Steps to careers in health and medicine

Students in lab coats standing in hallway at the University of Waterloo

If you’re considering a health profession such as medicine, rehabilitation, or pharmacy, Waterloo is a great place to start your journey. You’ll learn from top professors while working towards a career in health at a university that's world-renowned for research and hands-on education.

Many health professions require you to first study at university in what are called undergraduate studies. You would then apply to programs such as medicine, optometry, pharmacy, and dentistry (these are commonly called professional programs because they lead to a profession).

Undergraduate programs, which you would apply to from high school, provide a foundation in science for your further studies. For some professional programs, you can apply after as little as two years in an undergraduate program.

1. Research careers in health care and medicine

Think about your goal. Do you want to be a physician? Physiotherapist? Nurse, optometrist, or chiropractor? Do you want to work with people or pursue research in a lab, developing vaccines for illnesses?

See what programs are available and figure out the difference between each university while confirming your desire to study in that specific field. Lists such as medical schools in Canada, nursing programs, schools of dentistry, and physiotherapy programs in Canada can provide a useful start.

2. Review the admission requirements

Once you determine the professional programs you're interested in, learn about their admission requirements. What courses do you need to take? Are there interviews? Tests? Here are a few resources to get you started.


Each program and university has its own set of criteria – often both academic and non-academic – that you must meet to be considered for admission. For example, you may need to take specific courses and labs (e.g. biology, kinesiology, organic chemistry, etc.) for certain programs and universities.

3. Learn about pre-health programs

Now that you know the requirements for admission, find undergraduate programs that interest you and allow you to take the courses you need to meet the admission requirements. Make note of programs that may help you meet the requirements faster than others, and how you can use electives to obtain the necessary courses. Some programs have built-in flexibility while others are more structured. Find programs that align with your goals and desired time frames.

You may also want to think about a backup plan. Many professional health programs have highly competitive admission standards. Do you have a plan in case you're not admitted to your desired program? Are there related health professions that interest you? Should you upgrade your qualifications and reapply? Pursue a master's degree that can lead to related professions?

Health professions and the Waterloo programs that can prepare you


How to choose between health sciences and life sciences programs

What can I do with a Faculty of Health degree?

4. Choose the program that's right for you

Choose an undergraduate program that enables you to study your passion so that you enjoy what you study and do well in your classes. A good place to start is to look at Waterloo's health-related programs. Over time, you’ll refine your interests and learn about the many career options available in health-related fields – some may even be brand new to you.

Many universities offer workshops to help you prepare your professional school applications, including practice interviews. You may also find clubs where you can meet other students who share your interests and goals. These student clubs share tips and often bring in guest speakers to learn from.

At Waterloo, you can benefit from

  • one-on-one support from advisors who specialize in further education
  • Waterloo's CareerHub website that helps you plan, apply to, and prepare for graduate or professional programs (accessible once you're a Waterloo student)

Why study health at Waterloo?

Learn by doing

More than 120 courses include labs – and you'll learn even more through North America's largest co-op program.

Receive outstanding support

Advisors can help you plan the steps towards your dream career. Meet like-minded students through clubs such as pre-med, pre-optometry, or pre-pharmacy.


Customize your path

Choose from nearly a dozen programs plus many more specializations, minors, and options. After two or three years of university, you can apply to one of our professional programs: Pharmacy or Optometry.

Participate in research

Work with professors and researchers to help launch new discoveries. Or bring your own ideas to life: create your own health or life sciences startup through Velocity Science or GreenHouse incubator programs.


We're here to help

Questions about Biochemistry, Biology, Biomedical Sciences, Honours Science, Biological and Medical Physics, or Psychology?

Staff in the Faculty of Science would be happy to help!

Questions about Health Sciences, Kinesiology, or Therapeutic Recreation?

Staff in the Faculty of Health would be happy to help!