Admissions FAQs

This page is a valuable source of information for prospective applicants – covering commonly asked questions about our admissions process, application requirements, and funding and job opportunities. Please read through each section below, as many prospective students questions may be answered here.

If you still have any queries, please email your questions through to the Program Coordinator

Do I have to select the Project or Thesis option on my application?
No, applicants are admitted into the MSc OEH program, not for the program options. The decision for which option you wish to take is not submitted until approximately December in your first year of the program.

How long does the program take to complete?
The project option takes approximately 16-20 months to complete (4 terms plus the summer term for the co-op placement)

The thesis option can take anywhere between 18 months to approximately 3 years (dependent on your thesis research)

UBC masters programs have a total completion time of five years

Is the MSc OEH program offered online?
No, unfortunately at this time our program is only offered in the traditional classroom format

How high an average does the program require for admission?
Our admission standards follow the requirements of the faculty of graduate studies - meaning a minimum average of an upper second class (B+) or at least 12 first class (A) credits in the third and fourth year of the undergraduate degree.

The GPA of the entering class is higher than the minimum: A- to A average in 3rd and 4th year courses.

How many people apply to the program in a given year and how many are accepted?
In the most recent year, we received over 50 applications. We typically admit between 8 and 12 students each year, although we do not have a set quota.

Are decisions made once the completed application is received or is there a set time in which decisions are made?
The Admissions Committee meets shortly after the application deadline. Those who submitted complete application packages can expect to hear from the committee approximately 1.5 months after the application deadline.

Is work experience in the field essential to be admitted to the program?
Work experience is not essential, but can be an asset - especially for those with lower entering marks. About half of our applicants have relevant work experience. Relevant undergraduate degrees (engineering, chemistry, toxicology, microbiology, statistics, physics, pharmaceutical sciences, medicine, nursing, environmental science, etc.) are also an asset.

Are students who are not from the western provinces admitted to the program?
We admit students from all provinces as well as international students - there is no preference given to students on the basis of location of residence/birth.

Can I take courses if I am not a student at UBC?
Yes, you can take graduate courses on a non-credit basis as an unclassified student. Information on how to do so can be found on the School website. We also offer continuing education courses for professionals and others interested in occupational or environmental health.

Do I have to take the GRE?
We no longer require that applicants sit the GRE exam, however, we do recommend it. Applicants with undergraduate degrees from universities outside North America are very difficult to evaluate without the GRE. This puts those applicants at a disadvantage in the admissions process.

All applicants must provide demonstration of proficiency in quantitative skills as evidenced by an excellent grade on an undergraduate course such as mathematics, statistics, physics, chemistry; or completion of the Graduate Record Exam. Scores from GMAT, MCAT, VCAT, PCAT, and DATS will be considered as alternatives to the GRE score.

I have yet to write the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) and probably won't be able to do so until February. I was wondering if this would hurt my chances of admission?
Yes it may - if you do not have a quantitative skills course and you must take the GRE, your application will be deemed incomplete if you do not have your GRE results with your application. We require your official GRE score report before it can be reviewed by our Admissions Committee, so please make every effort to write the test well ahead of time so that your scores will arrive by the application deadline.

I'm also curious of the weighting of the GRE in admissions decisions. Do you know of the average score (ballpark) of those admitted? Do you require a minimum score?
The GRE test results are not given as much weight as the other components of your application but they are an important part of the package. If your test scores are strong, they help demonstrate your academic potential if you are an international student or if your transcripts are not representative of your ability. Typical percentiles of accepted students are 70 or higher, but we have admitted students with lower GRE percentiles who had other strong attributes (high grades, excellent work experience, etc).

What additional documents must international applicants submit?
In addition to the general requirements listed above, international and foreign language applicants must also submit two official transcripts, in English.

The TOEFL is a mandatory requirement for international applicants from a university outside Canada in which English is not the primary language of instruction. We may also require a TSE (Test of Spoken English) and a TWE (Test of Written English). Tests must have been taken within 24 months of your application. Official test scores ordered from the testing agency are required; photocopies are not acceptable. A minimum TOEFL score of 625 paper-based or 107 internet-based is required.

I was wondering about the procedure to find potential supervisors or is this taken care of once acceptances are sent out? There are a few projects that I am interested in and wasn't sure what the procedure was.
We have a project option and a thesis option. Academic advisors are assigned to all students sometime in the late summer prior to the beginning of the fall term.

If you elect to do the project option, you will likely have a different "project" advisor assigned to you for the project you do during the summer between the first and second years.

If you choose to do the thesis option, then you need to have a faculty member agree to be your thesis supervisor. Sometimes students know in advance who they wish to work with as a thesis supervisor; other times students choose an supervisor sometime during the first term once they have an idea of their thesis topic. Feel free to contact any faculty member whose work interests you. You can do this before you enter the program.

What are the benefits of the two masters degree options? For example, if I do the project option, am I still eligible to do a PhD in the future or is that only possible with the thesis option?
If you do the project option, you can certainly continue on for a PhD. The project options involves a paid field placement, usually in the summer between the first and second years. Most people in the project option take 4 semesters (finishing in April of the second year), but it is possible to complete the program in 3.

The thesis option allows you to look at a topic in more detail than you could otherwise. It is usually applied – meaning that it will probably involve observational research in field sites in the community or in work places. If you are interested in a PhD, you could continue the line of inquiry of your MSc thesis towards a PhD or you could pursue a completely different topic. Most people in the thesis option take 4 semesters plus a summer (finishing in August of the second year), but sometimes they continue into the following fall.

As far as employment prospects go, thesis and project students are equally competitive in the job market.

How freely is financial aid available for MSc students?
Please see our section on Scholarships & Funding.

I've looked into a few scholarships, but, they all require detailed descriptions of my potential research project (which I am not sure of as of yet!).
It is true that many scholarships ask for details about research. There are two ways to handle this problem. You could write a proposal to the best of your ability, and ask a faculty member at the School to review it before you send it off. If you decide to continue this line of research when you arrive, great, but often subtle or more major changes in a student's research take place after they start. This is rarely a problem, since scholarships are usually given based on your merit rather than the proposal's merit (the proposal illustrates your thinking, etc.) Another approach would be to wait to apply for scholarships until after you've started the program and finalized a research topic. The disadvantage of this is that you will not receive award money for your first year of studies.

For the project, are students given paid co-op positions for the summer? Do I have to relocate? Are there any opportunities for working with any international agencies for the project?
Yes, the projects involve paid co-op positions. We give employers salary guidelines (we recommend $3000/month as the minimum though some employers pay much more), but it is up to the individual employer to decide exactly what they pay they will offer.

Many co-op jobs require the student to relocate for the duration of the co-op; students are not guaranteed a local job placement. These out-of-the-city placements are often the most rewarding, because both the job and location provide new experiences.

There are opportunities for working with agencies/companies in the US or elsewhere, although most of the opportunities tend to be in Western Canada. Students may also arrange their own summer internships (subject to approval).

What about employment, when I am a student or after I graduate?
For employment as a student, you may want to refer to our web site section on Scholarships & Funding.

For examples of professional jobs in the environmental and occupational health field, feel free to check the job postings on this web site. There is also info on our website about the career sectors in which our graduates have been employed.

What is the salary range of graduates and experienced professionals in the field?
In a 2010 survey of salaries of Canadian occupational hygienists (this is one of the professions commonly followed by our graduates), salaries varied over a wide range, from ~$50,000 to over $150,000 depending on where the participants were employed (the sector and the location), prior job experience, and level of responsibility. There are some hygienists, for example, who have become corporate VPs responsible for health, safety, and environment.

For those interested in an academic career, there has been a sustained demand for hygienists in academia for over a decade.