International Professional & Combined Degrees – The Six Steps to Opening Doors to Exciting New Careers


How do you open doors to the professions? By thinking and acting strategically. Becoming aware of the full nature and depth of professions is the first step to opening any doors.

Most students tend to relate the word “profession” with the traditional professions such as accountants, doctors, dentists, engineers and lawyers. However, in Canada there are now 40 self-regulated professions and the number is growing – see‎. There are also many non-regulated professions often governed by voluntary associations with easily accessible web sites. Think family mediation‎, management consulting, and chartered secretaries Be creative!

Step #1 in Choosing a Professional Career

Start thinking strategically about the service market that appeals to you and your best fit rather than a specific profession. For example, think health care rather than doctor and you’ll discover that there are more than 29 self-regulated health professions in Canada. Think legal services provider instead of lawyer and you’ll discover that in BC there’s a self-regulated notary profession as well as a self-regulated legal profession and in Ontario there’s a self-regulated legal profession that encompasses both lawyers and independent paralegals.

Step #2 Get the Facts on the Profession that’s Right for You.

Once you’ve scoped out the service market and identified a short list of professional service providers that appeal to you, determine what the entry-level educational requirements are and the professional studies commitment you’ll need to make. Don’t go on what you’ve been told by friends or even well-intentioned guidance counselors. Get the facts. For example, many people in Canada presume that a university degree is a pre-requisite for admission to Canadian medical and law schools. Not true! It’s a lack of a sufficient number of domestic professional schools that forces students to obtain baccalaureate degrees to qualify for admission.

Step #3 Consider the International Education Advantage

What is true is that more Canadian professions and accredited Canadian professional schools tend to follow the American model and require higher post-secondary entrance requirements for admission than is the case in comparable E.U. and British Commonwealth countries. Australia, New Zealand and the U.K. all provide direct entry for high school graduates into the professional schools of dentistry, law and medicine. You become a dentist, doctor or lawyer by age 22-23 instead of 26-27, which is the norm in Canada. Opting for the international professional education route may well provide you with access to a world-class education at a leading-edge university abroad at substantially less cost than studying in Canada. Students looking at international professional schools can expect to save $50,000-$75,000 overall in education costs.

Step #4 Professional Degree Specialization and Combined Degrees

Established professional disciplinary borders are breaking down. Disciplines are evolving into specialization categories and/or integrating into multi-disciplinary practices. The era of the general practitioner in accounting, engineering, medicine and law is over. Obtaining a first level professional degree in Canada and sending out 100 resumes is no longer an assurance you’ll even qualify for an interview, let along land an entry-level position. Your initial professional degree is now an entry point into a graduate level professional specialization. It’s the professional specialization that’s the career door opener. On the other hand, combining your intellectual passion and baccalaureate degree with a professional degree and integrating them into a multi-disciplinary professional service, the “combined degree,” will place you in the leading edge of the new professional services paradigm. International professional education is at the forefront in embracing specialized professional and “combined” multi-disciplinary degrees.

Step #5 Getting Foreign Professional Degrees Approved in Canada

In the past, many prospective students have been reluctant to pursue an international professional education, believing that they will have difficulty getting their professional degree “accredited” for practice in Canada. Fair Access to Regulated Professions legislation has now made foreign professional degree accreditation a routine process. Fair access legislation is an acknowledgement that the world in which we now live and work has created a paradigm shift that encompasses a global professional services market. International education is the access point to it.

Step #6 International Professional and “Combined Degree” Education

The blending of global centres of excellence at the graduate professional degree level at international schools that offer leading-edge graduate specializations and innovative “combined” multi-disciplinary professional degrees, together with the ease of entry and the cost savings, make the case for this being the professional career route you should take.

  1. Think Law/ Mediation/Compliance/General Counsel
  2. Think Legal Services/Judicial Admin./Corp. Governance
  3. Think Medicine/Chiropractic/Naturopathy/Chiropody
  4. Think Health Care/Privacy/Ethics/Hospital Administration
  5. Think Teaching/E-course design/Professional Coaching
  6. Think Social Work/Career & Life Style Counseling
  7. Think Engineering/ Sustainable Development
  8. Think Math/Web Content Design/Digital Film Making
  9. Think Kinesiology/Prosthetics/Orthotics Technician
  10. Think Business-Private/Public/Partnerships “The 3PS”
  11. Think Political Science/ International Law/ NGOs
  12. Think Strategically! Think International!

By John G. Kelly, B.Com., LL.B. M.Sc., M.A. (Jud.Admin.) F.CIS.

John G. Kelly is a former law professor and president of Canada Law From Abroad, which provides an international education bridge for Canadian students to obtain LLB degrees to practice law in Canada and graduate LLM degrees for students wanting to open doors to multi-disciplinary professional careers.

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