especially important if you’re trying to build a specific skill set. If your school has connections with companies that are relevant to your goals, that might be a bonus. Or you might want to find out if the internships will provide you with hands-on opportunities (as opposed to getting stuck with routine, entry-level tasks). Activities like mock trails, real-world case studies, and onsite research can be added to your portfolio for employers to review.
Lastly, remember to look for a balance of hard skills and soft skills. Your dream job might require a specific set of hard skills that you will learn by going back to school in Canada. For example, you might need post-graduate health training in order to perform certain skills on patients. However, today’s employers also value soft skills. Any good graduate-level program will ensure that you develop them while mastering your hard skills. Indeed’s career guide highlights the 20 most in-demand skills; they include soft skills like adaptability, people management, and creativity.
Attend Local Events
Now you’re just about ready to head into the next phase of your educational and professional development. It’s time to begin learning more about the actual jobs you might be applying for in the near future. It’s never too soon to start making real-world connections and getting your name out there.
For example, your community and local organizations will likely host regular job fairs and networking events. Find out where people in jobs similar to what you’re pursuing attended university. Ask them what they studied and what specific characteristics helped them get ahead in their field (including soft skills).
Additionally, many institutions and organizations will hold recruiting events. These are great opportunities to speak with program representatives, current students, and alumni. (Hint: This is your chance to ask about graduation rates and job placement rates for specific programs, too!) There are also organizations like Access MBA that hosts events for specific areas of interest (like MBA programs, in this case), bringing schools together in one place for applicants to explore their options in a convenient format.
Ready to Make a Decision About Your Future?
Doing your research will help you make the most beneficial choices about going back to school in Canada. It will also ensure that you choose the program and university that will prepare you to succeed in the career of your choice. Learning new skills, or obtaining an additional credential, can open new doors and empower you to achieve your goals.
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