Options for Further Education

The presidents and CEOs of organizations often preach about the value of a liberal arts education, but someone forgot to tell the recruiters - they are still looking for people with specific skill sets who they don’t have to train and can be productive quickly. Having completed your undergraduate degree or high school diploma, you may want to consider increasing your chances at career success by taking one of the following education paths:

  • ­a college program
  • ­a professional undergraduate - or graduate-level program (e.g., journalism, speech pathology, pharmacy, law, etc.)
  • ­an academic graduate program (Master’s or Ph.D) to provide you with more depth in your subject area
  • ­specialized workshops (e.g., The Banff Centre workshops in creative writing, publishing, acting, etc.), or professional development seminars in areas such as desktop publishing or presentation and time management skills.

Each of these has its merits, depending on your objectives. Obtaining further education will provide you with more marketable skills and knowledge that will generally enhance your career opportunities (and your salary).

A community-college diploma or certificate is particularly useful if the occupation you want requires very specific skills; for example, dental technologist, environmental technician, etc. Most community college programs admit candidates directly after high school, although some offer graduate diplomas that require an undergraduate degree as a prerequisite.

It is becoming more common for students with undergraduate degrees to combine their degree with a college program. This is a very useful combination of theory and practice. Colleges provide the practical skills you might not have learned in your undergraduate program. Also, some college diplomas include a practicum or internship which offers you valuable experience, making the transition into the work place easier. For students who are particularly interested in research or want more depth of knowledge about a certain area in their subject, an academic graduate degree is the path to pursue. The basic difference between an academic graduate program and a professional program is that the former builds directly on the academic knowledge gained in an undergraduate degree; there’s a direct link between the two levels. If you studied history at the undergraduate level, for example, you could then move on to an in-depth study of something as specific as “Anarchism and the Russian Revolution” or “The Political Economy of Housing Reform in Toronto, 1900-1921.” A professional school, on the other hand, doesn’t require a direct link between the undergraduate level and the professional program. You could, for example, be admitted to law school or to a professional program in journalism with a background in chemistry.

Think of your undergraduate degree or high school education as a building block on which you can add complementary college or professional programs. The following two scenarios are examples of this.

Scenario A
Journalism, for example, may not seem a logical choice if you have a degree in Art History. But a journalist who can write intelligently about the arts scene is a valuable asset to a specialty arts and entertainment magazine. Your degree in Art History has given you the knowledge base, and journalism provides a skill set that leverages that background.

Look for synergy, where the combination of dissimilar parts is greater than their sum.

Scenario B
A high school student who has a passion for working behind the scenes in the school’s theatre productions might combine this interest with a college or university program in arts management. Here, their appreciation for the arts would be valued.

The key to any combination is your enthusiasm and how marketable your background is.

Whatever your choice, you can begin your research into further education options at your school’s guidance or career centre, or use the addresses in this book to request detailed information from specific programs.

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