With a wide variety of diploma and certificate programs, enrolment at many different times throughout the year and compressed programs that offer training over a short time, private career colleges have lots to offer.
But with more than 500 to choose from in Ontario, finding the one right for you takes some homework.
After all, enrolling in a program is an investment in your future, reminds Paul Kitchin, executive director of the Ontario Association of Career Colleges (OACC). A good starting point is to consider the skills and knowledge you want to gain and to choose the right field.
Research the programs that will prepare you for that field and ask professionals working in the career about what they do, and the skills and special certifications they’ve needed. “Do an analysis of the job prospects for that career in your community,” Kitchin says.
The OACC also offer these tips:
- Consider timing, location and costs. What is the duration of the program and when are classes offered? If you don’t want to relocate, choose a school nearby. If you don’t own a car, consider a school with easy access to public transportation. Find out what tuition includes. Is financial assistance available in your program?
- Ask questions. Contact the career college and ask to speak to instructors and students about what you will learn. What companies have hired graduates? What has been the school’s job placement rate in the past year or two?
- Does the program include a co-op placement? “Being able to practise the skills you are learning makes your education experience that much stronger and makes you more employable,” Kitchin says.
- Contact the OACC. Ensure the school is in good standing with the OACC. If it’s a member, the association can advise you on whether it’s adhering to a code of conduct. The Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities advises you to find out if the college is registered under the Private Career Colleges Act. If it’s not approved, you won’t be covered by the protections provided by the government.
- Visit the school. Call the college’s admissions department and arrange a visit to see a class in action, speak to students and get a feel for the school.
“Career colleges tend to be smaller institutions,” Kitchin says. “On average, they serve 100 students a year. Some serve fewer and some serve considerably more. Some offer one program while others offer a menu of programs.”
When considering the cost of tuition, remember that compressed programs offered by private career colleges mean you will finish school sooner and could be earning a paycheque sooner than if you attended a community college, Kitchin notes.
“A huge cost of education is the cost of living. If you’re doing that over a 20-month period instead of nine to 10 months, it becomes more expensive,” he says. “I encourage people to consider that analysis.”