Working Wise:Choosing the right post-secondary school, program

Dear Working Wise: My son is interested in computers, but he’s not sure which school or program he should go to. Do you have any tips on choosing a post-secondary school or program?

Signed, Hopeful Mom

Dear Hopeful:

There are a lot of choices when it comes to available career training programs. Choice is great, but with more than 2,500 different accredited post-secondary programs in Alberta, the number and variety of choices can feel a bit overwhelming.

Here are some tips to help your son decide which school and program is right for him:

1. Check with employers and people who have your “dream job” to see what schools and programs they recommend.

2. Find out if your target career has a professional association—like the Canadian Information Processing Society (CIPS) cips.ca—and ask if they recommend specific programs and schools.

3. If you can’t ask someone, check out the Occupational Profiles on the OccInfo website occinfo.alis.alberta.ca. These profiles include advice on required education / training for over 500 occupations.

4. Use the EDinfo database of post-secondary training programs to narrow your search. You can search the database by program or school at alis.alberta.ca/edinfo.

5. Choose an accredited certificate, diploma or degree program, because employers are more likely to recognize these credentials.

6. Read reviews of schools and programs. Macleans magazine, for example, conducts an annual survey of Canadian university students and publishes the rankings at macleans.ca/rankings.

Once you’ve narrowed down your list, you’ll probably have a number of questions about those programs, like:

l How big are the class sizes?

l What are the entrance requirements and application deadline?

l Does the program start in September? Are there other possible entry dates?

l Does the program include a work experience component? If so, is it paid or unpaid?

l Who is responsible for arranging the work experience?

l What percentage of graduates finds related employment?

l How much do tuition, books and supplies cost?

l What student services are available like housing, recreation, athletics, etc.?

The best source of information about a particular program is the institution that offers the program. You can contact post-secondary institutions directly and request print materials or look for the information you need on their websites.

You might also want to consider that location can affect how long you spend commuting or spend on living expenses.

The Alberta Learning Information Service (ALIS) website alis.alberta.ca includes a wide range of information, resources and tips to help you plan, choose, apply for, and pay for your post-secondary education.

Most post-secondary institutions have open houses or information sessions in the spring. It’s a great opportunity to look around the campus, check out the learning environment, ask about programs, and find out what student life is like.

Good luck!

Do you have a work-related question? Send your questions to Working Wise, at charles.strachey@gov.ab.ca. Charles Strachey is a manager with Alberta Human Services. This column is provided for general information.

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