The e-mails come from near — Scarborough, Pickering, Mississauga — and far — Brazil, Egypt, India. But they all want the same thing: advice about a career in health care in Canada.
This corner isn’t qualified to offer counselling, but it does know how and where to start looking for answers to the important questions everyone should ask before they enrol in a course of study that might take three or four or even five years and cost them thousands of dollars in tuition fees.
Absolutely the best place to begin is the Internet, and don’t worry if you don’t have a computer at home. Your local library, school or careers centre can provide, usually free, all the surfing time you’re likely to need.
For those interested in health care careers, www23.hrdc-drhc.gc.ca/2001/e/groups is a must visit. Follow the prompts from that page to Health Occupations. There, virtually every job in the sector is listed and explained in jargon-free English. If you want to know what an optician does, or a dental hygienist or an MRI technologist or a medical sonographer, that’s the place to look.
The next two places to visit on the web are the sites of the various colleges — public and private — and universities around the province. In Toronto, with its many colleges and three universities, www.redTO.com is a good place to start. It lists, to name three examples at random, www.yorku.ca, www.humbercollege.com and www.sutherland-chan.com, the private massage therapy school.
The information these sites offer, particularly those in the public sector, is exhaustive, up-to-date and easily accessed. About the only thing surfers should watch for is the bit about tuition fees. They’re not always posted on the private college sites, and on the public college sites they’re sometimes not current.
For students from abroad who want to study in Canada there’s a further complication. The tuition fees foreigners must pay are significantly higher than those that Canadians and permanent residents of Canada have to stump up.
Equally useful are the websites of the various professional colleges in Ontario. A simple search on www.google.ca will provide their addresses. But be sure to use the “pages from Canada” feature or you’ll end up with page after page of nonsense from American degree mills offering any bogus qualification you like if you’re prepared to pay for it.
Be sure too that you understand the difference between a college and a professional college. A college is simply a place where a student goes to learn a skill or trade. A professional college in Ontario is the body that governs those who work in an occupation regulated by law.
With that distinction in mind, professional college websites can be invaluable. A few of the better known colleges — which, perhaps not coincidentally, are the pacesetters for recognizing qualifications obtained outside Canada — are the Ontario College of Pharmacists (www.ocpinfo.com), the College of Nurses of Ontario (www.cno.org) and the College of Medical Laboratory Technologists of Ontario (www.cmlto.com).
The websites of professional associations are also a “must-surf.” They provide information about pay and benefits, job vacancies, seminars and meetings, local or regional organizations and more. Again, a quick trip to www.google.ca will provide the addresses.
Last, but definitely not least, is the open house or the information night or whatever your preferred institution calls its meet and greet. Every college and every faculty holds them and they are a sound investment of your time. The instructors are usually former or current health care professionals and know their business inside out.