Tips | Path to Further Education
Consider Your Career Interest First
The truth is that without a clearly thought-out career goal that is a good fit for you and the right preparations at the right time, gaining entry to further education programs could be challenging. This tip sheet is designed to give you an idea of the steps you’ll need to take to select the right program(s) for your career goals and make a strong application when the time arrives.
1. Further Education? You’ve got options!
There are many types of further education programs strategic for specific career goals.
- Academic Master's: Research-oriented and building on undergraduate studies, course work, and thesis under the supervision of an established academic typically required (e.g. MSc in Molecular Biology)
- Applied Master's: Focus is on an applied area of interest outside of academia. May combine course work, independent research, practicum placements. (e.g. Master of Public Health)
- Professional Schools: Provide educational requirements to register and practice in a regulated profession (e.g. medicine or teaching)
- Post-Grad Programs: One year or less, full-time, intensive programs for graduates providing industry-focused skills and knowledge and often a practicum placement (e.g. GIS technology or human resources management)
- Continuing Education: Flexible, part-time, online for those who are working and want to develop marketable skills and advance in their career area (e.g. project management)
- Professional Development Courses: Industry licensing bodies may provide strategic certifications such as the Canadian Securities Course or the Real Estate Sales License.
It's normal to not have a clear and fully-researched career path, especially in your earlier undergraduate years. Find out more about the career planning process by year of study.
Even if you're uncertain where your career might go, you can investigate potential careers while laying the groundwork to keep your further education options open. Self-exploration and career exploration can happen from 1st year to after graduation.
2. Year 1
- Transition year to focus on academics, explore the services and opportunities available to you as a U of T student and connect with other students
- Consider getting involved beyond the classroom by volunteering or extra-curricular activities. See the tip sheet: Volunteering.
- Learn how to be a better student at the Robert Gillespie Academic Skills Centre.
- Be open to program changes and look at careers associated with your preferred programs using Careers By Major.
- Have a career in mind? Start researching it on Career Cruising on the CLNx.
- Book a Career Counselling appointment to get started with your career goals.
3. Year 2
- Add some skill and experience building that is manageable for you. Try the fall Get Experience Fair and see the Experience 101 booklet (on our main website).
- Get to know your TAs and Professors. See the Effective Networking tip sheet.
- Continue developing career ideas and researching their entry requirements.
- Consider work and student leadership consistent with your interests.
- Explore your career ideas in more detail using the Job Shadow Program.
- Continue to get noticed by and build relationships with professors. See our tip sheets on Effective Networking, Academic References, and Employment References.
- Explore and gain research experiences by becoming a research volunteer, applying for the ROP program, the Work-Study Program, and/or an internship course if offered in your program. See our tip sheet on Research Experience.
4. Year 3
- Start researching further education programs and requirements and keep track of deadlines.
- Network with professionals in your career interest areas for information interviewing.
- Talk to the program coordinators, attend open houses, network with current students and alumni, visit campuses and departments.
- Continue to explore alternative career plans and/or alternatives to further ed programs you have in mind.
- Look into doing an IRP (Independent Research Project) under professorial supervision.
5. Year 4+ (Final Year)
- Set aside time to prepare for and take any entrance exams.
- Ask professors and employment supervisors to act as references.
- Start writing your personal statement or statement of research interest and get it critiqued. See our tip sheet on this topic to get started.
- Explore funding at your programs’ financial aid office. Keep an eye on funding deadlines (may be prior to application deadlines!) and apply. See our tip sheet on Funding Graduate School.
- Apply to Plan B programs such as internships and experiences abroad or prepare for your job search.
- If entrance interviews are part of the process, prepare for them well in advance. Our tip sheet on Effective Interviews and mock interviews by appointment may be helpful.
6. After Graduation (Work for a Year or More Then Apply):
- Some prefer to apply after graduation for the following or even subsequent years. Review all of the steps outlined above, and pick up where you are in the process.
- Discuss references with profs while you are still a student and stay in touch.
- The time spent working, volunteering, doing an internship, engaging in continuing education, or starting your own business can all strengthen your future application.
- Gaining clarity on your career goals, and motivations to pursue further education is often key to a strong application via your personal statement.
- Meet with a Career Counsellor to plan for and make the most of your time before applying.
Updated August 1, 2021