Non-academic careers

What kinds of careers are available outside the academy for graduate degree holders?

The list of potential careers for graduate degree holders outside of academia is immense, and obviously differs for each area of study. Your options depend on the type of graduate degree you have, as well your area of focus and expertise. For example, a course-based Masters degree is considered a technical or applied degree, generally designed for current or aspiring professionals seeking private or public sector careers outside academy (university system). A thesis-based Masters degree is research intensive and designed to prepare students to undertake a PhD, but because they are often more theoretical in nature, they are, therefore, less targeted to specific career paths outside the university system. It should be noted that these distinctions are common, but not concrete.

What skills are transferrable?

Often a distinction is made between academia and the "real world." University graduates (undergraduate or otherwise) often fail to identify the real skills they bring to the table for employers, sometimes questioning the real value of their education in helping them land a job after graduation.

Graduate students particularly bring a host of skills to potential employers, but they need to be identified and highlighted by the job seeker. The Competency Kit at Co-op and Career Services can help you get the idea about transferrable skills.

Working in the private/public sector

An important factor in the private/public sector work world is the notion of competing priorities. While it seems as though everyone on a team should be pulling in the same general direction, competing priorities can create tension between team members. It is important that any career path you choose aligns with your core values. Do your research on potential employers before accepting any position. Sometimes a company's drive to succeed can create stress in their workforce. You may find that you thrive in a workplace with a dynamic environment or you may find that the work environment creates a lot of stress that can be hazardous to your physical and mental health over time. Career counselling can be valuable in helping you find a place that is just right for you.

Business ethics

Those wishing to pursue a career outside the world of academia (such as in the private sector) must explore the area of Professional Ethics and Business Ethics. Aside from the fact that the field of Ethics in itself is immense, there is an ethical framework to which professionals are expected to adhere. Your professional integrity is at stake.

Business writing

Writing reports and proposals in a business setting is markedly different than writing academic papers. Business writing tends to be far more pragmatic and to the point, often omitting the level of descriptive detail required for academic papers and publications.

Your curriculum vitae (CV) and/or résumé

When to use a curriculum vitae (CV)

One of the first steps required when preparing to market yourself as an academic is to create a curriculum vitae or CV. In Canada and the USA, a CV is used in academic circles and to profile medical careers. A CV provides more detail on education is expected to include a comprehensive listing of professional history including every term of employment, academic credential, publication, contribution or significant achievement. In certain professions, it may even include samples of the person's work and may run to many pages. By contrast, a résumé is far less inclusive.

When to use a Résumé

For professional positions outside of the academy, a résumé is often used instead of a CV. Most of us have written a résumé. Résumés are usually targeted to a specific employer or position and as such are often significantly shorter and more concise than CVs. It takes skill to write an effective résumé. Cooperative Education and Career Services has more information on writing a CV or résumé.

Often overlooked by job-seekers is the difference between a résumé and a CV.

Comparison table

Category Resume Curriculum Vitae
What is it? A targeted selection of your experience and skills for a specific position or employer. A complete list of your professional and educational background.
How long is it? Usually one page only for entry-level positions. Multiple pages may be appropriate for more advanced or research-oriented positions. May be many pages; length is not important.
When do you use it? Used for every other type of job outside of academia and research science. Used for academic positions and research positions in government and industry.
Do you include your publications? Even a partial list of publications is rarely included. A full list of publications is essential.
How important is style and layout? Style and content are both important. Bad style is a liability. Content is what matters most. As long as material is clearly presented, style doesn't matter that much.
Are references listed? References are not listed on a résumé. If requested, you may submit a separate list of relevant references. Typically references are listed at the end of the CV.

Student mental health
Professional development
Three Minute Thesis (3MT)
Graduate Students' Society

Program information