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Career Resources

Experiential Education

Experiential Education, in the Faculty of Social Sciences, is available to provide support to undergraduates in KTH 102, by phone 905 525 9140 ext. 26482 and/or by e-mail exp.ed@mcmaster.ca.  For more information, visit the Experiential Education web site at experiential-ed.mcmaster.ca.

Visit Experiential Education

Student Success Centre

Student Success Centre, located in Gilmour Hall 110, provides a clearinghouse of career and employment information.  Students can independently access their print and internet resources at studentsuccess.mcmaster.ca or drop by for staff assistance.

Visit the Student Success Centre website

Field Placements

Field placements completed in association with theory courses provide a valuable link between classroom learning and hands-on experience. Generally offered in third or fourth year, placements in Health Studies tend to be research related.

Internships

Internships are a great way to get over the “no experience, no job” obstacle. You can arrange part time and summer placements to complement your academic studies.

Volunteer Opportunities

Volunteering is a great way of getting direct, first-hand experience in your field. You get the benefit of developing solid skills to increase your employability when lookingfor work, plus the bonus of making an important contribution to your community! Take a look at Community Connections for information on how you can get involved and make a contribution to your community.

Networking for Information/Data Gathering

Career Links is a database that identifies over 350 individuals, who are employed in a variety of positions and settings, many of whom are McMaster alumni. They are making themselves available to talk, meet or have an email conversation with students who might be interested in pursuing a career in their field. Some are willing to let students spend a day job shadowing them. This experience can help students decide if the career and/or work environment that they are interested in is actually a good match with their skills, interests and personality and to get inside advice on how to prepare for specific careers after graduation.

Although students can access CAREER LINKS for general information (i.e. position and/or profession) via the Internet, students are required to come into the office (either KTH 102 or Gilmour Hall 110) to receive a brief orientation prior to receiving contact information (i.e. name and phone number).

Professional Associations

If considering graduate school, it is often usful to seek out relevant academic and professional associations to learn which schools they think offer the best programs. You could also consider joining an association as a way to make contact with your future peers. Many offer special student membership rates...some are even free!

Graduate Studies

Pursuing Graduate Studies

Graduate school requires high levels of motivation, real dedication, a tremendous amount of work, a genuine interest in research, the ability to cope with lots of pressure…and it costs a lot of money. However, graduate school can also be exciting, totally involving, intellectually stimulating and highly engaging. It might be perfect for you!

Explore the fit

A good decision is always grounded in a self-assessment: you should know what you want.
Talk to professor(s) about your aspirations and confirm for yourself that your reasons for pursuing graduate school are legitimate and sound.
It is always beneficial to arrange an interview with a Career Counselor.
One particularly useful book for students thinking about applying for graduate work is called GraduateSchool: Winning strategies for getting in with or without excellent grades by Dr. Dave Mumby. "Don't be misled by the subtitle - the book does not show poor students how to get into graduate school, a place where they clearly should not be. Rather, the focus is on helping competent students realize the many factors, in addition to grades, that determine the success or failure of an applicant. It also helps students to l have a better understanding of what to expect from graduate school".
If your marks are not the best, but you have an interest to which you are very committed, don’t despair. This interest plus your personal achievements, goals, attitude, etc. (together with someone else’s assessment of these) are just as important as your academic record. You might not get into a highly ranked or “best” school, but keep in mind that there are good programs in a wide variety of schools.

Start early

Ideally, your preparation should start in 3rd year – about two years prior to your first term entering graduate school.
You should be willing to expend a lot of energy; researching a graduate program is time-consuming.
You will need to be very organized to co-ordinate all of the activities that are required and still meet the deadlines, which are different for every school, program, exam, scholarship, etc.
For a time-line sample, you might refer to the Canadian Professional Schools Admission Requirements available at the Student Success Centre (Gilmour Hall 110) http://careers.mcmaster.ca/pathfinders/postdegree.htm

Develop a faculty relationship

It really helps to find a professor who shares the same interest as you and is willing to be a mentor. Such an individual will not only be able to help you find the programs which are best suited to your particular interests, but may also assist you in the selection and application process.

Research schools and programs thoroughly

Every school/program should be explored from all angles, and evaluated based on your own specific criteria to ensure that the school/program is a good match.
In addition to your mentor, consult other professors to uncover research trends in your field of interest (i.e. who is doing, what, where) to help find the most appropriate opportunities.
Review the course calendars and prospecti at each institution , to identify the professors and their research or check out the department web site for the professor’s list of interests.
Contact the various Graduate Student Associations to provide first-hand, up-to-date insights into their graduate program.
Talk to alumni of the schools you are interested in (your professors form an excellent pool of alumni): they will be able to provide you with a good picture of what life is really like at these schools. Much like your undergraduate experience, graduate school is more than academics – it’s a lifestyle: so it is important to make sure it is right for you.
Seek out the relevant professional associations and discuss which schools they think offer the best programs.
Consider joining academic associations as a way to make contact with your future peers.
Many offer special student membership rates – some are even free!
Try to visit prospective schools to see for yourself what each has to offer you.
The most important thing is to choose a school that is best for your program of study and in some cases it may be where you obtained your undergraduate degree. Sometimes you will hear the argument that is best to consider pursuing Graduate Studies in an institution different from the one where you completed your undergraduate degree as the exposure to different people, perspectives and lifestyles will be an asset to your personal and professional development.
Web sites to do a graduate school search

Taking action

After identifying the schools/programs/supervisors that are of particular interest, write to request program descriptions and application forms.
Select a range of five or more graduate programs. Be realistic and select only those programs that offer you a reasonable chance of acceptance, and also fit with your values, abilities, and interests. Minimum requirements and the median scores of previously accepted students should give you a realistic appraisal of your chances at particular schools (see the APA Guide). "Cover yourself" by applying to some programs which involve secondary interests.
If an institution has a rolling admission (accepts applications earlier than the deadline date), it is to the student’s advantage to submit the application as early as possible.
Consider writing a letter to the person you are most interested in working with at your 3 or 4 top school choices, or actually visiting the schools and meeting with current students and potential supervisors. Only write or visit a potential supervisor after you have done your homework and have a reasonable understanding of his/her work. You might ask whether he/she will be accepting students; sometimes the answer is no due to upcoming leaves or other reasons.

Scholarships

Most major competitions for external scholarships occur in the fall term (this applies to funds provided from outside the university from federal / provincial sources: OGS, NSERC, SSHRC, CIHR, etc.) and decisions are made the following March/April.
Although students apply for scholarships through the University where registered, most scholarships can be taken to a different university and in some cases outside of Canada.
Scholarships are very competitive and preparing a scholarship application is a lengthy process.
For most scholarship applications, a research proposal and letters of reference are required and in some cases also a personal statement.
The Office of Student Financial Aid and Scholarships can provide the deadlines and will assist students with the application process. Check the Office’s web page at : http://sfas.mcmaster.ca/incourse.html

Other Sources of Financial Support

Graduate school is very expensive so you will want any kind of financial assistance that is available.
As part of your research, you should find out if there are opportunities for teaching assistantships, research assistantships, scholarships, etc. at each institution.

Completing Applications

Handwritten application forms are hard to read and often weaken an application; try to fill in as much of the application form as possible on a word processor.
Be sure that all written material is grammatically correct, and contain no misspellings or colloquialisms.
Messy and hastily prepared applications give admission committees a negative impression about you.
Personal statements of interest, experience, and long term goals should be very carefully prepared. You should highlight your strong points and reflect your knowledge of the specific program/faculty. The Admissions Committee wants to assess your writing skills and see how your background and research fit with their program. Faculties and program objectives change, so be sure you have current information on the programs you are applying to. Writing this section of your application is often the most difficult and time-consuming part of the application.


Dwelling primarily on personal experiences as a motivation for graduate work undermines motivation based on an intrinsic and serious interest in the substance of the issues dealt with. Provide details on independent research projects, thesis research, research assistantships, and teaching assistantships. Special technical skills should be noted, including familiarity with computer programs and statistical packages.
Do your homework! Go to the library and look up the publications of the faculty! Decide whether this kind of work is what you want to do. Identify who you would like to serve as your thesis supervisor. The closeness of fit between your interests and your supervisor is crucial. Make a strong case; if you do not you will inevitably appear unsophisticated or uncommitted.
Keep copies of everything sent, note addresses, date sent and keep post office receipts.

Letters of recommendation

Letters of reference are an essential item in all Grad School applications, and in most cases two letters are required.
Letters of reference should be requested from the faculty who know you and your work reasonably well; ideally your thesis supervisor and/or mentor.
A bland or neutral letter, from somebody who knows you only as a name on a class list, can hurt more than it helps.
Faculty members have many letters to write so be sure you give your referees plenty of time (at least 4 weeks) to meet the deadlines set by the schools you are applying to.
Provide your referees with copies of your resume, a transcript of your grades, samples of work, any essays/projects completed for the referee who will help them to write a more thorough recommendation.
Some institutions give the option of an “open” or “closed” letter. An open reference letter means that the applicant has seen it and therefore the letter is usually more flattering. These letters don’t hold as much weight as a closed letter.

Include envelopes that you have stamped and addressed to the program to help ensure that the letters will reach the appropriate destination.
Follow-up with a thank you letter to the referee.

Admission Tests

Each institution will identify what type of test is required for their application process. Check CPEC’s Pathfinder web page for further information on admission tests:http://careers.mcmaster.ca/pathfinders/Admission_Test_Information-pg_1.htm The GRE (Graduate Record Examination) is the most widely used by graduate schools. There is a general section and a subject section. Visit www.gre.org for complete information.  The GREs can be taken more than once, so it is wise to take the test earlier rather than later. That way if you do not do well due to illness or lack of preparation, you can try again.
Also, the test should be taken early enough to ensure that the scores can be included with your application materials. If you have to take the December test, follow up with the graduate schools right before their deadline and make sure they have received your scores.  It is now possible to take the GRE through a Computer-Based Test (CBT) Program in several locations in Ontario. Visit http://www.gre.org . This computer-adaptive test differs from the paper-and-pencil version in that each examinee is given different questions depending on how well they respond to the earlier questions. The test spots are sometimes booked up to six weeks in advance. You can take this test once per month up to 5 times in a one-year period.  GRE information booklets that include application forms are available at CPEC ( Gilmore Hall 110) and GRE practice books can be purchased in the McMaster Bookstore.
Students can improve their scores greatly through careful preparation. Tips for writing the GRE are available at: http://www.gre.org/pracmats.html#subjtest If you have written the GRE, but test results are not required for each institution, you can submit results if they are good, but you won’t be disadvantaged if you don’t.

Transcripts

Transcripts usually need to be sent directly from institution to institution and are usually required from each institution attended. If you are still an undergraduate student, have the Registrar’s Office send transcripts as close to application deadline as possible to reflect completed courses and then have a final transcript sent after completion of your degree. Visit the Registrar’s Office Web page for more information: http://registrar.mcmaster.ca/

Offers of Admission

Although offers of admission and/or support are generally made before April 15, prospective students should not feel pressured to accept awards before April 15. If you have received two or more offers before April 15, you can decide which is the better one and politely refuse the other offers. This process can be repeated until you get a satisfactory offer from the school you prefer. In other words, do not delay informing a program that you are not interested in their offer. An award ties up a position and money that could be offered to another student.  If you do not receive an offer by April 15, there is still a reasonable chance that you might receive an offer after this date. Many programs issue additional offers after April 15th, after they have received responses from their first-choice applicants.

Letters of Rejection

What if no one admits you? If you are committed to further training, try again. Examine the reasons why you were not competitive. Was it a bad letter? Poor GREs? Did you apply to too few programs? Try to correct these problems. You may also be able to take a few graduate (or senior undergraduate) courses at your local university on a non-degree basis just to show your commitment and ability.

Entering the Workforce

Often students in the social sciences worry that they will not be able to compete with those students who have specialized and received training to do a particular job.

Actually, having a broad educational background can be an advantage.

The ability to land a good first job is more about skills than content. It is an accepted fact that more than half of all advertised positions that require a university degree do not specify the discipline.  In general terms, what employers say they are looking for in employees is the ability to solve problems creatively, coupled with the ability to communicate clearly and effectively. Perhaps more important is the willingness to learn new information and adapt to an ever changing workplace. Astute employers value the flexibility and versatility offered by our graduates.

If your degree is pursued with vigor and curiousity, and you actively engage yourself in the learning process, you may develop some or all of the following transferable skills:

Learning & Thinking:

  • Coping with new ideas and unfamiliar material.
  • Thinking creatively.
  • Aptitude for abstract reasoning, keen observation and intense concentration.
  • Increased ability to pursue further education and training.

Flexibility:

  • Ability to adapt to a variety of settings.
  • Exposure to a wide range of perspectives.
  • Seeing more than one side of an issue.

Research:

  • Identifying and locating sources of information.
  • Gathering, analyzing and interpreting data to support or reject proposals.
  • Compiling ideas and facts in a clear, organized and concise manner.
  • Ability to use computers

Critical Judgment:

  • Evaluating arguments and research data critically.
  • Making sound judgment based on research and data analysis.
  • Computational ability.
  • Support decisions with statistics and facts.

Communication:

  • Writing reports and essays, expressing ideas clearly and logically.
  • Making presentations to groups explaining ideas or results of research work.
  • Interviewing others for information; listening carefully.

Problem Solving:

  • Identifying resource materials necessary to the solution of the problem.
  • Planning and organizing work leading to the solution of the problem

Time and Energy Management:

  • Working effectively under pressure.
  • Setting and meeting study and research objectives.
  • Managing time in order to meet multiple demands.

Career Options

Gerontology Career Options

Gerontology is the interdisciplinary study of aging, an area of study that requires integration of biological, psychological, social, health and economic knowledge. Gerontology examines issues related to an aging population and explores the meaning, experiences and context of later life and the aging process.

Some employers prefer a Bachelor's degree in Gerontology, or in a related field with a Certificate in Gerontology. Others require a Master's degree in Gerontology or a Gerontology-related field. Employment in a college or university requires a Master's degree or Doctorate.

Career Options

Family and Intergenerational
Programs
Architectual, Environmental
& Product Design
Health Promotion &
Fitness Programs  
Grant Writing   Care Management Volunteer Activities
Speech & Communication  Information & Referral   Adult Day Cares
Retirement Planning  Nutrition    Educational Programs
Advertising & Marketing  Housing      Adult Day Cares
Life Long Learning Programs  Senior Center Mental Health
Parks & Recreational Programs Counseling  Research & Policy
Tech. & Assistive Devices Hospitality & Food Service  Legal Services 
Job Placement Services   Nursing Home Administrator Fitness Program Planner 
Banking & Fiduciary Services Nursing & Geriatrics Religious Organizations
Area Agency on Aging Planning  Program Planning & Evaluation Local Government Agencies
Rehabilitaition Transportation Health Education
On-site & Delivered Meal Programs     

Possible Employers

Academic and Educational Institutions   Federal, Provincial, or Municipal Agencies  
Hospitals and Health Clinics Care Management and/or Administration
Industrial and Business Settings Long-term Care Residential or Community Settings
Volunteer and Professional Associations   Non-profit Agencies and Organizations  
Recreation Programs   Senior Centres   

Health Studies Career Options

Health Studies provides students with an interdisciplinary background in the social and cultural dimensions of health, illness and health care. Health Studies examines the contributions of Western medicine in the Canadian context, explores other ways of understanding health and illness, and examines health and health care from an international perspective.

Some employers prefer a Bachelor's degree in Health Studies or a related field. Others require a Master's degree in Health Studies or a health-related area. Employment in a college or university requires a Master's degree or Doctorate.

Career Options 

Therapist   Midwife Health Educator/Promoter  
Physician Assistant  Home/Residential Care Worker   Physician
Hospital Administrator Clinical Coordinator Benefits Specialist 
Chiropractor    Journalist   Speech and Language
Medical Officer Administrator  Health Planner Massage Therapist 
Intake/Referral Coordinator Project Manager  Prosthetic Technician
Health Information Specialist Clinical Utilization Coordinator Researcher/Research Assistant
Occupational Therapist   Toxicologist  Pharmacist 
Nurse Practitioner     Non-profit Program Coordinator   Public Health Analyst
Volunteer Coordinator Epidemiologist  Substance Abuse Counselor
Health & Safety Coordinator Naturopath Policy Analyst 
Wellness Coordinator Fundraising Coordinator Audiologist 
Patient Representative Outreach Worker Nurse
Physical Therapist Community Health Educator Government Officer
Corporate Wellness Specialist Weight Management Specialist Patient Care Administrator
Pharmaceutical Sales Agent Health Care Recruiter Social Worker
Health Care Administrator Community Engagement  
Specialist 
Health & Social Policy 
Development 

Possible Employers  

Health Research Centre Community Care Access Centre 
Medical Office Social Services Agency
Assisted Living Centres Fitness and Recreational Centre
Colleges and Universities Local Health Integration Network
Hospital Commercial Wellness Center
Public Health Agencies Health Advocacy Organization (ie. Lung Association)
Long-term Care Facility Workplace Safety Board
Fertility Centre Health Research Centre
Government Insurance Company