Training: Preparing for a Canadian Career in Science

by Gilda Spitz

In the summer of 2008, more than 20 Canadians died, and many others became sick, as a result of meat tainted with listeria from a Maple Leaf Foods plant in Toronto. Two years ago, there was a mass recall of spinach after an E. coli outbreak in the United States.

Before such eye-opening events, most Canadians gave very little thought to possible dangers in the foods they ate. But recent events have made the general public more aware of the importance of science in ensuring their safety in everyday life. Along with this general awareness has also come the opportunity for more jobs in the fields of food science and also in pharmaceutical science.

Many immigrants arrive in Canada with training in these fields, but with no Canadian licensing or training.

The Academy of Applied Pharmaceutical Sciences (AAPS) is one training facility in Toronto that can help. It is a private college regulated by the Ministry of Colleges and Universities. According to Laleh Bighash, Dean of Pharmaceuticals and Scientific Affairs, AAPS students “don’t come to get an education – they come to get a job.”

Approximately 80 percent of AAPS students are immigrants. They usually have a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry or pharmaceutical health sciences from their home country, and often have work experience as well.

When a student applies for admission, AAPS evaluates their level of proficiency in English. Although some immigrants may not speak English fluently, their understanding of written English might be good enough for a laboratory position. However, if necessary, AAPS recommends classes in English as a second language (ESL) at a suitable facility; then follows up with the applicant in a couple of months.

You could enrol in a course leading to a post-graduate diploma in Food Safety and Quality. A student with the proper background and training may find a job such as a quality control tester, plant sanitation coordinator, quality assurance coordinator, product development coordinator, or product tester.

If you want to get into the pharmaceutical industries you need to understand their rules and regulations, and how to use the latest technology in the workplace. AAPS trains its students in Health Canada regulations, and helps them become familiar with the software used by most labs in Canada. Their hands-on programs are designed to simulate a pharmaceutical environment, enabling students to use practical physical and chemical techniques, together with state-of-the-art instrumentation. The college will even help them polish their résumés.

Bighash wants prospective students with foreign science degrees to understand their options.
“People think they don’t have a choice,” she says, “but there ARE ways to get help. You just need to explore.”

For more information on AAPS, visit their website at