What degrees are available if I apply to the Bioinformatics Graduate Program?
You can select one of two possible endpoints for your studies:
- M.Sc. – direct entry
- Ph.D. i) – begin in the M.Sc. program and after one year, transfer to a Ph.D. program without completing an M.Sc. Must be approved by program.
- Ph.D. ii) – direct entry – must have a relevant M.Sc.
The Bioinformatics graduate program is in the Faculty of Science.
What kind of English-based qualifications do I need if my first language is not English?
The program requires either a TOEFL (100 iBT) or IELTS (7.0) test, if your first language is not English. If you do not have a sufficient score, it is recommended that you do not apply. Bioinformatics courses are difficult enough already, and if you do not have the language skills to understand and process the required information, you will not be successful in the program.
If you have already studied at an English-speaking secondary institution, then the English proficiency test is not required.
Note: GRE is not required for application to the program, but it may be helpful to the admissions committee in evaluating international applications.
Should I find a supervisor first, before I apply?
It is in your best interests to first find a supervisor who is willing to fund your graduate studies, before you apply to the program. You may apply on-line without securing a supervisor, and we will circulate your application to interested faculty. However, just because you submit an on-line application into the program, does not guarantee that a supervisor will be found for you. It would be most beneficial to contact potential supervisors and make them aware that you are interested in entering their lab for graduate studies. The program will make every attempt to match you with a potential supervisor, but it is ultimately your responsibility to find someone.
Before you even consider applying to the program, you require an 76% average, or B+ (based on your last two years of full time study).
Am I automatically accepted into the program if I apply on-line through the Faculty of Graduate Studies (FoGS) and select your program?
The answer is no. If you apply on-line through Graduate and Post-doctoral studies (G+PS) without securing a supervisor first, we will circulate your application to interested faculty. However, this does not mean that someone will select you. Applying on-line through G+PS, means that you will have to pay an application fee, that is non-refundable.
Note: We cannot return application materials once they are received by the program.
Can I study part-time while I still keep my job?
Unfortunately, no. The belief of the program’s mentors is that bioinformatics is a difficult discipline to study, and full-time attention during the program is required. If you wish to maintain your job during your studies, some employers will offer you an unpaid leave of absence in order to improve your educational qualifications; you may wish to investigate that possibility.
I’ve already studied bioinformatics, or for some reason I think I’ve mastered some of the course material. Do I have to take the whole program, or can I start in the middle?
Sorry, you can’t start in the middle. Every student that starts a M.Sc. degree can only begin the degree in any given September – and does the same required courses and a certain number of electives/research rotations. You may get an exemption for course equivalents; however, you are still required to take 18 credits of courses.
Ph.D. students can start their program in September, January or May.
Note: the program does not accept students for 6 months internships.
I’ve read the material about the background that you’re looking for, and I have some of the background (in biochemistry/biology, or computing science, or mathematics/statistics) but I’m missing one of those three areas. Should I apply?
That depends. If you’re academic record is very good, and you have most of the background, the program can offer you the opportunity to learn the rest. As well, work experience in an area that you are lacking will always be a beneficial attribute. Each application is considered on a case-by-case basis by the admissions committee, so we cannot tell you if you will be accepted until you send in your full application and it is assessed by the committee.
I’m really interested in bioinformatics, but I don’t think I have the grades, or the educational/working background, to get into your program. What should I do?
First of all – there’s nothing that we could recommend that would be a way to improve your qualifications that would guarantee your entrance to our program. Even if you follow our suggestions, we cannot guarantee that you’ll be admitted to our program. However, we do think it’s a great idea that you want to study bioinformatics. There are two paths for people in your position: (1) improve your qualifications and hope to get access to our program, or (2) study bioinformatics in another program.
How can I improve my qualifications and perhaps gain admission to your program?
There’s nothing that you can do to raise your grade-point average retroactively. But our Admissions Committee looks at your entire application, not just your GPA. If you have, say, a B+ average, you can look for ways to make your background better-rounded. For instance, if you have a lot of life science education, you might consider studying computing science or statistics.
One very good program is the Canadian Bioinformatics Workshops, and you can find out more about them at www.bioinformatics.ca. These workshops are a great introduction to the tools and techniques of bioinformatics – taking one of the CBW courses may give you the exposure to bioinformatics that you would need to decide whether you are truly suited to studying and working in the field.
Where else can I study bioinformatics?
There are a number of excellent undergraduate and post-graduate programs in bioinformatics all over the world, and more are becoming available all the time.
If you want to do an undergraduate degree in bioinformatics or just take some bioinformatics courses, please see: http://www.nslij-genetics.org/bioinfotraining/
Many other undergraduate options exist, and you should research available programs carefully. There are many available opportunities to study life sciences, computing science or statistics at the undergraduate level, take courses in bioinformatics during progress towards an undergraduate degree, and then specialize in bioinformatics at the post-graduate level.
If you have an undergraduate degree and want to get a certificate or diploma in bioinformatics that will get you into the workforce quickly, there is a Canadian program you could investigate. Seneca College in Ontario, Canada offers a one-year diploma program that is designed to teach computer science material to students who are already qualified in the life sciences area. Further information can be found at http://bioinformatics.senecac.on.ca/program.html.
What kind of work can I do after I’m finished studying bioinformatics? What kinds of jobs are out there?
There are a huge number of job opportunities available to graduates with bioinformatics degrees. You will be able to work at the interface between biochemistry, computer science, and mathematics, creating new solutions for high-throughput biology, designing analysis systems for drug design, and many other things. In general, there are two paths: you can teach bioinformatics at a university or college, or you can work at a government institution or in the industrial sector, such as a biotechnology company. Both areas seem to have plenty of available positions right now.
We post jobs on our own website, that may be of interest to our graduates and there are a number of good Internet-based resources that will help you. Entering “bioinformatics, jobs” into your favourite search engine is a good place to start. You can find information about Canadian positions at http://www.bioinformatics.ca/jobs/. Science magazine maintains a listing of positions, primarily academic ones.
Does the program do anything to prepare me for a job?
As part of our program, our students are required to take professional development courses, which offer training to students in the general area of career management – how to choose a job, how to get a job, and other areas of interest such as how to make a scientific presentation, write your CV, etc.
Tell me about the financial arrangements.
Some of our students, who are accepted into the Bioinformatics training program (bioinformatics.bcgsc.ca), receive a minimum stipend of CDN$24,300 per year, plus a yearly $1000 travel allowance, for attending conferences or workshops. Students, who are accepted into the program directly into a faculty member’s lab, will also be paid a stipend to fund their research studies. Students cannot undertake a graduate degree in the Bioinformatics graduate program, unless they have a guaranteed stipend from their potential supervisor.
From the stipend, the student is required to pay tuition and any other university fees. There are no required duties such as becoming a “teaching assistant”. We cannot advise you on matters such as eligibility for Canadian student loans, your income tax situation, etc., but recommend strongly that you investigate your situation before making a decision to apply.
You should definitely check the latest fee structure that’s posted on the Websites of our affiliated universities.
This information may change without warning, so get the best information during your decision-making process. “Additional fees” are often mandatory and include programs such as athletics, health coverage and student union fees. The tuition fee differential between the two Universities will be covered by the CIHR program.