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The question

A college counsellor tells me that careers as technologists, technicians and technical specialists in applied sciences are growing rapidly in occupations including health, computer technology, telecommunications and various engineering and architectural support roles. It's also my understanding that students with strong math and science ability can enter these professions through college or university programs of one to two years' duration. Could you offer some advice on this course of action for high school grads, and an assessment of which applied science career fields promise good career growth and security for Canadians?

The answer

Your college counsellor is correct. There is a growing need for technologists, technical specialists and technicians in health, computer technology, telecommunications and various engineering fields. This is affected by the growth in these areas, the aging work force, and the increasing needs in these areas, often despite a downturn in the economy.

Some of the top careers and jobs in Canada and the U.S. include lab technician, radiology technologists, biomedical engineers and technologists, network architect, environmental science technician, environmental engineering technician, network architect, computer software engineer, computer software support specialist, computer systems analyst, hydrology technician, and heating, air conditioning and refrigeration technician.

With respect to information and communications technology fields, the Information Technology Association of Canada (ITAC) and the Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC) report that there will be a labour shortage crisis in these fields in the order of 68,000 IT jobs over the next five years. You can find similar information on labour needs and shortages on other technologies, technicians and trades by checking other association reports and websites.

Research technologist and technical jobs in the fields in which you are interested. Check out positions available online at employer and association websites. Attend technology career fairs and speak to technologists, technicians and technical specialists in the fields that interest you most. Ask them how they got into the field, what they like most about their positions, what they like least about their positions and what they would do differently if they could do it over again. Ask them if they would be open to you shadowing them on the job for a day or two.

Do your research on training programs offered by colleges, technical institutes and polytechnical universities. For example, check on and ask about class sizes, skills and experience of instructors, co-op placements, job placement rates and compensation rates for graduates from their programs.

Many colleges and training institutes will allow you to receive advanced credit for university and college math and science courses or to challenge requirements by taking exams. You need to check with the admission and program staff at the training institutes to see what their specific policies are with respect to advanced credit.

Choose a career or job that you are interested in and will offer the challenges that you are seeking. Also consider that you will likely have many careers throughout your working life. If you are interested in potentially laddering into undergraduate degrees in engineering, computer science, communications, science or health, then investigate if and how the technology courses can be laddered to higher educational degrees.

Bruce Sandy is principal of and Pathfinder Coaching & Consulting.

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