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Two students walking down a hallway, with the words identify your grad goals over the image.

Succeed at each stage of your academic career

Know your key goals, actions, and milestones as you work through your degree program.

  • Stage one: Be prepared

    It’s important to learn about your new department in advance. Take the time to connect.

  • Stage two: Make a plan

    You are more likely to have a successful graduate student experience with a clear plan in place.

  • Stage three: Assess your progress

    Check in on your progress midway through your studies to be sure you're on track to complete the program. 

  • Stage four: Plan for the future

    In the final stages of your graduate degree program, remain focused on your ultimate goal: completing your degree.

Stage one: Be prepared

It’s important to learn about your new department in advance. Take the time to connect with your future advisor, submit applications for all eligible funding opportunities, and register for orientation activities to make connections with other students.  

Know your academic unit’s website and graduate support staff contacts including your graduate program chair. Make intentional choices for your courses and work experiences.

Contact your advisor or unit graduate chair

Contact your advisor, if you have one assigned at admission, or graduate chair before you start your classes. They can put you in contact with other faculty members, administrative assistants, and fellow incoming students.  

Your advisor and graduate chair answer questions relating to coursework selection, teaching or research assistantships and unit-level funding opportunities.

Apply for awards and keep track of deadlines  

There are many awards available for eligible graduate students listed on the Faculty of Graduate Studies Awards Database. Be aware of the application deadlines, ensure you have submitted all of the official requested materials to complete your application(s), and, perhaps most importantly, give your referees ample time to write strong, positive letters in support of all your funding applications.

Students should also be familiar with funding opportunities within their academic unit and faculty, including student research and teaching assistantships where available.

Register for graduate student events

Every year we invite students to attend our graduate student orientation.  It includes a welcome session, campus tours, resource fair, and workshops. Your home unit will likely have similar orientation events.

Stage two: Make a plan

A successful graduate student experience is dependent on having a clear plan in place.

The Faculty of Graduate Studies Academic Guide outlines all of the institutional requirements that you must meet to complete a UM master’s or PhD program. Each academic unit has an additional set of supplemental regulations that list their program-specific requirements.

Identify requirements for your program

Program requirements for master's and PhD students will vary depending on the faculty and department; however there are key components for all programs that you need to know to graduate.

Master's program requirements

Know how many credit hours of required coursework are needed for your program, including any specific courses that must be taken, and make sure you register for them when they are offered.

If you are in a comprehensive stream, find out if the comprehensive exams have set times to write and know what the criteria are for writing them.

If your program includes a practicum or internship, work with your advisor or unit to arrange your placement.

Generally, thesis-stream master's programs and those with major research papers have some form of public presentation or defence. Work with your advisor and committee members to schedule this in time to meet your expected graduation date.

PhD (Doctoral) program requirements
  • Completion of a set number of required credit hours of coursework
  • Passing a candidacy exam
  • The development, writing, and defence of a research proposal
  • Completing independent, original research, and writing a dissertation
  • Having your dissertation formally evaluated by the internal advisory committee and an external expert examiner
  • Defending the dissertation at a final oral examination

Completing your master's program in the recommended two years or PhD in the recommended four years allows you to maximize your scholarship and funding eligibility, and helps you move forward in your academic and professional life in a timely manner.

Establish a positive working relationship with your advisor or graduate chair

  • Meet regularly with your advisor or graduate chair and so keep them updated on your progress  
  • Complete the Advisor Student Guidelines (ASG) document within the first year of study  
  • Discuss data collection and publications, frequency of scheduled meetings, time to completion, and other topics with your advisor

Understand and practice academic integrity  

The University is committed to upholding the highest academic integrity standards possible, and it is incumbent on all members of the university community to know what constitutes a breach of academic integrity and to abide by the rules outlined while engaged in coursework, teaching, and research.

Within the first term of your graduate studies, you must register for and complete the GRAD 7500 - Academic Integrity Tutorial. This tutorial must be successfully passed with a score of 100%.

Failure to complete the GRAD 7500 in the first term will result in a hold on your student account, which prevents registration, and an assignment of an F grade.

All graduate students must form an advisory committee

All graduate students should form their committee by the end of the first year in their program.

Your committee must include three members: your advisor, an internal member who must hold a primary appointment in your academic unit, and a member external to the academic Unit. Both committee members must also be members of the Faculty of Graduate Studies.

If you plan to invite someone from outside the University of Manitoba to serve on your committee, your advisor should investigate as soon as possible the process required to have them appointed as a member of FGS.

The Faculty of Graduate studies must approve your committee. For MA students, this is recorded on the "Master's Thesis/Practicum Title and Appointment of Examiners" form while for PhD students this is recorded on your "Program of Study" form.  

The Faculty of Graduate Studies must approve any changes in your advisor and/or advisor committee membership.

Update advisor, committee regularly

Choose your committee members carefully. Consider them in terms of the additional expertise they will lend to your proposed research project.

Keep your advisor, and your advisory committee, updated about your performance in coursework, your thoughts on a potential research project, or drafting your research proposal.

At least once each year, meet with your advisor and entire research committee to report on your progress and solicit feedback.

Complete a Faculty of Graduate Studies progress report with your committee, review it, and sign it. This form then becomes part of your student file.

Propose a realistic project you can complete

Work with your advisor and committee to come up with something that is realistic; a project that is original but sufficiently realistic in scope that it can be completed successfully and in a timely manner.

Demonstrate your ability to develop, propose and complete a piece of original research in a timely manner.

Acquire ethics approval

If your planned research involves human or animal subjects, you must acquire ethics approval from the Office of Research Ethics and Compliance before any data collection begins.

The Human Ethics Coordinator can advise students on what they need to write for a formal ethics protocol, which is submitted for review and approval by one of five research ethics boards on the two University of Manitoba campuses - Fort Garry and Bannatyne.

All students must complete the online tutorial: TCPS 2 Course on Research Ethics (CORE).

Students must also successfully complete the GRAD 7300 tutorial on research ethics.

It is absolutely necessary to obtain all ethics approvals and to maintain those approvals for the duration of any data collection involving human or animal subjects.

Any data collected without the required approvals can’t be used in any circumstance for research. Therefore, know your research project and find out if you require ethics approval before you start.

Stage three: Assess your progress

It’s a good idea to reflect on your graduate program at the mid-point. Two-year master’s students should take stock at the end of the first year, and PhD students should do so at the end of the second year. For students in a one-year pre-master’s program, plan you self-assessment for the end of your first term of study.

Reflecting on your progress as a master’s student

By the end of the second year of a master’s program, you should have met the following goals:

  • Completed all or most required coursework (for thesis-stream master's)
  • Established an advisory committee
  • Completed a progress report
  • Gained approval of your master's research proposal
  • Established a realistic research timeline
  • Begun master's research project
  • Identified requirements for final oral examination and/or comprehensive exam
  • Explored opportunities to present your research ideas and findings

Reflecting on your progress as a PhD student

By the end of the second year of a PhD program, you should have met the following goals:

  • Completed Program of Study form
  • Established committee
  • Completed all required coursework
  • Met language requirement (where required)
  • Passed Candidacy examination
  • Gained approval of research proposal
  • Obtained Ethics approval (where required)
  • Begun thesis research

All graduate students should consider if you can:

  • Join a professional association in your area of research as a graduate student member.
  • Submit your research for presentation at a professional meeting.
  • Participate in events like annual meetings or conferences.
  • Enter your research and compete for prizes, fellowships and bursaries.
  • Access benefits including newsletters, published journals and reduced registration fees for conference attendance.  

Travel opportunities for graduate students

Apply for student travel funding support to attend professional meetings and conferences.

Ask if your academic unit and faculty may also provide student travel funds. The UM Graduate Students Association also offers conference grants to facilitate graduate student attendance at professional meetings and conferences to present their research.

These institutional funding sources combined make it entirely possible for graduate students to gain experience traveling to national and international conferences where they can meet other professionals in their field and share with them their graduate research.

Consider revising your presentation paper for submission to a peer-reviewed journal

Many peer-reviewed publications start out as conference presentations.

Having made the effort to write a presentation paper for a conference, you should consider revising your work for submission to a peer-reviewed venue for publication. In some instances, conference or session organizers may invite you to revise your paper to be included in a special journal issue or edited volume.

Gaining experience in the peer-reviewed publication process while still a graduate student is advantageous since you can draw on the expertise of your advisor and mentors to help you learn how to prepare the manuscript for submission, suggest prospective reviewers, respond to reviewers' comments, and revise the manuscript for final submission.

Don’t feel discouraged if your first publication attempt is unsuccessful. Every academic has experienced this at some point. It is important to reflect on the expert comments you received and to use them next time.


Stage four: Plan for the future

When you enter the final stages of your graduate degree program, remain focused on your ultimate goal: completing your degree so you can move on to the next stage of your life. Stay on track to complete your program.

Check in with your committee or graduate chair to maintain momentum  

  • They can offer advice about analyzing data, interpreting your results or findings, and writing your thesis or major research paper.
  • They can help you deal with unexpected contingencies  
  • Submit chapter and paper drafts for review and feedback to reduce the sense of anxiety students sometimes feel when they get to the writing stage.  
  • Set realistic writing sub-goals that you know you can meet. It builds a sense of accomplishment.
  • Register for GradSteps workshops to learn strategies in effective data analysis and management and academic writing.

Revisit your research timelines and make sure you’re on schedule

  • If you are behind schedule, work with your advisor, advisory committee, or unit graduate chair to revise your timeline and you get back on track.
  • Being self-disciplined is key.
  • Having support from fellow students, friends, or family is important so that you don't feel overwhelmed

Consult FGS deadline for thesis submission and defence

The most important date in your research timeline -- the one that anchors everything you do -- is convocation. When do you plan to graduate? Consult Submit your thesis or practicum, which lists recommended deadlines for every step in the process.

If you miss these dates, you will be delayed until the next convocation.

Post-graduate: investigate opportunities and apply for them

  • If you plan to continue in academia post-graduation, you should begin investigating doctoral funding opportunities.
  • Look into prospective institutions and advisors you'd like to continue your research with.
  • The organizations have different application submission dates so it is a good idea to consult these agencies' websites to review the application criteria and deadlines prior to finishing your master’s program.
  • Don't be surprised. You will be working on your next research proposal before your current program of study is complete.
  • You should also investigate other funding opportunities that might support your doctoral research.

Post-doctoral: investigate opportunities and apply for them

  • If you plan to continue in academia post-graduation, you should begin investigating post-doctoral funding opportunities.
  • Look into prospective institutions and advisors you'd like to continue your research with.
  • The organizations have different application submission dates so it is a good idea to consult these agencies' websites to review the application criteria and deadlines prior to finishing your doctoral program.  
  • Don't be surprised. You will be working on your next research proposal before your current program of study is complete.
  • You should also investigate other post-doctoral funding opportunities since there are many others beyond Tri-Council where you can apply.   

Plan out goals to find the career you want

  • Having a strategy to conduct a comprehensive search of available opportunities is a must if you are to find the job you've trained for in your graduate studies.
  • There are many search engines and websites that can help you identify who is hiring in your field and when. Whether you aim to work in academia, government, the private sector or for a non-profit agency, knowing where to search can make all the difference.

Consider the following resources:

  • Academic and professional agencies with job banks and/or networks
  • Government agencies, whether municipal, provincial, federal or territorial
  • Internet job and career sites
  • Online professional networking sites
  • Job fairs
  • Newspaper and periodical career advertisements
  • University human resource sites

If you find a job posting for which you are qualified, then apply! To be in the best position possible to do this, it is advisable to have the following already prepared:

  • An updated curriculum vitae (CV)
  • Research, teaching, and service portfolios
  • A succinct cover letter
  • Standing letters of recommendation from your advisor and/or committee members
  • Samples of your publications and/or research presentations

You may not find the ideal position you want when you first graduate

The job market can be tough. Don’t be discouraged. It is a good idea to consider a wide range of prospective careers.

Alternative academic careers are increasingly common, so you can broaden your expectations and search.

Additional resources

Starting your graduate student career is an exciting time but can also be overwhelming, especially if you're new to the University of Manitoba community or to Winnipeg. There are many resources you can reach out to for help:

Still not sure what to do?
There are resources available to students before they graduate that can help including GradSteps workshops, the Research Occupations online Library, and the UM student Career Services, available through the Student Affairs office.