3 Questions to Ask Before Choosing your Post-Secondary Path: Part 3

3.   Will my choice leave the door open for further studies?

To this point, we have discussed the importance of discovering how well your credential will hold up in the job market.  We have also gone a step further to determine how valuable the program is from a student perspective.  If you have made it this far, give yourself a pat on the back, most of the hard work is done!  But before you make a final decision, there is one last inquiry you will want to explore.  How well positioned will you leave yourself for further studies if you decide on this particular program?  Will you have an opportunity to apply your credits towards a more advanced certification down the road?

In a rapidly changing labour market, you need to be prepared to face the reality that this might not be the last time you find yourself out of a job.  It is not unusual for people to transition careers several times, which may require more than one round of skills upgrading.  The days of staying in one career for the bulk of your working life are behind us.  Our economy is evolving at a rate we’ve never seen before.  50% of working people have been with their current employer for less than 5 years.  Keeping your skills and knowledge-base sharp and current is the most effective way to navigate these changes.  And given that 77% of new jobs created in the BC economy over the next decade will require a trade certification, college diploma, university degree or higher, the transferability of your credential should be a focus of your decision-making process.  In other words, you will want to ask yourself: if I get this certificate or diploma now, how much will my completed coursework be worth if I want to go back to school to get my degree later?

Again, there is a major distinction here between public and private schools.  If you choose a private school (barring a few targeted exceptions) you need to be aware that you probably won’t be able to use your credits towards any higher certifications.   There is no transfer system in place for private education in BC.  If you have aspirations to turn your diploma into a degree in the future a private school is not likely going to be an option for you.

There are a handful of niche program areas that operate outside of this common framework.  For example, in certain cases, some private institutions will allow students to use a Licensed Practical Nursing diploma towards an advanced certification in Psychiatric Nursing.  But scenarios like this one represent rare exceptions to the general rule.  I seldom come across examples where a private school program is used as a stepping stone to higher studies.  Also keep in mind that almost without exception (in fact, I’ve never seen it) private school education can’t be applied towards a public school credential.  So if you are thinking about enrolling in a program at a private school, you should be aware that your options for transferability may be limited.  Thoroughly investigate whether your choice will leave any doors open for taking your education to the next level.  Discuss your options with an advisor at the school.

On the other hand, public school programs do transfer between one another, both within the same institution and to external schools as well.  For example, if you take a diploma program and a public college (say Douglas), you will get at least partial course credit if you want to use it towards a related university degree (say from Simon Fraser) later on.  The BC Transfer Guide is a great tool to help you determine how “transferable” public school certificates and diplomas are to higher level degrees.  The proportions are based on the similarity of the course content.  If some of the courses you take at the certificate or diploma level are identical or similar to courses offered in a degree program, you could potentially get up to 100% credit for the work you’ve already completed.   Making this assessment ahead of time will grant you more flexibility and save you time if you do hope to advance your education to an even higher level.  Why pay and do the work twice if you don’t have to!?

In all, you should use each of these questions to treat your education like an investment, because that is exactly what it is.  Make the effort to know as much about the investment as possible before you put money and time into it.  You want to be aware of the potential risks and rewards, and make a calculated decision based upon that information.  After all, you wouldn’t throw a chunk of your life savings into a high risk stock with little or no potential for a profitable return, so why would anyone want to do that with their post-secondary studies?  By doing the right homework before you get started, you won’t have to!

*Ryan Paulson is a Career & Employment Information Specialist @ Pacific Community Resources Society.  He contributes to the MyERC blog through www.myerc.ca.  Connect with Ryan on LinkedIn at http://ca.linkedin.com/pub/ryan-paulson/15/603/11b.

  1. 3 Questions to Ask Before Choosing your Post-Secondary Path: Part 1 « The My ERC Blog
  2. 3 Questions to Ask Before Choosing your Post-Secondary Path: Part 2 « The My ERC Blog

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