Frequently Asked Questions about the Chemical and Biosciences Co-op Diploma Program …

June 21, 2013

Q. What does the Chemical and Biosciences Co-op Diploma program prepare students to do?

A. Our program trains students to work as technicians or technologists in a wide variety of corporate or government testing and research laboratory settings, as well as in other science-based environments, such as in the chemical, pharmaceutical or food processing industries. Students learn a range of skills, incorporating both chemistry and biology and, as a result, they may find work in many different fields and organizations, carrying out many different duties.

The following job descriptions are taken from the Canadian Council of Technicians and Technologists:

Things that Chemical technicians and technologists do at work are:

  • Set up and conduct chemical experiments, tests and analyses using techniques such as chromatography, spectroscopy, physical and chemical separation techniques and microscopy.
  • Operate and maintain laboratory equipment and apparatus and prepare solutions of gas or liquid, reagents, and sample formulations.
  • Compile records and interpret experimental or analytical results.
  • Develop and conduct programs of sampling and analysis to maintain quality standards of raw materials, chemical intermediates and products.
  • Assist in the development of chemical engineering processes, studies of chemical engineering procurement, construction, inspection and maintenance and the development of standards, procedures and health and safety measures
  • Operate experimental chemical or petrochemical pilot plants.
  • Conduct or assist in air and water quality testing and assessments, environmental monitoring and protection activities and in the development of and compliance with standards.
  • Assist in the design and fabrication of experimental apparatus.

Things that biological technicians and technologists do at work are:

  • Conduct or assist in biological, microbiological and biochemical tests and laboratory analyses in support of quality control in food production, sanitation, pharmaceutical production and other fields.
  • Perform or assist in experimental procedures in agriculture, plant breeding, animal husbandry, biology and biomedical research.
  • Conduct field research and surveys to collect data and samples of water, soil, plant and animal populations.
  • Conduct or assist in environmental monitoring and compliance activities for the protection of fisheries stock, wildlife and other natural resources.
  • Conduct or supervise operational programs such as fish hatchery, greenhouse and livestock production programs.
  • Analyze data and prepare reports.

Q. How does your program differ from a university BSc program?

A. Our program differs in a few important ways. For one thing, our program is compressed to two years, whereas a BSc is typically three or four years in length. This allows students to get out into the workforce as soon as possible and also reduces the overall cost of the educational process.

As well, although we teach a significant amount of theory, our main focus is on providing students with the applied skills that they need to make an immediate contribution to their employer. Our instructors typically have worked for years in industry or government before joining the college, and so we have a good understanding of the skills that are necessary for a successful career.

Q. How does the co-op portion of the program work?

A. During the first eight months of each year, students attend classes. During the last four months of each year, students typically work for an employer, which not only provides valuable  experience and contacts, as well as income, but also counts towards the credits necessary for graduation. For obvious reasons, we can’t force employers to hire students, and so we can’t guarantee that every student will receive a co-op placement, but our program does have a dedicated co-op coordinator whose job involves identifying suitable employers and communicating job opportunities to students. Our instructors also work closely with students to provide the skills and coaching necessary to write great resumes and to interview well. It is rare for a student who puts a reasonable amount of effort into their job search not to find co-op employment.

Q. Where do your students end up working?

A. All over the place! Our students have been hired by the City of Winnipeg, as well as by Health Canada. Many students find work at one of the numerous pharmaceutical organizations in Winnipeg. We also have students working in research labs, such as the St. Boniface Research Center. Others find employment in the painting and coatings, plastics or aerospace industries while still others are hired by food or agriculture businesses.

Q. What can I expect to earn as a graduate?

Over the last few years, students have earned an average annual starting salary of about $37,000 immediately after graduation. Some students have reported starting salaries as high as $50,000, but those students may already have had other degrees or experience.

A 2013 survey by the Manitoba chapter of CCTT found that the average salary of someone working in Manitoba as a technologist with a college diploma was about $75,000. This higher salary reflects the compensation that technologists typically receive later in their careers.

Q. What are my chances of finding employment coming out of the program?

Pretty good! On average, about 80% of students find employment in their field of study immediately following the program. Approximately another 10% go on to further educational studies.

Q. What do your students say about the program?

Each year, the college surveys graduating students and asks for their opinion of the program. For the last four years, 100% of students who responded to the survey said that they were satisfied or very satisfied! Over the last 15 years, the average satisfaction rate has been 95%!