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Guide to a career-focused university education: Sciences and Math

Working Knowledge is back again this year. It's a careers-focused look at the links between undergraduate degrees and employment, arranged by seven fields of study: Engineering and Technology, Arts and Humanities, Education, Sciences and Math, Health and Medical Sciences, Fine and Performing Arts and Business and Commerce. Cassandra Jowett, Danielle Lorenz, Alanna Glass and Vicky Tobianah look at each section in turn.

Since there are many different disciplines to choose from it's never been easier for science and mathematics graduates to start a successful career. In 2011, the average annual salary of an employee working in the sciences and mathematics was about $60,000. But the numbers can vary greatly, depending on what discipline you're in. For example, starting wages for cytotechnologists begin at $40,000 but can go up to $70,000. Ecologists, however, can expect to receive a starting salary of $25,000, although that number can eventually rise to $100,000. Evironmental consultants can expect a starting salary of $35,000 but that will then rise to over $80,000. Statisticians, who can also start at $35,000, can eventually earn $100,000. Students interested in the sciences should also consider the healthcare industry when thinking of employment, especially if they have post-graduate degrees in medicine, pharmacy, ophthalmology, physical therapy, acupuncture, or chiropractics.

What Employers Want

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Human Resources Business Partner/Senior Recruiter


Most of our entry-level positions are in two core areas: software engineering and financial engineering. Creativity and innovative thinking are incredibly important, as are flexibility, a driven attitude, a strong team-orientation, time management skills and most importantly, an appetite for learning.

It's sometimes difficult for new graduates to transition their thinking from purely theoretical, which is often the approach at university, to a more practical approach. Our industry is about solving complex risk problems in a practical way. We encourage graduates to look for opportunities to get involved in practical problem solving and take a variety of courses. This helps them to round out their skill sets by developing their communication and teamwork skills.


Senior Human Resources Manager

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Maple Leaf Foods

The co-op program at Maple Leaf started over 10 years ago with only a handful of students. Now we have over 25 students at any one time. We recruit across multiple disciplines—marketing, finance, engineering, information technology, and product development, across multiple businesses. One of our entry-level programs that we are very proud of is the Product Development Co-op Program. We hire Food Science co-op students for four and sometimes eight-month work terms for both our Protein and Bakery business units. Besides education we want self-starters who take initiative and have strong leadership abilities. We are looking for people who value transparency, communication and collaboration.

From class to career


Policy Advisor, Chemicals Management Division,

Environment Canada

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Bachelor of Science in Biology,

University of Western Ontario, 2008

Master of Environmental Health Policy,

Columbia University, 2010

Sunny Uppal developed an interest in biology and environmental science in high school. That's also where he discovered that he was interested in politics and international relations. "In university, I found myself taking courses in environmental sciences, as the topic was becoming increasingly political," he says. After completing his biology and master's in environmental health policy, Uppal worked on international environmental agreements for the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. In April, 2011, he became a policy advisor with Environment Canada. "I now work on building Canada's positions and following up on our obligations to international environmental agreements pertaining to chemical substances." For students interested in working in science on an international level, Uppal advises attending schools with solid political science programs. "I would look at the many universities which offer exchange programs and co-op opportunities to gain both work and international experience."


Graduate Dietitian,

NOR-MAN Regional Health Authority

Bachelor of Science,

Acadia University, 2010

Laura Maclean is a graduate dietitian on a regional diabetes team in Manitoba. She says pursuing a degree and career in nutrition isn't easy—like most jobs in science and healthcare, it requires a lot of dedication and hard work. But she attributes much of her success to her experience interning in the field. "A classroom can only teach you so much, but it was my on-the-job experience that really helped to build my knowledge and confidence in my abilities as a nutrition professional."


Software developer,

Ideaca Knowledge Services

Bachelor of Computer Information,

Mount Royal University, 2011

Ryan Kazmerik designs and develops software for companies, primarily in Calgary's energy field.

Kazmerik suggests that those interested in computer science "try to get involved in another discipline such as business, medicine or communications." He adds that "computers are a powerful force but only if used in conjunction with something that gives the technology purpose."

Science programs you may not know about...but should:

> Environmental and Conservation Sciences

Students develop solutions to issues such as decreasing renewable energy resources, global climate change and wildlife conservation.

—University of Alberta/Yukon College joint degree program

> Forestry

Students get a combination of science, engineering and business courses. They also have the option for a minor in commerce at the Sauder School of Business. Students can also complete five co-op terms, allowing them to graduate with nearly two years of paid work experience.

—University of British Columbia

> Geocomputational Science

Students will ultilize computer science programs and geographic problem-solving tools and theory to prepare them for careers in mining, oil and gas and government

—University of Toronto

> Terrestrial and Aquatic


Provides a background in field ecology.

—Laurentian University

> Early childhood education and science

Focuses on the social, emotional, cognitive and physical development of young children. Allows students to graduate with a university degree and a college diploma in only four years.

—Guelph University/Humber College joint degree program

> Water Resource Science

Water quality and adequate supply are important issues and this program focuses on finding the solutions.

—Lakehead University

> Photonics

This program helps students develop an understanding of the technical applications of light; participants in the program learn about fibre optics and lasers.

—Wilfred Laurier University

> Bilingual Environmental and Conservation Science

The only program of its kind in Canada allows students to complete half of their course work in each of the two official languages, so they may obtain a fully bilingual degree.

—University of Alberta

Working Knowledge has been created in partnership with TalentEgg, Canada's leading job site and career resource for students and new graduates. TalentEgg features co-op, internship, summer and entry-level job postings from some of Canada's top employers, plus industry guides and career tips in its online magazine, the Career Incubator. Find out more at

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