As a career/employment counsellor for immigrants to Canada, one of the first questions my clients ask is: “Will having my credentials evaluated help in my job search?”
The answer is, it depends. I have found a misconception around the credential evaluation process; most immigrants have heard that having their credentials evaluated is key to entering the Canadian labour market or to further their studies in Canada in a post-secondary institution. This is not completely true, as it all depends on many factors, and different situations may require different types of credential evaluations.
What is credential evaluation?
Foreign credential evaluation is a process to measure your level of education to the Canadian system. The credential evaluation service doesn’t assess the quality of the program, course content, or whether or not the subjects you studied will be accepted as comparable to those required for a similar career in Canada.
In Canada, there are a few main credential evaluation services, including World Education Services (WES) in Ontario (see wes.org) and International Credential Evaluation Services (ICES) in B.C. (see bcit.ca/ices). The Canadian Information Centre for International Credentials (CICIC) for a full list of services across the country.
Different reports explained
There are two types of reports that a credential evaluation service can offer: official and original. Official reports are made when your institution back in your home country sends the transcripts directly to the credential evaluation service. They have to be signed by the right authority (university or ministry) and be sent in a sealed envelope.
Original reports, on the other hand, are the ones made with the certificates and transcripts you bring with you.
Both official and original reports can be basic or comprehensive. Basic reports usually have one to two pages and mention your certificates and how they compare in years with the Canadian system. Comprehensive reports may have more pages and they list all the subjects you have taken with their conversion to the credit/grade system applicable to most Canadian institutions.
When and how to get evaluated
If your profession is regulated (i.e., you require a licence from a professional body to work in the field, such as doctors, lawyers, accountants, teachers, engineers, etc.), don’t rush to have your credentials evaluated. I have had many frustrated clients who had their credentials evaluated prior to coming to Canada, only to find out that their professional regulatory body doesn’t accept the report or that they have done the wrong report. The best way to make sure you don’t waste your time and money is to check with your professional regulatory body first. Many regulatory bodies have their own systems, or, if they accept reports, they will ask for official and comprehensive reports. Finding out from them first will save you time and money.
If you plan on going to school to upgrade your skills, note that each post-secondary institution and each faculty or program within it may have different requirements regarding credential evaluation. It really depends on the program you want to study and what you need the report for. Perhaps you may want to have some credits transferred toward a Canadian degree or certificate, and you want to demonstrate you have already studied some of the subjects they require. Or you may need to demonstrate that you have a post-secondary degree in a certain field, in order to be accepted for a master’s program or specialization. In any case, as requirements are both program and school specific, check with the institution first.
Most universities and colleges in Canada have in place a process call Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition (PLAR) or Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL). These processes may accept WES or ICES reports, or may have in place other ways to assess your prior learning and experience. Again, checking with them first will save you time, money and frustration.
Finally, credential evaluation reports may be required and accepted by many employers. Federal government jobs usually require that you can demonstrate your educational level. For them, a basic and original report may suffice. However, there are many employers that are familiar with neither ICES nor WES reports and may not accept them.
If you are planning on having your credentials evaluated for job search purposes, be aware that “Canadian experience” is much more than having your credentials compared to the Canadian educational system. From an employer’s perspective, having a degree does not guarantee that you can do a certain job, as the requirements, the subjects studied and the experience may be very different from one country to another. So while having an evaluation report of how your degree measures up in the Canadian educational system can be helpful, it’s even more important to gain Canadian experience through a thorough exploration of the labour market, informational interviews, mentoring, internships, volunteering and taking local training via regulatory bodies or professional associations.
This article was published on the Canadian Immigrant magazine in March 2012