Although pursuing an education in Indigenous Studies is not as common as other arts programs – for example English, history, or political science – this degree offers a lot of versatility.
Indigenous Studies is an interdisciplinary degree that teaches graduates many academic skills, including effective communication, critical thinking, problem-solving, cross-cultural understanding, and comparative analysis. You can use certain combinations of these transferable skills to pursue a career that best suits your interests and talents. An Indigenous Studies degree provides a great foundation for many careers – here are some examples!
Indigenous Studies is great for pursuing a higher degree because it involves interdisciplinary research and comparative frameworks. An understanding of colonization and social justice issues can be extremely useful in programs like Cultural Studies, English, Comparative Literature, Film, History, and, of course, Indigenous Studies.
A Master’s degree may open doors to teaching, government jobs, or with non-profit organizations. If you want to continue your focus with Indigenous subject matters, grad school could also create career opportunities in research and planning. With a Master’s degree in Education or Education Policy and a focus in Indigenous education, you could seek work as a researcher or policy analyst at an educational policy centre, a university, or a non-profit organization.
A background in Indigenous history might lead you to consider a legal perspective on Aboriginal rights and title. If you focus on Aboriginal law in your career, you can seek employment as an Aboriginal law consultant, or work for a law firm that focuses on Aboriginal issues. These positions can allow you to pursue areas of interest like treaty rights, land use, or human rights concerns.
Aboriginal Community Liaison Officer
Your Indigenous Studies degree means that you have been introduced to the histories, experiences, and cultures of multiple communities. This knowledge, paired with strong communication and interpersonal skills, is a good starting point for a career as an Aboriginal Community Liaison Officer.
A liaison officer primarily works with Indigenous communities and an industry or between Indigenous and non-Aboriginal communities. Oil and gas, forestry, and mining industries all use Aboriginal Community Liaison officers to make sure relationships between groups remain agreeable. Aboriginal Community Liaison Officers are also found in other sectors, and work on a more one-on-one basis. For Correctional Services Canada, liaison officers work with Aboriginal offenders in their communities to organize cultural activities and support reintegration. Colleges and universities are also employers of Aboriginal liaison workers, whose jobs focus on recruiting and supporting Aboriginal students in their post-secondary studies.
Your knowledge of community needs and histories might help you launch a career as an entrepreneur. There’s a lot of flexibility if you decide to pursue this career: it’s a great way to tailor to your strengths and what you’re most passionate about.
Not sure where to start? The Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business makes connections between Aboriginal entrepreneurs and the business sector. The CCAB is known for providing a variety of services and programs unique to First Nation, Metis, and Inuit small-business owners. Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada also supports Aboriginal entrepreneurs and business owners through its Aboriginal Business and Entrepreneurship Development program.
During your Indigenous Studies degree, you were likely exposed to a lot of cultural knowledge that you can apply to work in different community-based settings. Depending on where you completed your degree, where your community is located, and what was taught at home, you may have gained non-academic teachings that can assist you in working with different Aboriginal communities.
An important thing to consider if you want to work in an Indigenous community after graduation is to be involved in a community or communities while you are still a student. Participation in your school’s Aboriginal Students Association, volunteering with an after-school program at a friendship centre, or becoming a mentor to Indigenous youth are all great ways to support other students and build relationships.
Wherever your Indigenous Studies degree takes you, you will be served well by the knowledge and transferable academic skills you have acquired. The analytical skills you developed during your degree will be useful to you in many types of work, but you can also use them to understand yourself better. Knowing your own strengths and preferences will help you choose career goals that are appropriate to you. Getting an idea of your options is a good start to evaluating your fit with different careers.