Explore Options

Career exploration involves learning about your options — occupations, educational programs, or ways to develop personally.  The more options you consider and the more information you have about the options, the better prepared you'll be to evaluate them and eventually make choices. Take some time to consider how your major relates to your career.

Relating your major to your career »

Exploring Occupations


  • The nature of the work and the environment
  • Labour market trends and where the jobs are
  • Qualifications and skills required for entry level positions and beyond
  • Typical career development path
  • Sources of work satisfaction in the field
  • Occupational research

Topics you need to consider:

The nature of the work and the work environment

Each of us has preconceptions about what is involved in the day-to-day activities of our "dream" job. While there will always be surprises and unknown elements to encounter, we need to have enough of a realistic picture of the career to know if it will suit our interests, skills and personal and work values.

Is the work fast-paced, spontaneous and challenging, or does it tend to involve methodical, repetitive activities? Will you have your own work space or share a common work area? Will you spend long periods of time sitting in front of a computer terminal, or will you be on your feet, interacting with a steady stream of customers and/or co-workers? These are the kinds of questions you will want to answer as you make a decision about your career path.

Labour market trends for this field and where the jobs are

When making career decisions, it is important to remember that your choices must fit into the realities of the working world. Is there a demand for the field you are hoping to enter? Are there opportunities in your field locally, if you are not able or willing to relocate? These considerations need to be factored into the equation.

At the same time, it is possible to use your knowledge of these same trends to your advantage.  Look for an opportunity to create work for yourself in emerging areas of social or personal need that are currently not being recognized or adequately addressed.

Labour market trends indicate which employment fields will be predominant in the foreseeable future. By analyzing certain indices (in sources such as specialized books, business journals, government policies, even your daily paper and the Internet), you can begin to discern patterns, which you can extract into future employment prospects. Indices you can watch for include:

  • demographics in Canada -- the reality of an aging population has direct implications for career opportunities both in terms of serving this cohort (retirement planning, recreation and tourism, health care, pharmaceuticals), and in terms of replacing them in the workforce over the next 10 to 15 years (teaching, trades and management positions)
  • technological developments
  • economic globalization
  • domestic economic conditions and government policies
  • the state of the environment.

Qualifications and skills required for entry level employees and beyond

Knowing this information can be helpful at a couple of levels. First of all, it will help you decide if the skills required match your strengths, making this a reasonable career option for you. Secondly, if you are interested in pursuing this field, knowing the skills and qualifications required can guide you in your career plan.

This may influence your choices of courses to take (e.g. a course requiring oral presentations to strengthen your public speaking skills), summer employment or volunteer opportunities (serving on a committee to acquire negotiating, administrative or planning skills) or your further academic goals.

Typical career development path

The type of work you are really interested in doing may not be immediately available to you upon graduation. The journey toward a holding a senior management position, running your own consulting firm, or being editor of a major newspaper will undoubtedly take a number of years, several job changes, and more than one apparent detour. While no two career paths will be identical, there is probably a recognizable pattern to the routes taken by people in the positions you are hoping to occupy one day. What you need to determine are the following things:

  • What entry level jobs might be useful in leading towards my ultimate goal?
  • Are there things about the "path" to this career that I might find intolerable? (e.g. if I have a goal to be in management of a non-profit organization, making a difference in people's lives, can I put up with spending time under the supervision of others, who may or may not share my enthusiasm?)
  • What education or training will best suit me for this position, and
  • How should I time my education? (i.e. should I pursue the requisite graduate degree or specialized training now or might I have more credibility if I find employment in the field first and complete my studies part-time or in the future?)

Sources of work satisfaction in the field

Every job offers a different combination of "rewards", those intrinsic and extrinsic sources of satisfaction. Having identified what your primary motivators are, you need to know if the careers you are considering will be likely to provide what you need to feel fulfilled and happy at the end of the day.

Occupational Research »

Exploring Education Options

Choosing Your Major

If you haven't already, at the completion of your first year, you will be encouraged to choose a major. In your first year you will experience different courses and can begin to narrow your list of possible majors. It is important to not let a single course or one instructor turn you off a major completely. Check out What Can I Do With My Degree for more info about specific majors.

Important points to consider

  • Selecting a major and pursuing a career just because it’s "hot" in the job market can be risky. You may enjoy neither the course work nor the job you get later.
  • The careers in demand when you are a first year may not be in demand by the time you graduate. You are on much firmer ground when you select a major or choose a career goal that genuinely interests you.
  • New career fields and jobs emerge every year as a result of changes in technology and economic trends.
  • Anxieties and fear over making the right decision may impede you. There is no right decision. You are trying to make a choice that fits for you right now.
  • Friends or family may put pressure on you to choose a "practical" major. There opinions are valuable, but the final decision should be yours

Post-Graduation Options

Students often consider further education after their undergraduate degree.  This may be a college diploma or post-diploma program or a graduate degree.  Like all choices, take the time to reflect on this choice to ensure it is the next step for you.


  • How should I time my education? (i.e. should I pursue the requisite graduate degree or specialized training now or might I have more credibility if I find employment in the field first and complete my studies part-time or in the future?)
  • How long will it take?
  • Do I have the energy and commitment to work hard for as long as it takes?  Am I interested enough in the subject to stay with it?
  • How will I fund further education -- tuition, living expenses, books?
  • What type of further education will help me achieve my career goals? Is it a graduate degree (Masters or Doctorate), or a professional program, or a post-graduation certificate program, or a college diploma, or specialized training (Teach English as a Second Language)?
  • Consider multiple options as many professional or graduate degree programs have limited spaces available
  • What credentials/programs are recognized as valid and relevant for the field I'm in?  What is the reputation of the program?
  • Where do I want to go to school -- local, elsewhere in Canada, international?

Be prepared: a useful timeline for researching and applying

  • Begin to narrow your choices of programs and schools
  • Check dates for standardized tests whose scores are required for applications
  • Visit university websites and find application deadlines
  • Consider individuals you would like to write your letters of recommendation
  • Investigate scholarship and financial aid options and deadlines


  • Read the applications thoroughly and prepare any other materials requested
  • Write your personal statement / application essay
  • Have a faculty member review application documents
  • Send in completed application(s)
  • Obtain letters of recommendation–provide program information & sufficient time
  • Complete financial aid applications by appropriate deadline(s)
  • Follow up with schools before deadlines to make sure your application is complete


  • Continue to gather information about each institution so that when you are notified of acceptance, you can make your decision easier


  • Keep track of acceptances, wait lists and rejections
  • Visit schools that accept you
  • Be sure to notify schools that accept you of your decision (to accept or not)
  • Send thank you notes to your reference people

(Adapted from Canadian Association for Graduate Studies)

Educational Research »

Explore Options