One of the most important things you can do as an undergraduate student is to gain hands-on experience especially if it is related to your field of study.
Not only will it help you understand concepts learned in class, build your leadership skills and strengthen your resume, but experiential learning can also deeply impact your life. Students in Computer Science, Health Sciences, Math and Science can experience their degrees in many ways – through research, co-op, fieldwork, internships, conferences, and through volunteer opportunities. Ask anyone who has participated in these types of activities and they will tell you not to miss out on these kinds of once of a lifetime chances.
Attending and presenting at conferences is a great way to get your work recognized and to build your resume. Here are some great conferences for undergraduate students in computer science, health sciences, math and science fields. And don't miss out on the Carleton University Faculty of Science Research Day each year!
- National Conferences on Undergraduate Research (in the US - Carleton students can receive funding to attend through the Discovery Centre)
- Undergraduate Research Conference
- Association of Medical Microbiology and Infectious Disease Canada
- Canadian Centre for Applied Research in Cancer Control
- Conference of the Canadian Society of Microbiologists
- OCIB - Ottawa-Carleton Institute of Biology
- Science Atlantic Aquaculture & Fisheries and Biology Conference (at Carleton in May 2016)
- IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (EMBS) International Student Conference (ISC)
- Canadian Chemistry Conference and Exhibition
- Southern Ontario Undergraduate Student Chemistry Conference
- Canadian Undergraduate Computer Science Conference
- Canadian Undergraduate Technology Conference
- Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing (in the US)
- World Wide Web Conference (in Montreal, Canada in April 2016)
Earth Science and Geoscience
- Advances in Earth Science Research Conference (at Carleton in April 2016)
- Alberta Student Energy Conference
- Atlantic Universities Geoscience Conference
- Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) Convention
- Brain Health Research Day (at Carleton in June 2016)
- Brain Development Conference (was held in Ottawa in September 2015)
- Canadian Association of Physicists Congress
- Canadian Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics (in Queens January 2018)
- Canadian Undergraduate Physics Conference (at Carleton in October 2017)
If you are majoring in Biology, Earth Sciences, Environmental Science, or Geography don't miss out on participating in fieldwork courses. You can see more information about courses being offered in the near future by visiting:
- Biology Field Courses
- Earth Sciences Field Courses
- Environmental Science Practicum
- Geography Field Courses
- cuNorth (for Biology, Earth Sciences, Geography and Environmental Science students)
Jobs as field assistants for researchers within academia are also popular- check out the Undergraduate Research Funding page to see opportunities.
The following is a sample of agencies, departments, companies, or societies:
- Natural Resources Canada
- Environment Canada
- Agriculture and Agri-Foods Canada
- Just Food Farm
- Waste Connections Canada
- Canadian Wildlife Service
- Rideau Valley Conservation Authority
- City of Ottawa
- Parks Canada
- Various conservation societies
- Researchers at universities
Certain requirements employers may be looking for (but may also be offering training for certain things prior to starting the job):
- Emergency First Aid
- Wilderness First Aid
- Fire Arms
- Vehicle G License
- Having a working car
- Boating License
What to Bring to Fieldwork
- Long pants
- Long-sleeved shirts
- Hiking/rubber boots
- Bug spray
- Water bottle
- Field notebook (can get waterproof one at Science Stores)
- Health card
- (lightweight) backpack to carry necessities during fieldwork
- Writing utensils
- Any field equipment
Plan your food accordingly: food can be offered at lodgings in field courses but if you have food restrictions, you may need to bring your own.
What to Expect
Fieldwork can vary based on where and what you will be doing but anticipate spending anywhere between half to entire days in the field, collecting data and samples and some time for processing and analyzing the data. The latter steps may also be done after returning, in the lab with advanced instrumentation. A report is likely to follow, summarizing your results to your instructor, supervisor, or employer.
Some fieldwork courses run during academic terms, and in certain cases, you may need to miss class. Try to inform your instructors for the respective courses you'll be missing as early in the term as possible to work around it, if required. In addition, plan your schedule accordingly so that deadlines and tests prior and post fieldwork don't conflict with fieldwork preparations (packing, pre-lab readings) and any additional reports needed to be written afterwards. Note that many rural fieldwork sites have limited Wifi connectivity so ensure that you have want you need.
Hands-On Experience Funding
While some hands-on opportunities are free, others require you to have funding. There are some funds created specifically for hands-on experience and also ways that you can raise money. Here are some places to start your search for funding.
Therapy Assistance Online (TAO)
Health and Counselling Services will be piloting an online counselling program called TAO (Therapy Assistance Online). This platform provides counselling services to students with mild to moderate anxiety and depression by blending interactive online modules with face-to-face counselling via webcam. Learn more.
Mental Health and Well-Being Website
The new Mental Health and Well-Being website provides centralized information on mental health and well-being resources, supports and initiatives for our students.
More Feet on the Ground
More Feet on the Ground is an online training tool developed to provide information on how to support student mental health and addiction concerns. The tool contains several modules that can be completed with flexibility, including a brief online assessment of learning, references to local resources and a certificate upon completion.
Clubs & Societies
Get involved in a student society in the Faculty of Science! To see the most complete list of student societies at Carleton University, visit the CUSA website. If you don't see a society that you want, create your own!
Carleton Health Science Society
A club for students interested in the health sciences, and in careers in health care
Email: carletonhss [at] gmail.com
Carleton Pre-Veterinary Medicine Club
Email: carleton.prevetmed [at] gmail.com (__xts__: )
Carleton University Geography and Environmental Students Association (CUGESA)
A club for Geography, Environmental Studies and Geomatics majors
Email: info [at] cugesa.com
Office: Loeb A210
Carleton University Geology Society (GeoSoc)
A student society for Earth Sciences students
Email: cugeosoc [at] gmail.com (__xts__: )
Carleton University Global Medical Brigades
Email: carleton.gmb [at] globalbrigades.org (__xts__: )
Carleton University Women in Science and Engineering (CU-WISE)
Email: wise [at] carleton.ca
Office: 5270 Herzberg Laboratories
Environmental Science Student Association (ESSA)
Email: careltonessa [at] gmail.com
The Student Alliance for Mental Health Carleton University
Not a Faculty of Science student society, but quite a few Science students are members.
Email: samhcarleton [at] gmail.com
External Clubs & Societies
There are tons of volunteer opportunities in the Ottawa area and internationally. Whether you choose to get volunteer experience related to your major or outside of your field, you will create lasting memories and gain valueable knowledge that employers, graduate schools, medical schools and other professional schools love. Here is a short list of places to start your search for volunteer opportunities.
Local - General
- Carleton Volunteer Bureau (To access the Volunteer Bureau, log into Carleton Central, select Volunteer Bureau under MySuccess, click Volunteer Jobs on the side menu and then click Search Volunteer Opportunities.)
- Campus to Community Days (offered through the Student Experience Office)
- Volunteer Ottawa (a searchable list of current opportunities in the city)
- Abbeyfield Canada
- Bayshore Community Association
- Best Buddies
- Big Brothers Big Sisters
- Boys and Girls Club of Ottawa
- Bruce House
- Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity
- Canadian Cancer Society
- The City of Ottawa
- Cornerstone Housing for Women
- Distress Centre Ottawa and Region
- Dovercourt Recreation
- Fletcher Wildlife Garden
- Girl Guides of Canada
- Gloucester Emergency Food Cupboard
- Habitat for Humanity
- The Lanark County Therapeutic Riding Program
- Matthew House
- Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Ottawa
- Ottawa Food Bank
- The Ottawa Mission
- Ottawa Public Library
- Ottawa Race Weekend
- Ottawa South United Soccer Club
- Planned Parenthood Ottawa
- Rotaract Club of Ottawa
- The Snowsuit Fund of Ottawa
- Terry Fox Run
Local - Science Related
- Autism Ontario
- Bruyère Hospital
- Canadian Blood Services
- Canadian Cancer Society
- Canada Science and Technology Museums Corporation
- Canadian Environmental Network (multiple activities posted in Ottawa related to environmental issues)
- Canadian Mental Health Association
- Canadian Museum of Nature
- Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO)
- City Stream Watch Program (monitor the health of a stream in Ottawa)
- Heart and Stroke Foundation
- Hospice Care Ottawa
- Let’s Talk Science
- Ottawa Grace Manor
- The Ottawa Hospital
- Ottawa Storytellers
- Montfort Hospital
- MS Society Ottawa
- Queensway Carleton Hospital
- Recognized Study Group Leader
- Rideau Valley Wildlife Sanctuary
- Roger’s House
- The Royal
- Sandy Hill Community Health Centre
- St. John Ambulance
- Villa Marconi Long Term Senior Residence
- Women Powering Technology
- Youth Science Canada
International - General
- Alternative Spring Break (offered through the Student Experience Office)
- Friends of the Orphans Canada
- ME to WE
International - Science Related
What Can I Do With My Science Degree?
One of the most common questions students in undergraduate Science have is: What can I do with my science degree? Apart from common career paths from a B.Sc (such as Medicine or other careers in Health Care), a Science degree can lead to a variety of careers in various fields. In today's job market, a Science degree is highly valued, as employers are consistently looking to hire those with an undergraduate education in Science. The hardest part about figuring out what career to choose is getting to know yourself, and the career paths that align with who you are. The following model is a great starting point!
Getting Started: The 3 Step Model
1. The Career Planning Process
Get to know yourself in the past, present, and future! Ask yourself and answer these questions:
- What do you value?
- What are you interested in?
- What are you good at?
- Where do you want to work and who do you want to work with?
- What led you to choose a B.Sc in the first place?
- What do you like about your program? What do you dislike?
2. Identifying Your Science Skills
Remember that employers are looking to hire people, not degrees. All of your skills can be relevant to a job – not just your science skills!
Job-Specific Skills: Skills specific to certain jobs or types of jobs
- Technical Skills: Skills that are developed from knowledge and require specific abilities (e.g. performing a titration)
- Soft Skills: Skills involving your personality and attributes (e.g. communicating with colleagues in the lab)
Transferable Skills: Skills that can be applied to any job
- Skills such as communication, teamwork, leadership, organization, research, technology, critical thinking, problem solving, numeracy, positive attitude, self-management, resilience are very applicable to any career field
- Highlight your strongest skills and try to understand how these skills can be useful in different jobs
3. Career Research
Research helps you discover potential career paths based on your skills and interests. Where can you go to find information?
- People: Networking is very important!
- Personal experience
Networking is Relationship Building:
A systematic, intentional approach used to cultivate formal and informal contracts for the purpose of gain information, enhancing your visible in the labor market, obtaining referrals about job openings.
Goals of Networking:
- Gather information about the job and the company
- Expand contacts and build relationships with people in the career
- Make an impression - this can go a long way when employers are looking to hire
- 80% of jobs are in the hidden market, therefore it can be beneficial to make contacts with people in your desired career field
- It helps to establish trust and credibility so employers are more likely to vouch for you
- The relationships you build can help you now and in future employment opportunities as well
- Most job seekers look for work by submitting resumes and applications, but most employers are looking at internal candidates and referrals to hire
Where Should You Network?
School Work Associations & Societies Conferences Events & Career Fairs
Debunking Networking Myths
- Networking DOES NOT require existing connections
- Networking DOES NOT require sales pitches or an outgoing personality
- Relationships DO take time to build
- Sometimes networking opportunities DO happen spontaneously
- Networking is NOT using or manipulating people to serve yourself
The Networking Timeline
- Identify and research fields and occupations
- Identify and research companies and organization
- Identify people
- Conduct information interview
- Follow-up and maintenance
Using Social Media to Your Advantage
LinkedIn is the global professional networking site that allows you to develop a professional profile, find professionals, explore opportunities, and more! It is very advantageous to make a LinkedIn profile correctly, and use the site to reach out and make connections with people in your desired career field.
Career Services can help you create profiles and review your current profile! Drop-In Reviews are offered Monday-Friday, from 8:30-4:30 in 401 Tory Building.
The Information Interview
- An interview you conduct to learn about careers and fields of interest
- Follow the AIR principle: ask for ADVICE, INSIGHT, REFERRALS
- Research and prepare your questions in advance
Create an Elevator Pitch
Not all interactions are planned, so it is best to be prepared to sell yourself. Have a little “speech” ready that you can use when you have meetings with potential network contacts that occur unexpectedly.
Maintenance of Your Networking Relationship
Once you have made a connection with a professional, you are only at the tip of the iceberg when it comes to networking. It is very important to continue establishing and maintaining your relationship with the professional. Send them a “thank-you” email and mention some things you learned in your interaction. Also consider the following:
- Be sure to show interest
- Be sure to update them on your progress and respond to opportunities
- Give back by sharing information and volunteering at events
Writing Your Resume
Resumes highlight your skills and experiences, and help the employer quickly find relevant information about you. Most importantly, resumes help you get interviews!
Quick Resume Tips:
- Use 11-12 point font
- Keep the length to 2-3 pages maximum
- Use high-quality paper
- White space, font, and format should be consistent throughout your resume
- Avoid personal pronouns such as "I" or "We"
- Put your name, page number, and position title in the header on the 2nd page of your resume
Types of Resumes
Skills-Based: emphasizes transferrable skills; focuses on accomplishments developed through experiences
- Use when: you have little direct work experience
Chronological: markets continuity and responsibility in employment history
- Use when: you have a lot of direct work-related experience
Combined Resume: focuses on skills-based accomplishments that are directly job related
- Use when: you have some direct work-related experience which needs explanation
Government Resume: reflects academic background and research experience; must use keywords from job description and competencies for the position
- Use when: applying for a government position
Constructing Your Resume - What You Should Include
- Current Address
- Phone Number (with voicemail)
- Email (professional)
- Website/LinkedIn URL (optional)
Snapshot of career interests and what you can contribute to the company
- Who you are
- What background you have
- Position/organization you are applying for
- Skills/education/relevant experience
- Short list of skills that are targeting towards you career goals and should also match the job that you are applying for
- List degrees you have completed in chronological order starting with the most recent
- If your GPA is high, be sure to mention it!
- List relevant courses/project/thesis titles
- If in the process of completing a degree: provide current year of study and date of anticipated graduation
- Can also list any scholarships you’ve received
- Highlight skills directly related to job and skills relevant from program of study
- Make sure to include transferrable skills
- VERY important if you don\t have much work experience
- Emphasizes past and present employment
- “Selected” or “Relevant” work experience allows you to omit any positions not related to the job you’re applying for
- Optional section which allows you to highlight any special projects that involve relevant technical skills
- Includes classroom and job-related projects
- Projects need to be related to the job that you are applying to
- Includes volunteer work, sports, hobbies, club/group memberships
- Can demonstrate team membership, leadership ability, time management skills, organizational skills, and dedication
- State that references are available upon request at interview
- Don’t list references on your resume
Use SAR Statements to Market Yourself
SAR stands for Situation, Action, Result. State what the task was, what you did, and what you accomplished/learned. Use action words such as: “identified”, “coordinated”, “managed”, “delegated”, etc. For example, if you helped to solve a problem at your job that lead to a desirable outcome, describe it in terms of SAR!
Cover letters are a way for hiring managers to get to know you on a more personal level than your resume can offer. They can be a great way to market yourself and make yourself stand out compared to other potential employees. Some cover letter 101:
- Address it to the person who could hire you
- Show knowledge about the company
- Exhibit you enthusiasm and interest in the field
- Include a competition number, if applicable
- Avoid generic cover letters. Make sure the cover letter is specific to the job you are applying for
Your letter should be short and concise so the employer is more likely to dedicate the time to read it:
- Opening Paragraph: state why you are writing and the position you are applying to
- Middle Paragraph: relate your skills, knowledge, interest, and abilities to the needs of the employer and the job
- Third Paragraph: explain why you are interested in working for the employer, demonstrate your knowledge of the company; this is where you are trying to persuade the employer of your suitability to the job and the company
- Closing Paragraph: Use appropriate closing to pave way for an interview. For example: "I look forward to hearing from you soon."
This document was drafted using resources from the Career Services Workshop Series at Carleton University.
Are you seeking more information or assistance? Visit Career Services!
What can Career Services do for you?
- Interview prep & practice
- Job shadowing
- Networking events & strategies
- Career options
- Mindtrust Leadership Development Program
- Co-op assistance
- Volunteer opportunities
- On-campus jobs
- Resume & cover letter review
- Personal statement & CV review (grad school)
And much more!