How to choose a program in the Faculty of Health

King warrior Written by special contributor

It may not be rocket science, but choosing a university major takes time and effort.

Aside from the biggest question of all — what do I want to do with my life? — getting the major right is, well, pretty major.

Four years of high school go by surprisingly quick. So when you find yourself drawn to health sciences — but have no idea what career to pursue or what degree will still make you happy a decade or two down the road — figuring out what you actually want to study is critical.

Don’t just ask yourself, ‘What major should I choose?’
Ask yourself, ‘Which major is right for me?’

According to Pamela Hurvid, recruitment coordinator for Waterloo’s Faculty of Health, it’s all about the fit.

Kinesiology student playing basketball.

It’s all about the fit

“Don’t just ask yourself, ‘What major should I choose?’” she says. “Ask yourself, ‘Which major is right for me?’”

Predicting the behaviour of high school students is no exact science, Pamela says, but she has a lot of experience predicting the kinds of things they want and need to know. And she’s pretty much heard it all.

“Here’s some advice I usually give to students who have a certain profession in mind but are unsure how to get there: pick something you’re really passionate about,” Pamela says. "Many paths lead to certain health professions — medicine, for example — and most require excellent grades. It’s really hard to get excellent grades in subjects you’re not interested in, so make sure you truly enjoy your major."

Which major should I consider?

Many students ask what the "best" health sciences program is that will lead to a specific career — but it's not the best question to ask. The best program is specific to each student. And students need to do their own research to get the fit right.

  • If you're interested in anything from athletic training to medicine, nutrition, or occupational health, you might want to consider Kinesiology.
  • If teaching, marketing, recreation therapy, or working with youth excite you, look into Recreation and Leisure Studies.
  • Then there’s Health Sciences, which can lead to diverse careers ranging from business to research and careers in clinical settings such as medicine or occupational therapy, and much more.
  • And finally, there’s our Public Health degree, which the COVID-19 pandemic has shown, is an incredibly important area that can impact the health and lifestyles of millions of people.

To understand our majors better, Pamela recommends looking at the courses offered across an entire degree, not just the first year. First-year courses are generally introductory while the upper-year courses reveal the differences and specializations in each program.

Most students aren't sure what program they want, and they’re not always set on the faculty yet. They often discover what programs we offer and when they start asking the questions, they realize it’s their dream program and perfect for their interests.

A person in a doctor coat, with a stethoscope.

The major you want, the resources you need

Choosing the right major

  • Know your abilities. It sounds obvious, but when you’re good at something, you’re much more likely to enjoy what you do.
  • Know your values. What are your core beliefs and passions? Doing work you value is more rewarding in the long run.
  • Know your interests. Get paid to do what you already like doing.
  • Know if there are jobs out there. Avoid discouragement by studying something broad enough that will lead to paid work.

Before you decide

What will the workforce look like for you?

One of the most common questions prospective students ask Pamela: "What can I do with a degree from the Faculty of Health?"

“A lot of students have an end career in mind. Many want to be doctors or physiotherapists or something like that. They want to know, ‘How do I get there? What’s the best program?’ The healthcare industry is a huge sector so there’s a huge amount of career possibilities.”

Statistics show Waterloo's Health graduates are finding those possibilities. One year after graduation, 95 per cent of graduates from the Faculty are either employed or pursuing further education.

A dentist with a needle and laptop.

Common questions

Q. What’s the difference between health sciences and life sciences?

A. In general, life sciences is the study of all living things. Health sciences is the study of human health.

Q. What about co-op?

A. Co-op education is a bit different at Waterloo, so people don’t always know how it works. We help students get the job search and job acquisition experience they need so that when they graduate, they are very familiar with how to write a cover letter, résumé, interview techniques, etc...

Q. When should I get started?

A. The summer before your Grade 12 year is a good time to visit and do research. October and November are very, very busy. That’s when we plan our first big open house of the year and when senior high school students really start looking into their options before the application deadline early in the new year. March through May is another good time to visit universities that you’ve applied to.

Q. How competitive is it?

A. We tell students that we are competitive but that it’s not unachievable if you meet the criteria we post.

Q. How many first-year acceptances are there?

A. We usually have about 650 new students each fall.

Q. What are the most popular majors?

A. Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology and Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences.

Q. What other majors are there?

A. Bachelor of Public Health and three Bachelor of Arts in Recreation (Recreation and Sport Business, Recreation and Leisure Studies, and Therapeutic Recreation).

Predicting the 'you' of the future

Predicting what you’ll be like throughout your 20s and 30s — and into middle age and beyond — is tough. You also have to keep in mind the new discoveries and trends in health, wellness, recreation, and well-being that can shape the health careers of the future. But as much as you’re able, try to imagine if your future self will thank you for picking the major you’ve got in mind.

Remember that university is about experimentation and self-discovery, so your abilities, values, and interests may morph over time.

Not sure whether Health programs are right for you? Check out how to choose a major in the Faculty of Arts or Faculty of Science. Then check out these handy steps to choosing a university.

Not sure which Health program is right for you?



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