How to decide when to update your education in Canada?

The big day is coming closer! You are getting ready to move to Canada. And you might have started your job search already.
While looking through different job postings, you will notice the educational requirements. You could start to have questions about how your education transfers to Canada and how employers might value it. You might wonder if you need more education when you arrive in Canada. These are all great questions to ask yourself! But, before you start researching universities and colleges, we want to help you see your options.
Regulated professions
Is your profession regulated? A regulated profession means that there is a provincial or territorial regulatory body that governs that profession. When this is the case, the law requires you to obtain a certificate, licence, or registration to use your professional title for the occupation or obtain the exclusive right to practice the occupation. These regulations are intended to protect the health and safety of Canadians by ensuring that professionals meet the required standards of practice and competency.
There are a couple of ways to find out if your profession is regulated. If you are a SOPA client, you can check with your facilitator or employment counsellor. You can also find out about your national Occupation Classification (NOC) code on Government of Canada website. If you are in a regulated profession, find out which professional associations governs your profession, contact them to find out what you need to start your licensure, if that’s what you prefer.
When your profession is in a field that is unregulated, the type of education you have might not be much of a factor. It will still help to look through job postings that are similar to the positions you are seeking and see the educational requirements. Don’t underestimate your international job experience. If you were in the profession for quite sometime, that could be enough to find a job in the same field in Canada. If you still feel like you need to update some of your skills, then a shorter course or certification could help.
Credential evaluation
To help determine your educational needs, you need to find out how your education compares to Canadian education. Many newcomers coming to Canada as permanent residents will have their education assessed by WES (World Education Services). WES will examine your internationally acquired education to determine the Canadian equivalency. Remember, if you are in a regulated field, you need to contact that regulatory body, as they will often also be able to assess your education. If you are not sure where to start, your SOPA employment counsellor or your counsellor in Canada can help. You can also find more information on credential recognition on Government of Canada website.
Related careers
If you are in a regulated profession, keep in mind that it can take some time to receive the license. While you are getting your license, you can explore related or alternative careers. You can look at positions that are in the same field, but do not have the same requirements. You can look for jobs in a different field but with similar requirements. For example, instead of engineering jobs, you could apply for project management positions. Just make sure to do your research! Your employment counsellor could help you identify your skills and jobs you could apply for.
Bridging programs
You might also consider bridging programs. These programs are a great way to bridge some of your potential gaps in specific professional knowledge. And you wouldn’t have to spend too much time or money.
There are a wide range of bridging programs for different fields. These short programs will train you in Canadian knowledge and skills.  If you are still outside of Canada, ask your SOPA employment counsellor to see what bridging programs are available in your destination city. If you are in Canada visit your local newcomer service organization to find out. You can reach out to a local college and see if they offer programs in your field.
Profession specific bridging programs will help you:
  • access to accurate information about the licensure process in your field
  • training sessions and workshops with experts in that field
  • opportunities to complete work based competency assessment and more
Going back to school
Once you have made your research, learned about your field and learned how your education compares in Canada, then, you can decide on your next move. Carefully consider available education programs, like a diploma or a degree. Make sure to gather all the information you need to decide if this option makes sense for you. As shown above, there are many factors to consider. Do not rush into thinking that an education in Canada will help you find a job of your dreams. Ask yourself if you need more education to pursue with a regulated profession? Contact the regulatory body of the province you are moving to and ask questions. How will this education help your career? Will it help you qualify for a related career? Is this something employers in your field are asking for? Will this connect you to a professional network?
Before making such a significant and costly decision, make sure that the educational update is necessary. If you decide that additional education is not needed, look at other options for professional development. For example, soft skills training can help you learn how to communicate effectively in the Canadian workplace. There are lots of interesting soft skills training courses out there. SOPA offers 4 soft skills courses that cover the following topics:
  • complex conversation
  • working with others
  • social interaction
  • workplace communication
Further education in Canada can be useful, but only if you have a plan on what you will do with it. Do your research, see what makes the most sense for you and your career, and go forward. This will ensure that your time and money are well spent. Your success in the Canadian workplace can depend on many factors. You can do it!

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Prepared by Kristy-Lu Desrosiers, SOPA Ontario Job Search Strategies Facilitator and Anika Sweet, SOPA Atlantic Soft Skills Facilitator

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