Many students are eager to find a job in their chosen field after graduating, and most find one.
But how many find two?
After finishing a Bachelor of Applied Science with a specialty in Kinesiology at the University of Guelph, Alison Young chose to enter the Master of Public Health graduate program at Queen’s University, a 16-month program which she completed in June 2012.
Today, Alison works as a Health Promoter for Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington Public Health and is also the Communications and Liaison Officer, Program Development at Queen’s University.
These roles provide a stimulating variety of work, she says. At Queen’s, she is responsible for program development and improvement, while her position at the Health Unit tasks her with health promotion strategy.
Alison says her graduate education has been a big part of getting her where she is today.
All hands on deck
For Alison, pursuing a graduate degree at Queen’s meant an opportunity to turn her interests into a career.
“I knew I had a passion for health, leadership, management and impacting the lives of others through policy and health,” she says. “I thought public health would be a nice way to bring all of my passions together.”
The Master of Public Health program was a challenging endeavour, as Alison was tasked with acquiring a broad set of skills.
“The combination of the core and elective courses, alongside the practica, provided me with the opportunity to learn new information, apply it and, in some cases, teach it back to an audience,” she says.
Alison stresses that the hard work was part of what made it possible for her to launch her career.
“I learned a lot, applied what I learned in a successful and effective way during my practicum placement and came out on top,” she says.
Exploring a grad degree
The Master of Public Health program at Queen’s offers two practicum opportunities, which are a vital part of teaching students through hands-on experience.
“The first practicum is a series of skills sessions that provides students with a practical skill set that is useful in program coursework, the second practicum and in the workplace,” says Alison.
This element of the program covers report writing, literature and systematic reviews, effective presentation delivery and more. With these skills firmly established, students enter the second practicum component ready to learn on the job.
“The second practicum opportunity provided us with the opportunity to enter into the field of public health and gain practical, real-world experience,” says Alison.
“I was able to apply what I had learned, interact with a variety of people and personalities, develop relationships and networks and contribute to the betterment of the organization with the completion of my project,” Alison says, referring to her youth mental health needs assessment, which focused on a highly-deprived area of the city.
The right skills for the right person
After finishing her coursework in December, Alison was offered a contract position through her field practicum before being invited back to Queen’s to join the MPH program staff, a position which would later lead to her ongoing work with the Public Health Unit.
“Without the program, I would not have had such a successful end to my placement,” says Alison, “and I would have been unable to develop the relationships with the faculty and staff that led to my job offer upon program completion.”
She credits her well-rounded education with helping her develop a diverse range of abilities.
“The program was a huge success and I left it more knowledgeable, equipped with useful and practical skills and experience and ready to enter the field,” she says.
Reflecting on grad school
It’s a common misconception that a graduate degree will make you seem “overqualified” instead of more qualified.
“A graduate degree, particularly a professional degree that provides you with real-world experience, will set you apart from other candidates in the job hunt,” says Alison. “Additionally, a graduate degree will provide you with skills that will come in useful in work and in everyday life.”
Alison says she was careful to make her degree relevant while hunting for work.
“I assessed my knowledge, skill-set and experience and informed my potential employers of how all of my academic exposure could benefit their organization, mandates, goals and objective.”
She says that making the connections for an employer is vital.
“By doing this, you are showing an employer that what you know and what you have done can benefit their organization and move them forward.”
Alison insists that her Queen’s graduate degree is a major asset in her professional success. “The program provided me with the skills and knowledge I needed in order to become a successful public health practitioner,” she says.
“Queen’s played a vital role at the outset of my career.”