Category Archives: career

Majoring in English: How to Find the Best Fit College

The current educational climate is very focused on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). College majors that teach specific pre-professional skills toward a set career path are also surging in popularity. But where does that leave the liberal arts majors?

In his book, In Defense of a Liberal Education, journalist and author Fareed Zakaria argues that liberal arts majors teach people how to think, write, and communicate, and that these skills will serve them well throughout the course of an ever-changing career landscape in our current digital economy. According to Zakaria, “The future of a country like the U.S. rests on our ability to master how technology interacts with how humans live, work and play. And that depends on skills fostered by the liberal arts, such as creativity, aesthetic sensibility and social, political and psychological insight.”

By engaging and analyzing texts, and developing reading, writing, and speaking skills, majoring in English will enable you to acquire valuable critical thinking skills, and broaden the scope of your knowledge of the world around you through. Through the study of English you will be able to explore a vast array of subjects during college, and prepare for an extensive range of occupations in the years that follow.

Many English programs are seminar-based, which allows students to work closely with their professors and student peers. Yale University has a descriptive list of what students will take away from majoring in English and reasons for committing to this major. Their final reason is “Because you want to!” Most English majors are passionate about their choice of study and see its inherent value in their lifelong love of learning.

Trends

  • Interdisciplinary Studies

In recent years, English studies have become increasingly interdisciplinary as institutions encourage students to pair the major with other fields of their choice. Many universities have created additional tracks within their English programs to accommodate students to combine English with other disciplines.

At Stanford University, the Interdisciplinary Program within the English major is open to students who wish to combine the study of one literary topic, period, genre, theme or problem with an interdisciplinary program of courses relevant to that inquiry. For example, with a dual major in Psychology and English, an undergraduate can examine a psychological issue or problem through a work of creative non-fiction.

At Boston College, English majors have the opportunity to minor in African and African Diaspora studies, American Studies, Irish Studies, Linguistics, or Women’s and Gender Studies.

  • Double Major

The flexibility of the English major course requirements can also lead to the opportunity to pursue a double major in English and another field. The University of Maryland states, “Double majoring in English is uniquely suited to a number of students, because it combines the broad liberal arts training of English with specific and/or technical training.” English majors do not have to pursue a set sequence of courses and many courses carry cross-disciplinary credits within the liberal arts college.

The benefits of a double major (in which one of the majors is in the liberal arts field) are also supported a 2015 report by the Association of American Colleges and Universities, which found that many companies are looking for employees who are trained in “both field-specific knowledge and a broad range of knowledge” and that this contributes to long-term career success.

Some double majors focus on two liberal arts fields, but it is becoming increasingly popular at universities such as Johns Hopkins, to combine English and the sciences. At the University of Notre Dame, about 39% of business majors carry a second major in the College of Arts & Letters or Sciences. Students should keep in mind that completing a double major requires an increase in workload and careful management of your time.

  • Study Abroad

Majoring in English can also enable you to pursue a study abroad program for a year, semester, or summer. Again, the flexibility in English course requirements and the broad array of English courses offered at institutions in England, Scotland, Australia, and Ireland allow English majors the chance to study elsewhere and gain the rich experience of living abroad.

At Cornell University, English majors are strongly encouraged to take advantage of study abroad programs offered through the Cornell Abroad Program and the College of Arts and Sciences Abroad Program. There are restrictions as to how many English credits can be earned abroad, but with careful planning, students can participate in an array of exciting international programs.

According to the UC-Berkeley Study Abroad program, “English majors find that a term, or better, a year in a foreign university not only enhances their critical and writing skills, but that the experience of adapting to another academic and cultural world expands their self-understanding and gives them a keen sense of the political and social differences in today’s world. The personal and intellectual growth of study abroad provides further advantages when it comes to the challenges of graduate and professional study.”

Common Tracks within the Major

Majoring in English gives undergraduates the opportunity to become specialists on various topics through optional tracks. Many programs have core requirements, but after these courses have been completed, the English major is open to pursue passions in literature or writing through elective courses. This format allows for interdisciplinary study across the gamet of liberal arts fields, as well as, journalism, poetry, and creative writing.

For example, Princeton University offers a multitude of tracks including Literature, Language, and Culture, Arts and Media, Theory and Criticism, and Creative Writing. Students are even able to create their own track of interdisciplinary study by special arrangement with the departmental representative.

The University of North Carolina also offers a fascinating BA in comparative literature, within which students are able to pursue an international literature track, or a global cinemas studies track. Brown University offers a renowned Nonfiction Writing Track, which combines the writing of academic essays with journalism and creative nonfiction.

At NYU, “The department offers a full and varied curriculum in literary history, critical theory, dramatic literature, theatre history, and literary culture, as well as a second major track that allows students to specialize in creative writing.”

The English major is not a “one-size-fits-all” path of study. While there are restrictions and requirements, students have choices and are able to pursue varied interests as they advance in their studies. For many students, this ability to pick and choose from a range of interesting studies is very appealing and rewarding. Regardless, of your class choices, the themes of communication, critical thinking, writing skills, and the ability to make a persuasive argument are threaded throughout all courses.

Research and Internship Opportunities

Research as an undergraduate English major is usually focused on independent, individualized studies aided by the one-on-one mentorship of faculty.

Georgetown University, houses the Folger Undergraduate Program, which offers full access to the Library’s collections as part of an intensive research seminar on books and early modern culture. There, students acquire archival research skills, and pursue advanced independent research on early modern topics.

The University of Rochester has Undergraduate Research Awards that support English majors who need assistance in travel or stay outside of Rochester to pursue the following research opportunities: traveling to scholarly conferences or film festivals, conducting research in archives or libraries, participating in writers’ institutes, and attending intensive language programs abroad. Students must apply for the award and money is granted on a competitive basis.

If you do not wish to do research during your undergraduate experience, there are innumerable internship opportunities, in which you could partake instead. English majors have written pieces for esteemed literary magazines, put their skills into practice at publishing houses, and worked for literary agencies. There are also internships in marketing, advertising, law, politics, journalism, and so many more. Many colleges have a career center that can assist students in finding the right internship fit. Stanford University has a listing of internships that are specifically geared toward English majors.

Careers

Careers commonly associated with English often include teacher, writer, and lawyer. Yet, English has allowed individuals to pursue careers in a wide range of fields.

A study conducted at Brown University illustrates the diversity of career paths that arise from being an English major. With their broad-based English backgrounds, Brown alumni were able to pursue a vast array of occupations in fields including, journalism, publishing, entertainment, public relations, law, and medicine. The University of Michigan also has a website detailing impressive career paths taken by their English major alumni.

How to Evaluate English Programs

When comparing English programs, it is helpful to research the following areas:

  • Student/teacher ratio
  • Seminar class size
  • Core requirements and elective courses
  • Opportunities for interdisciplinary study
  • Minors and concentrations, which can enhance your English major
  • Double major opportunities
  • Research and internship opportunities
  • Study abroad programs
  • Faculty profiles
  • Honors program
  • Independent study

 

For more information, contact us at Collegiate Gateway. As always, we’re happy to help!

 

What Work Experience is Needed for an MBA?

Is my current work experience good enough? How can I get the right experience to make me an ideal applicant? How much do I need to have?

Navigating the MBA application process is complex—especially when it comes to work experience. Unlike a GMAT score or GPA, there is no number that really tells us how much (and what kind) of experience an applicant needs to be successful. In this blog, Collegiate Gateway will help clear the fog and shed some light on this enigmatic aspect of the MBA process.

How much work experience should I have?

While the amount of work experience one should have varies from school to school, students at top business schools typically matriculate with at least two to three years of full-time work experience. According to Harvard Business School, the average time between undergraduate and business school is four years, and at least 30 percent of matriculated students worked for two to three years prior to business school. However, students should be aware that quality matters more than quantity – more work experience does not necessarily equate to better chances at admission. According to Mae Jennifer Shores, Director of Admissions at UCLA/Anderson, “The depth and breadth of work experience are more important than the amount of time or number of years spent working.”

What types of work experience should I have? Do internships count?

Students at top business schools usually have work experience that is in the form of full-time, paid positions. Collegiate Gateway has spoken with top admissions offices from Harvard Business School, Columbia Business School, and the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern, and found that full-time paid training programs, such as apprenticeships or job shadowing, have the same value as other types of paid employment.

For applicants who wish to apply to MBA programs immediately after college, internships can be a great way to show dedication towards a career path or to highlight accomplishments. However, Graham Richmond, graduate and former admissions official at University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School notes that “admissions officers do look at [internships] as a part of the applicant’s profile, but given that most applicants also have full-time, paid positions to showcase, they often take a bit of a back seat.”

No matter what their experience, it is important that applicants assess their professional profile and the roles they have taken on. Were you proactive? Did you take on leadership roles? What were your contributions? What was your impact? These are all important questions to ask – a person with less experience, but more responsibilities under their belt may be considered a stronger applicant. Professional experiences are only assets if you are able to emphasize how they are relevant to your career goals.

What field of work makes me the best candidate for an MBA?

MBA applicants come from all different types of background – there is no “correct” profile that one must adopt to be qualified. No specific background is required for the degree – in fact, business schools aim for a well-rounded student body. This often means that those applying from an oversubscribed profession (such as Finance, IT, or Consulting) may have to work even harder to stand out in an applicant pool. In a survey conducted by TopMBA in 2012 on the employment background on candidates, only 16.3% of candidates came from a financial services background and 11.6% from consulting, with the other 72.1% coming from various other fields. 

Most business schools have pre-requisites, so students may be required to take general mathematics, accounting, finance or similar courses before starting their MBA program. Applicants with an undergraduate degree in a business-related field are more likely to have completed pre-requisites for the MBA program and may bypass additional course load. But for those without such a background, these classes will help student learn concepts that will adequately prepare them and ensure that they succeed in the program.

How important is work experience?

MBA admissions are a multi-faceted process, and there is no single factor that will make or break an application. When assessing an applicant, there are many aspects that are considered: GMAT scores, undergraduate GPA, caliber of undergraduate institution, coursework, degrees earned—all these factors play a part. Additionally, candidates are also evaluated based on their leadership, ability to work in teams, emotional intelligence, and other non-quantifiable characteristics. Admissions counselors are looking for a candidate who is well-prepared and ready to master challenging tasks. It is up to you to draw from your experiences and build the credentials that can show that you are ready to take on an MBA program.

Choosing to pursue an MBA is a major career decision, and there are many components of the application process to take into consideration. Collegiate Gateway is always happy to help! Please feel free to contact us.

The Higher Cost of Higher Learning

As tuition costs continue to increase, more and more recent graduates are saddled with large college debt, and many are questioning the value of a college education. Is a college degree still worth it? How can students ensure that they are making a financially sound investment in their future? And what is driving the spiraling increase in college costs?

The Cost of College

The cost of college is far outstripping increases in U.S. wages and inflation. According to CNBC News, “Between 2000 and 2013, the average level of tuition and fees at a four-year public college rose by 87 percent (in 2014 dollars); during that same period, the median income for the middle fifth of American households advanced just 24 percent.”

Over the past 35 years, college tuition at public universities has nearly quadrupled, while tuition at private universities has increased approximately 271% since 1975.

“If you look at the long-term trend, [college tuition] has been rising almost six percent above the rate of inflation,” said Ray Franke, a professor of education at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. “That’s brought immense pressure from the media and general public, asking whether college is still worth it.”

According to CNBC News, costs have risen sharply as schools compete for top faculty, build and maintain state-of-the-art facilities, and attempt to attract prospective students with impressive campus amenities. There is also the increasing cost of college athletic programs and coaching salaries, especially at small Division I programs.

Another key factor in rising costs is the continual expansion of school administration. A professor at California Polytechnic University, Pomona, performed an analysis which found that between 1975 and 2008, the total number of full-time faculty members in the C.S.U. system grew from only 11,614 to 12,019; in contrast, the total number of administrators grew from 3,800 to 12,183. Moreover, the compensation for high-ranking university administrators is trending toward seven-figure salaries. Ironically, teaching salaries have remained relatively flat.

Despite this rapid – and alarming – increase in the operating costs of universities, it is important to note that, according to U.S. News & World Report, almost no one pays the actual sticker price. In 2014-2015, almost 90 percent of incoming freshmen at private universities were given some type of institutional grant or scholarship aid, according to a study from the National Association of College and University Business Officers.

Student Debt

As public subsidies for schools have dropped to their lowest numbers in 10 years, college students are now paying half or more of their education costs, according to Delta Price Project researchers. As a result, the total level of student debt outstanding is at more than $1.2 trillion, there are more than 40 million borrowers, and the average balance is $29,000.

This large debt has resulted in significant life changes for recent college graduates. Men and women struggling with student debt “are postponing marriage, childbearing and home purchases, and…pretty evidently limiting the percentage of young people who start a business or try to do something entrepreneurial,” said Mitch Daniels, president of Purdue University and the former Republican governor of Indiana. “Every citizen and taxpayer should be concerned about it.”

In general, data still continues to show that college graduates have more career options and financial opportunity than those who have only earned a high school diploma. In 2012, full-time employees with bachelor’s degrees earned 60 percent more than workers with only a high school diploma. However, graduates dealing with large student debt may not experience as many benefits.

Additionally, high debt and lower job security has resulted in more and more students choosing to pursue higher-paying careers in the tech industry and financial services. Fewer graduates are seeking professions like social work, education, and health care. Similarly, the debt created by college costs may also cause graduates to be more risk-averse and less entrepreneurial. A study by Researchers at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania State found that more student debt led to the formation of fewer small businesses between 2000 and 2010, with a 14 percent decline for small businesses with one to four employees.

The Value of a College Degree

Despite the consequences of student debt, Americans continue to believe strongly in the importance of higher education. A survey of 1,000 parents conducted by Discover Student Loans found that 95 percent want a college education for their child, but increasingly parents are becoming more price-conscious or unable to pay for college. 25% of the survey’s parents said they could not contribute to their child’s college education.

“Credentialism” is the trend in many professions to screen for higher qualifications for jobs that may not require them. A 2014 study by Burning Glass, a labor analytics firm, revealed that while only 42 percent of current management employees had earned bachelor’s degrees, 68 percent of managerial job postings required a bachelor’s degree. In computer and mathematical positions, 39 percent of workers had bachelor’s degrees, and in contrast, 60 percent of new job listings called for them.

According to Time Money, “It is not that college graduates are earning so much more, but that the incomes and economic opportunities for high-school-only graduates have collapsed.” The bachelor’s degree is becoming a requirement for many middle-skill careers that previously did not necessitate having one.

According to CNN Money, Goldman Sachs reports that many students do not benefit from going to mediocre colleges, ones that rank in the bottom 25% of all universities. These students may be better off going to 2-year schools or doing other kinds of training. Students who attend top-tier universities and major in business, healthcare, and tech see much higher returns on their education in terms of future salaries.

The Impact of Specific Majors

Students are increasingly focused on particular college majors that will lead to employment and have greater earning potential. According to U.S. News, “The prevailing wisdom and research indicate a growing emphasis on – and necessity for – career-ready degrees such as computer science, engineering and finance – often included as part of STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).”

Engineering, finance and accounting majors receive a specific technical education and often have the opportunity to intern at companies that are preparing and considering them for full-time jobs. Many of these candidates get direct offers after their internships.

Nevertheless, Peter Cappelli, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, warns against choosing a vocational major based on the hot jobs of today, because these positions might not exist by a student’s graduation date. Highly tailored majors, such as social media or sports management, are popular but can result in unemployment or settling for low-paying jobs that do not require a bachelor’s degree.

The Value of a Liberal Arts Education

“Graduates studying lower paying majors such as arts, education and psychology face the highest risk of a negative return,” notes Goldman. “For them, college may not increasingly be worth it.”

However, college education is complex and cannot be simply reduced to a cost-benefit analysis. Peter Cappelli, asks families to be more realistic about the role of college degrees and to appreciate the actual merits of a traditional broad-based education, often called a liberal-arts education.

“To be clear, the idea is not that there will be a big financial payoff to a liberal arts degree,” Cappelli writes. “It is that there is no guarantee of a payoff from very practical, work-based degrees either, yet that is all those degrees promise. For liberal arts, the claim is different and seems more accurate, that it will enrich your life and provide lessons that extend beyond any individual job. There are centuries of experience providing support for that notion.”

According to U.S. News, “employers readily identify the creative, communicative and problem-solving acumen traditionally associated with liberal arts majors as the most valuable attributes of new hires.”

Liberal arts majors are not only finding employment in education and the creative industries. Charles River Associates, a litigation consulting firm that serves the financial services and technology industries, mostly recruits liberal arts graduates.

“We are hiring almost exclusively from liberal arts schools,” explains CRA Vice President Monica Noether, because intellectual curiosity is “exactly the kind of thinking [that] good liberal arts programs do to train their students.”

In Conclusion

Choosing an educational path is an extremely complicated – and extremely individual – process. No matter what today’s prevailing trends may be, there is no one-size-fits-all plan that will guarantee high salaries and low debt.

However, there are steps that all students and families should take in order to identify their best-fit options. A college education remains valuable, but it is more important than ever to plan your journey in the most informed and reasonable manner possible. During high school, pursue volunteer and internship opportunities that will allow you to gain exposure to careers that might interest you, and speak to people in your fields of interest to learn how they found success in their chosen career paths. By clarifying your strengths and interests earlier, you may be able to identify scholarship and grant opportunities that will further help you afford your educational goals.

By gaining a greater understanding of your future goals, you can make decisions regarding colleges and academic programs that will allow you to grow and thrive, as well as weigh a college’s features against the price of tuition. In short, you’ll be able to find the best college for the best price.

That said, identifying possible paths should not mean committing to one. Remain open to exploring the variety of academic and career options that you encounter. Once you begin college, there are many resources available to assist you in course and career planning. You should take every advantage of these support tools and networks, as these will only further help you maximize the value of your college experience.

The journey of college admissions is an exciting yet stressful road. Collegiate Gateway is always happy to help, as you embark on this inspiring process of educational possibilities!

 

What an MD/MPH Can Do for Your Career

In our constantly evolving healthcare environment, physicians with interdisciplinary skill sets are becoming increasingly valuable. Those graduating with dual degrees such as an MD/MPH are uniquely poised to tackle some of healthcare’s most pressing challenges, which include disparities in access to care, high costs, and controversial reform.

USC-Keck-Medical-School-Quad

USC’s School of Medicine

How Can an MPH Help You as a Physician?

MD/MPH programs lie at the intersection of patient-based medicine and public health. According to the UNC School of Medicine, the MPH provides a broader social context and a focus on improving quality of care. Those pursuing this degree are often seeking a role beyond patient care, which could include policy-making, disease prevention, health education, or health research.

According to Dr. Judith Green McKenzie MD-MPH, Professor of Emergency Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, the value of the MPH lies in its ability to expand a physician’s perspective:

“The physician is not only able to take care of one patient at a time but can also use the knowledge gained from the data available to implement changes that would affect the patient population as a whole. This is important towards preventive measures. The impact is not just local (one patient) but global (many patients).” 

Potential Career Paths

There is a broad array of career paths associated with the MPH degree that span public policy, private industry, research and community outreach. According to Brown’s PLME program (Program in Liberal Medical Education), these include the following:

  • International work
  • Environmental health, such as regulation of toxic elements in water
  • Behavioral health: diversity across populations; ethnic/racial group behaviors
  • Health promotion and disease intervention
  • Health management
  • Community outreach and serving the underserved
  • Working with the CDC: regulation of health policy and health education
  • Public policy: federal and state government
  • Special population groups, such as aging and gerontology, maternal and child health
  • Private industry, including epidemiology, pharmaceuticals, health education
  • Research
LSH-Poster-Boards-Mosquitoes

London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine Research Poster Board Presentation

Practitioners with a combined training in medicine and public health can treat individual patients while at the same time contributing to public health discourse. Dr. Christina Tan, MD-MPH, Assistant Commissioner for Epidemiology, Environmental and Occupational Health for New Jersey, serves as the top epidemiologist for the state. Last fall, she had the responsibility for assessing the readiness of New Jersey to handle the possibility of Ebola. With regard to her training, she says:

“The MPH program helped solidify and enhance my understanding of epidemiology and public health policy, as it’s important to have an understanding of the historical, legal, and scientific context of public health practice (which is very different from clinical work).”

Differences in MD-MPH Programs

It is essential for prospective students to compare programs in order to find the right one for their specific interests and goals. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), more than 80 medical schools sponsor activities to help students pursue an MPH.  These range in structure from the fully integrated program offered by the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, which houses both the MD and MPH programs within one professional school, to the combined MD-MPH program offered by Yale University School of Medicine and Yale School of Public Health, to Duke University School of Medicine’s partnership with the University of North Carolina’s Gillings School of Global Public Health. These programs differ greatly in their curriculum, concentrations, length and cost

Concentrations

Make sure to check out whether the program includes concentrations that match your interests!  For example, whereas Boston University’s curricular program is flexible, offering concentrations ranging from environmental health to health policy and management, New York University’s MD/MPH degree strongly emphasizes a global health perspective.

NYU-International-Health-Program

Many MD/MPH programs offer standard concentrations such as public health, global health, maternal and child health, and epidemiology.  But if you are interested in less conventional specialty areas, do some research to find appropriate programs. For example, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health offers Law and Public Health, Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health offers Biostatistics and BU offers the interdisciplinary concentration of Health Law, Bioethics and Human Rights. Tufts University’s School of Medicine Public Health Program takes a different approach, offering a generalist MPH degree without any concentrations.

Location

You may want to consider the state in which you ultimately want to practice, so that you can begin to make contacts with nearby related organizations. Or perhaps the location has value for other reasons, such as wanting to stay close to home or in a particular region of the country.  For example, New York has 10 MD-MPH programs, including SUNY Downstate, Einstein, Columbia, Mount Sinai, NYU and University of Rochester. On the other hand, some states such as Alabama, Oklahoma and Wisconsin, have only one MD-MPH program, part of the state system.

Length of Program

Combined MD-MPH programs last either four or five years. The typical model for 5-year programs is to complete the MPH between the 3rd and 4th years of the MD program, as at Boston University, Columbia and Harvard. Several schools offer a 4-year option through a more condensed approach that includes the three summers between academic years. At SUNY Downstate, you can complete coursework over three summers; at the Keck School of Medicine at USC, you use three summers to complete a 150-hour practicum. The University of Miami Miller School of Medicine has a fully integrated program that culminates with a capstone field experience of 300 contact hours. In choosing where to pursue your MD/MPH, therefore, it is important to consider your willingness to interrupt your medical training, as well as your ability to balance the demands of an accelerated program.

Cost

The cost of adding this additional degree may also be an influential factor, yet financial assistance opportunities and discounted tuition are quite common. At Feinberg School of Medicine, the cost of an MPH is simply a surcharge on top of the standard medical school tuition. Other schools, such as Tulane, offer their MD/MPH students both merit-based and research-based scholarships.

When to Attend

The experience of undertaking a Masters in Public Health varies greatly, depending on how you time your work experience. You could undertake a dual MD-MPH, or you could receive your MD degree and subsequently obtain an MPH immediately or after working. Yet another option is to “intercalate” a Master of Science degree in the UK in the midst of your MD program. The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine offers an outstanding one-year MSc program that students can take between their third and fourth years of medical school. Thirteen MSc courses are available, such as Global Mental Health, Nutrition for Global Health and Public Health in Development Countries.

LSH-Library

London School of Hygiene Library

Dr. Tan elaborated in an email about the pros and cons of attending an MPH program before or after work experience: “Because I got my MPH about 10 years after my MD degree (and after working at governmental public health agencies), I wanted to use the MPH as a way to “fill-in-the-blanks” regarding what I was already doing in my work.”

TIMING

PROS

CONS

PRE-WORK
  • Acquire skills for a public health job
  • Build a network of contacts
  • Add an analytical component to your MD curriculum
  • You may not yet know your field of concentration
  • You will need to obtain required fieldwork experience while at university
POST-WORK
  • You will be aware of your knowledge deficits from your actual work experience
  • You will be a stronger candidate due to your real-world experience
  • It may be difficult to return to a classroom environment after work
  • You may find it challenging to forego income at a later stage in life

 

When to Apply

MD/MPH programs can also differ in a number of other ways, including when you would actually apply. At some schools, such as SUNY Downstate and USC, prospective students apply for the dual degree as they are applying for medical school admission. Others, such as NYU, encourage you to apply once you have already matriculated.  Still others, such as UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and UMDNJ-School of Public Health, offer the opportunity to add the MPH degree after extending acceptance letters for the MD degree.  In addition, there is always the option to apply years after receiving your MD degree and practicing medicine.

Is the MD/MPH Right for You?

To successfully navigate our complex healthcare environment, the AAMC cites the natural and essential overlap between medicine and public health. But despite the prevalence of MD/MPH programs, not every medical school offers one, and not every student interested in public health will pursue one. Additionally, today’s aspiring physicians will likely receive some public health education regardless of whether or not they are involved in an MD/MPH program. Many medical schools – often in addition to offering an MD/MPH –  have now integrated public health concepts into their standard curriculum. Recent policy initiatives such as the Affordable Care Act, with its emphasis on preventive care and population health, further underscore the need to effectively integrate these two disciplines.

Depending on your personal interests and professional goals, an MD/MPH might very well be the right path for you. It is not only a decision about whether or not to pursue this dual degree, but also a matter of which institution provides the best fit. Check out the resources offered by the American Medical Student Association (AMSA) MD-MPH resource guide and the Association of Schools of Public Health.

Choosing to pursue an MD/MPH is a complicated process that varies greatly for different individuals. For more guidance, contact Collegiate Gateway – we’re always happy to help.

Why Specialized Accreditation Matters To You: Part I

Just as you are evaluated for admission to colleges, many academic programs at colleges are themselves subject to scrutiny and approval!  There are a variety of national accreditation boards empowered to perform a peer review of specialized academic programs to ensure that the educational experience meets specified quality levels and that graduates are adequately prepared to enter the profession. Typically, periodic evaluation is required, and the process involves self-study, peer review, and site visits.

Accreditation is a serious, comprehensive process, and in no way a pro forma validation of programs, even strong programs at top colleges. Accreditation is one of many features that may factor into your assessment of whether academic programs are a good fit for you.

Graduating with a degree from an accredited program can be very influential for a student’s future prospects in employment or graduate school admissions.   For students, accreditation verifies academic quality, increases employment opportunities, helps with licensure and certification, and establishes eligibility for federal student loans and scholarships.  The programs themselves grow stronger through the process of self-evaluation and peer review, gain from the international recognition and are able to attract stronger students.  Employers benefit from knowing that students have met the educational requirements for the profession, and are familiar with best practices. And the public reaps rewards from the resulting innovations.

The U.S. Department of Education recognizes dozens of programmatic accreditation agencies for programs of higher education.  This blog discusses many of the most sought-after endorsements, and the range of programs that are – and aren’t – accredited.

STEM Disciplines

One of the most well-known and widely respected specialized academic accreditation bodies is ABET, the Accreditation Board for Engineering Teaching, a non-profit agency for the fields of applied science, computing, engineering, and engineering technology.  ABET has endorsed over 3400 programs in these fields at almost 700 universities in the US and internationally, and about 85,000 students graduate from ABET-accredited programs each year.

ABET keeps up with the newest subspecialties.  For example, 65 aerospace engineering programs are ABET-accredited, including MIT, Princeton, Clarkson and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. And when MIT launched a revolutionary new aero-astro program in 2010-2011 to provide a more flexible interdisciplinary approach, it received ABET accreditation.

Computer Science, one of the fastest growing STEM fields, had its own accreditation board until it was merged into ABET in the 1990s.  381 computing programs at 299 institutions have received ABET accreditation, with 92% in the US and the rest international. ABET-accredited computing programs range from private liberal arts such as Tufts, to technical schools such as WPI, to large state schools such as UCLA.

In fact, over the past five years, the curricular area of information technology has had a nearly 300% increase in the number of ABET-accredited programs, making it the fastest growing area.  The next highest growth is in the curricular area of engineering, engineering physics and engineering science, with a 72% increase.

Another STEM area of growth is pharmacy, due to the aging population, and the growth of pharmaceutical and related biotechnology industries. ACPE, Accreditation Council of Pharmacy Education, accredits both BS in Pharmacy and PharmD programs.  This agency made a landmark change in the pharmacy profession when it decided in 1997 that the PharmD (Doctor of Pharmacy) degree would be “the sole professional practice degree for pharmacy in the United States.” And in 2011, the guidelines were changed to reflect increasing emphasis on student learning outcomes and collaborative health care teamwork. 

The Arts

There are four Council of Arts accrediting associations for higher education:

Art and Design

NASAD, the National Association of Schools of Art and Design was founded in 1944, and currently has 323 accredited institutional members.  Competencies are outlined for each specialization in art, such as animation, digital media, glass, painting, photography, sculpture; in design, such as fashion, industrial or interior design; as well as combined art and design, such as the interdisciplinary study of studio, art history and museum studies.  NASAD-accredited programs range from specialized art schools such as Parsons at The New School to specialized schools within research universities, such as the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts at Washington University in St. Louis. None of the Ivy League institutions have NASAD-accredited art programs.

Music

NASM, National Association of Schools of Music, was founded in 1924, and includes about 650 accredited institutional members.  The NASM’s Handbook specifics competencies for specializations, such as professional undergraduate programs in music theory, jazz studies, musical theatre and music therapy; general liberal arts music programs; and specialized fields such as recording technology. The Frost School of Music at the University of Miami is an excellent example of a top-ranked accredited program, with specializations from instruments such as voice and piano, to applications including music business and music engineering.

Dance

NASD, National Association of Schools of Dance, founded in 1981, includes about 80 accredited institutional members, such as Barnard, whose dance program encompasses studio and dance studies courses as well as performances.

 Theater

NAST, National Association of Schools of Theatre, founded in 1965, has about 177 accredited institutional members, including University of Cincinnatti College-Conservatory of Music.

Additional arts-related fields are accredited as well, outside of the Council of Arts, such as architecture, interior design and landscape design.

Architecture

A unique aspect of certain fields, such as architecture, is that licensure is required for applicants to begin their professional practice. And licensure is only granted if the individual has attended an accredited program.  The NAAB, National Architectural Accrediting Board, is the only agency authorized to accredit US professional degree programs in architecture, and has so far accredited 154 programs in 123 institutions, including 58 BArch, 95 MArch and 1 DArch program. In California, the architecture programs at UCLA, Berkeley and USC are accredited, as you would expect… but you might be surprised to learn that Woodbury University, a private college in Burbank with 1600 students, has a School of Architecture that offers NAAB-accredited BArch and MArch degrees.

Business

In the field of business, the recognized international accreditation agency is AACSB, The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, founded in 1919.  Today, 716 business schools in 48 countries have earned AACSB Accreditation, as well as 181 institutions with specialized accreditation for their accounting programs.  30 institutions received initial business accreditation in 2014, with eight in the United States, from Saint Mary’s College of California, one of the oldest schools in the West, to Menlo College, founded in 1927, with the tagline “Silicon Valley’s Business School.” Menlo aptly describes how “all members of the college community (i.e., students, faculty, and staff) contribute to the achievement of AACSB accreditation.”

The AACSB interactive website allows you to search easily for type of program, country and state. For example, there are nine accredited undergraduate programs in entrepreneurship in New York, including Fordham and RPI.  Accredited programs in international business in the UK total 11, including University of Edinburgh and University of Manchester.

Accounting represents a growing area of employment.  AACSB provides an Accounting Accreditation Process similar to the Business Accreditation Process, and requires that an institution have a Business Accreditation in order to receive an Accounting Accreditation.  Criteria for the Accounting Accreditation include ethical behavior, collegiate environment, and a commitment to corporate social responsibility. Only 182 schools have received the AACSB Accounting Accreditation, including Lehigh’s College of Business and Economics, University of Richmond’s Robins School of Business and UVA’s McIntire School of Commerce. While the University of Michigan Ross School of Business boasts that its Graduate Accounting Program is ranked #5 in the US, it is not AACSB- accredited (though the business program is).

A university can have multiple programs accredited. For example, Cornell has four distinct business programs. Three have received AACSB accreditation — BS in Applied Economics and Management (AEM) in the Charles H. Dyson School in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS); MMH (Masters of Management in Hospitality) in the School of Hotel Administration (SHA), and MBA in the Johnson Graduate School of Management – but the Business program in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations (ILR) has not.

Every college and every academic program is unique. In addition to finding schools and programs that fit your preferences and interests, check whether their academic programs in your areas of interest are accredited!  Stay tuned for a future blog about regional accreditation of institutions, and for more information, contact us at www.collegiategateway.com.  As always, we’re happy to help!

Career Corner: A Grand Slam in Accounting

Growing up, Jackie Rottmann knew she wanted to pursue a career in accounting. Jackie’s dad is an accountant, and she felt it was in her blood to be an accountant too. In high school, she took a variety of business classes, including accounting, business law, pre-calculus, and statistics, to gain experience in many areas. Accounting was her favorite.

When Jackie Rottmann began looking at colleges during her junior year in high school, she knew that she wanted to go a school that was about five hours away from her home on Long Island. This would make her far enough away to experience independence in a new place, but close enough to go home for the weekend any time she chose.

Initially, Jackie felt that she really wanted to go to school in Boston, specifically to a business school. She says, “My dad didn’t want me to go to a business-only school. He feared that if I wanted to change and study a non-business major, I would have to change colleges as well.”

Jackie knew someone from her high school who went to Catholic University in Washington, D.C., and she ended up visiting. In looking at colleges, Catholic University seemed like a good fit; the school offered a variety of programs outside of business, and they gave Jackie a partial merit scholarship based on her grades, activities, and Roman Catholic background.

When Jackie began her freshman year at Catholic University in 1997, she entered as an accounting major in the school of Arts and Sciences. Today, Catholic University has a Business School, but at that time the school did not. Jackie took Accounting 101 during her first semester freshman year, and she found the class to be very difficult, even after taking an accounting class in high school.

Jackie was also required to take a core curriculum of arts and sciences classes. “My classes outside of business made me more well-rounded, but it was also hard to motivate myself to put the work in. So I made it my goal to try to find the most interesting classes that I could outside of my major. I took a rock poetry class and a class on death and dying. I also tried to do a minor in computer science in order to get exposure to this area.”

Upon graduating in 2001, Jackie says, “My first intention was to go to a year of grad school at Catholic University and get my accounting masters. Then, I got a job offer to work at the Department of Defense doing auditing, but it wasn’t going to pay much. Plus, I felt pressure to find a job working for a big five accounting firm.” Then, September 11th happened, and she was hesitant about whether to work in New York City. Firms stopped hiring, and the economy wasn’t doing well. It was a time of uncertainty.

Jackie got her first job on Long Island, working in Accounts Receivable for American Pie, a frozen foods manufacturer that supplies Marie Callendar’s Pies and Claim Jumper, a restaurant chain on the West Coast. Jackie worked on collections, settled invoices, and dealt with food stores.

“I worked there for two years, and finally knew I didn’t want to stay on Long Island. I wanted to move into New York City, and experience the city lifestyle.  My friends were all moving there.” Jackie found a job listed on Craigslist for MajorLeagueBaseball.com in New York City, and she applied.

Jackie says, “I was given an interview for a staff accountant position in the ticketing department at MLB.com’s corporate office, which is located on 9th Avenue between 14th and 15th Streets. The office is in an old Nabisco Factory in Chelsea Market. It was a great location and very cool to be sharing the same building with the Food Network and YouTube.” The interview went really well, and Jackie was offered the job.

MLB.com was founded in 2001, and when Jackie started working there in 2004, there were about five people working in her division. She often got experience working on outside projects in sales tax and revenue shares for outside partners. Now, her department has grown to 25 people, and these side projects have become separate jobs and departments.

Jackie says, “Six years ago, I got fed up with New York. My friends were getting married and moving out to Long Island. I had a great group of people that I worked with and we would go out during the week a lot, but weekends were not as fun in the city.”

Additionally, Wachovia (now Wells Fargo) had offered Jackie’s father a job in North Carolina, and Jackie’s family had moved to Charlotte.

Jackie decided to quit her job at MLB.com, and she told them she was going to move to North Carolina. Her boss at MLB.com, however, offered her the opportunity to work remotely as a consultant until she found a job, or until MLB.com found someone to replace her. For every ticket baseball ticket that is sold online, the buyer is charged a convenience fee for the ability to purchase a ticket via the internet. MLB.com collects this convenience fee, and Jackie works on the accounting of these fees.

Though originally conceived of as a temporary arrangement, it worked out so well that Jackie was given the job permanently. She now travels to the corporate office in New York City every 2-3 months and is very happy with this arrangement. Jackie says, “The majority of ticketing involves dealing with the clubs, and all ticketing providers, so it is outside of the office anyway.”

After Jackie moved down to Charlotte, she decided to go back to school and get her MBA. She graduated in 2011 from Northeastern University’s online program with a dual specialization in Finance and Innovation Entrepreneurship. She felt that her work experience really helped her in completing her MBA.

The MBA benefited her greatly at work as well. “Overall it did help me to be better at my job,” she said. “The benefit of an MBA is that it changed the way I was looking at my job and my responsibilities. It helped me to see past the day-to-day and focus on the bigger picture, similar to what management would do.”

Jackie likes the slower pace in North Carolina and feels much more laid back. Ironically, the majority of people she interacts with and knows are Northerners.

“Charlotte is a growing city and the banks have recruited a lot of people from the Northeast.  Many people have relocated here and they don’t have a family network so neighbors reach out to each other more. Housing developments have communal spaces, pools, and golf courses which provide an active social life.”

Working for MLB.com does have its perks. Jackie gets a baseball pass every year that will get her into any ballpark for any major or minor league game. She also receives discounts on merchandise. Jackie and her family are die-hard Mets fans. Growing up, if they weren’t watching a Mets game, they were watching a Jets game.

“It’s an office that encourages you to wear your favorite team’s hat and baseball shirt to work and display a bobble head doll on your desk. We played a yearly softball game at Shea Stadium. It’s a fun place to work, and the people are very passionate about what they do.”

What Is an MD/MPH? And Why Get One?

In our constantly evolving healthcare environment, physicians with interdisciplinary skill sets are becoming increasingly valuable. Those graduating with dual degrees such as an MD/MPH are uniquely situated to tackle some of healthcare’s most pressing challenges, which include disparities in access to care, high costs, and controversial reform.  MD/MPH programs lie at the intersection of medicine and public health, as they combine an individual patient-based approach with a wider population health perspective.

Those who pursue an MD/MPH do so for a multitude of reasons. Many utilize this additional skill set to enhance their standard, day-to-day clinical practice. According to the UNC School of Medicine, the MPH provides a broader social context, an emphasis on preventative medicine, and a focus on improving quality of care. Those pursuing this degree may also be looking for a role beyond patient care, which could include policy-making, disease prevention, health education, or health research.

Differences in Programs

It is essential to consider your professional goals when choosing where and how to complete your dual degree, as one may be a better fit for your particular interests. For example, NYU’s MD/MPH degree strongly emphasizes a global health perspective, whereas BU’s program is more flexible, offering concentrations ranging from environmental health to health policy and management. The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) notes that “over 80 medical schools sponsor activities to help their medical students pursue a master’s degree in public health.” As such, it is essential for prospective students to compare various programs in order to find the right one for their specific interests and goals.

When to Apply

MD/MPH programs can also differ in a number of other ways – including when you would actually apply. At some schools, prospective students apply for the dual degree as they are applying for medical school admission, while others encourage you to apply once you have already matriculated.  Still others, such as UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and UMDNJ-School of Public Healh, offer the opportunity to add the MPH degree after extending acceptance letters for the MD degree.

Length of Program

If truly integrated, the two degrees can be achieved in four years, as is the case at the University of Miami. Yet, the majority of MD/MPH students require a fifth year to obtain this additional degree. Harvard’s combined degree program requires a leave of absence from the medical school between the third and fourth years. Thus in choosing where to pursue your MD/MPH, it is important to consider your willingness to interrupt your medical training, as well as your ability to balance the demands of an accelerated program.

Cost

Now for the all-important question: how much is this going to cost you?  This additional degree will likely come at an extra cost, yet financial assistance opportunities and discounted tuition are quite common. At Feinberg School of Medicine, the cost of an MPH is simply a surcharge on top of the standard medical school tuition. Other schools, such as Tulane offer their MD/MPH students both merit-based and research-based scholarships.

Is the MD/MPH Right for You?

To successfully navigate our complex healthcare environment, the AAMC cites the natural and essential overlap between medicine and public health. But despite the prevalence of MD/MPH programs, not every medical school offers one, and not every student interested in public health will pursue one. Today’s aspiring physicians will likely receive some public health education regardless of whether they are involved in an MD/MPH program or not. Many medical schools­­—often in addition to offering an MD/MPH­­—have now integrated public health concepts into their standard curriculum. Recent policy initiatives such as the Affordable Care Act, with its emphasis on preventive care and population health, further underscore the need to effectively integrate these two disciplines.

Depending on your personal interests and professional goals, an MD/MPH might very well be the right path for you. It is not only a decision about whether or not to pursue this dual degree, but also a matter of which program is the best fit.

And if you have any questions or are in need of guidance, contact Collegiate Gateway—we’re always happy to help!

Career Corner: From Races to Road Runners, Turning a Passion for Running into a Job

 When Nick Synan started running on the track team in 7th grade, he remembers, “I never really wanted to run, but I did it because my friends did it.”

At the time, Nick says, he was much more interested in playing football. In the spring of 7th grade, his choices for participating in athletics at school were either wrestling or track, and he knew he did not want to wrestle. So he chose to run, and during the first meet, he won the mile race.

Shortly after that, Nick remembers that the head coach for the high school team, Bob Brown, came to one of his practices. Bob Brown told Nick that he would be a fantastic runner and he should consider running cross-country as well. Nick was impressed by this gesture, but he decided to still play football, rather than run on the cross-country team.

Finally, when Nick was a freshman in high school, his older sister, Katy, convinced him that he should try out for cross-country team instead. He remembers that when he started running that late summer with the cross-country team, “I was excited by the social side of it all. It was nice to meet new people and talk with them while we were running.”

He first enjoyed the competitive aspect of running during his freshman year at time trials, which are used to seed runners for the varsity race the following week. Nick remembers he did so well that he placed fifth on the varsity team. In that moment, Nick discovered that he was a talented runner; it was the first time in his life that he felt really good at something.

“Growing up I didn’t necessarily excel at academics, especially standardized testing,” Nick said. “This was the first time that I saw the benefit of the hard work that I was doing.”

Nick says that he really bonded with his coach, Bob Brown, who became a kind of second father-figure to him. He remembers wanting to do well so that his coach would be proud. When Coach Brown passed away from pancreatic cancer during Nick’s junior year of high school,  Nick was deeply affected.

“Bob Brown was really a role model to me. When he passed away, that was a very hard time for me. But it did bring my team closer together and strengthened my passion for running. I wanted to do well for Bob.”

Running also helped Nick to foster leadership qualities. Every summer, he helped coach junior high students, wanting to inspire other people to enjoy running. “I loved helping kids to realize what they can actually do when they put the work in, to recognize they had talent, and to experience the joy of running.”

When Nick Synan was researching colleges in 2009, he recalls, “I really didn’t have an idea of what I wanted to study. I focused on Jesuit colleges that offered classroom sizes of 25 students or fewer, an enclosed campus, an urban vs. rural location close to family, and the opportunity to run.. I had a list of six schools; four were in the Midwest and two were on the East Coast. In the end, I knew that at Fordham I would get out of Iowa, where I grew up, but still be close to my extended family in New York.” Fordham also gave Nick a partial scholarship to run for cross-country and track.

Unfortunately, he got off to a rocky start at Fordham. During his first semester, Nick felt extremely homesick and missed his family and friends. Two weeks before Christmas, he put in a transfer application to St. Louis University, because it was closer to home, and he knew some friends from high school who were going there.

Nick’s parents, however, convinced him to stick it out at Fordham through the spring semester. Over Christmas break, Nick was telling his friends from Iowa about Fordham and their positive feedback helped him to realize all of the opportunities that he had at Fordham and in New York City. He was able to go to concerts, visit museums, attend sporting events, and roam the unique neighborhoods of New York City. Nick returned to Fordham with open eyes and was much happier in his friendships during his second semester. “I felt brave enough to get out of my comfort zone and lucky to meet all these new people.”

At Fordham, Nick didn’t want to lock himself into studying business immediately, so he chose to study in the liberal arts program his freshman year. Sophomore year, he declared his major as Psychology and minored in Business Administration. He realized that he enjoyed his business classes more than his psychology classes, so he flip-flopped the two: majoring in Business Administration with a focus in Marketing and minoring in Psychology. He found that his studies in psychology often connected to what he was learning in marketing.

Running track and cross-country took up a considerable amount of Nick’s time in college. Practice was from 8:00am to 10:30am seven days a week, and three days a week there were afternoon practices from 5:30pm to 6:30pm.

Nick says he doesn’t regret having this schedule in college at all. “It was hard at times, especially on weekends, when everyone was going out. It taught me to be disciplined and prioritize my time. I had to set aside nights to stay in and study. I was actually better at doing things in a timely manner in college than I was in high school.”

Senior year, Nick was captain of the men’s track and cross-country teams at Fordham. He found this leadership role both challenging and rewarding. “In college, there are so many great athletes competing, and it’s hard to give orders to a group of guys in their 20s, especially when you’re friends with them.”

He found his role varied from being a disciplinarian to being a mentor. He remembers one of his favorite parts of being a captain included hosting pasta dinners before meets and cooking for all of his teammates. “As a team, we were inseparable. We took a lot of classes together. We ate our meals together. We were very close, and we still keep in good touch.

As graduation was nearing, Nick began asking his professors for contacts and submitting resumes and applications for positions in sales, hospitality, and marketing. Direct Energy, the first company to respond to him, was a commercial sales company that offered a flat-rate for energy to local businesses. The position offered Nick no salary, and his pay would be entirely based on sales commission.

Nick was told he would be going door-to-door to different businesses in Sunnyside, Queens. After five days of training and five days of shadowing a co-worker, Nick was on his own making cold calls. He made no money the first two days. “I made one deal and decided to quit after a week and a half of only making 80 bucks. I blew that paycheck on one grocery trip.”

The fall after graduation, Nick was feeling the pressure to find a job. “I was moving into the city with my sister, and I knew I needed to find a job as soon as possible. I became more focused on the hospitality industry. I walked into every hotel from the Upper East Side to Midtown, but most of them didn’t get back to me for a long time.”

Finally, Nick e-mailed one of his Fordham marketing professors, and she encouraged him to use LinkedIn to make the most of his alumni connections. Through LinkedIn, Nick found he had a Fordham connection to a person that worked at New York Road Runners, a non-profit organization best known for organizing the NYC marathon. The alumni connection forwarded Nick’s resume onto an HR representative, who then contacted Nick. After speaking to the HR representative at NYRR, Nick felt strongly that this was the company – and the career –  for him.

He liked that it was a non-profit organization, encouraged kids to run, and incorporated a partnerships and business aspect that he enjoyed. When an internship opened up in NYRR’s business development and strategic partnerships division, Nick took the job, working there for four months before being offered a part-time position as a Coordinator in the Business Development and Partnerships Division. He worked part-time for two and a half months, and then was finally offered a full-time position as a Coordinator.

His work includes partnering with Snyder’s of Hanover, Phillips Healthcare (makers of defibrillators and AED machines), and the NY Apple Association to provide equipment and food for races. The New York City Marathon is the biggest race that they work on, but they also continually plan a variety of other races:  races to help raise money for different causes, races for children to participate in, and general weekly races.

Nick says that the Brooklyn half-marathon has been his favorite race to plan so far. This is the second largest half-marathon in the country, taking place every May. “Working at the finish line, the energy was incredible. I liked seeing how appreciative the runners were of the work that we do.  It’s amazing that a person who has just started running gets to participate in the same race as an Olympic athlete. These events bring all these people of different ages and levels of skill together, and somehow it makes each race that we do completely different.”

New York Road Runners also helps to fund physical education in many of the public schools in NYC. The organization sets up programs to encourage kids to run in events, and representatives from Road Runners go into the schools to help teach Physical Education. Mighty Milers, a running program for kids of all fitness levels from pre-kindergarten through eighth grade, is another program that NYRR helps to organize to get kids exercising. Road Runners also has a large outreach program for senior citizens.

Nick really appreciates the friendly and charismatic colleagues that he works with at New York Road Runners. “There are people who are big runners, and others who don’t run at all. They are all a part of the team, helping runners to accomplish their goals.” Right now, Nick is training for the Chicago marathon in October. He enjoys running with people from the office after work and friends from Fordham. “I like running now even more than when I was in college. Sometimes it’s hard to find the time, but I also no longer have the pressure to perform at a certain level. I do it purely for enjoyment.”

Career Corner: From School to Scooters, The Path to a Career in Industrial Design


When Katie Powers was considering colleges in 2002, she knew that she loved art, but she also felt strongly that she didn’t want to go to a small arts school.

Rather, she wanted a liberal arts education, aiming to major in English and minor in art. She fell in love with the University of Notre Dame, and she was accepted. During her freshman year, she found that her AP courses from high school gave her the opportunity to opt out of several freshman year requirements. This gave her the flexibility to immediately start taking art courses. She began by taking courses in graphic design.

In her second semester, Katie took a drafting course, her first industrial design class. The last few projects were open-ended, and without thinking she suddenly found herself with a sketchbook filled with rubber ducks and Transformers. She says, “Looking back, I realize now that those were the first toys I ever designed. Once I started drawing things in 3-D versus 2-D, I enjoyed it so much that I decided to change my major from Graphic Design to Industrial Design.”

Notre Dame’s Industrial Design program trained Katie in all fields, from designing Third World water pumps to staplers to personal flotation devices. But whenever she was given the opportunity to create an open-ended project, she always chose to design products for children.

Senior year, Katie volunteered to take a corporate-sponsored class in order to participate in a project with Radio Flyer, a toy company specializing in ride-on vehicles and most famously known for the “little red wagon.” She thought this would be a great networking opportunity, and she valued the chance to work alongside engineering and marketing students to design and present a new tricycle concept to a professional client.

This class helped Katie to secure an interview with Radio Flyer, and she was offered a paid internship in Chicago, beginning the fall after her graduation. “Radio Flyer had many connections to the University of Notre Dame. Many of my colleagues had gone through the same program at Notre Dame, knew the course load and professors that I had known. This made for an easier transition from college to the design industry.”

Katie interned for three months, before accepting a position as a full-time Industrial Designer. She worked at Radio Flyer for four and a half years designing wagons, scooters, and spring horses. She participated in consumer research, product design, prototyping, and structural packaging design. Katie also re-branded the girls’ line to make it more consistent with the heritage of the Radio Flyer brand. Since the department was relatively small when she started, designers were encouraged to take on many different roles, and it was not unusual for Katie to jump from a sewing machine where she was prototyping wagon seat covers, to a computer where she was using SolidWorks to build scooter decks, to the model shop where she could be sculpting a quarter-scale spring horse model out of clay.

“I enjoyed the culture and felt they really supported my growth as a designer. Wearing so many hats sometimes made growing as a designer difficult, because I had to juggle so many different tasks. However, having first-hand experience with every step of the development process is an invaluable tool that still shapes the way I design today.”

Eventually, Katie decided she wanted to move back to the East Coast to be closer to family and seek new opportunities in design. But finding a job proved harder than she had anticipated. She found that companies on the East Coast recruited heavily from well-known East Coast design schools, such as FIT, RISD, Pratt, Parson, and the School of Visual Arts. Not many companies were familiar with the University of Notre Dame’s art program, and her alumni contacts were not what they had been in Chicago.

While Katie was seeking a position in New York, she continued to design for Radio Flyer as a freelancer. She was particularly interested in the company, Skip Hop, known for designing functional and trendy baby and toddler products, and she pursued them for several months before she was finally contacted back. She was given the opportunity to freelance, and she did so for nine months.

Finally, Katie got her big break through a Linked-In connection.  She secured an interview with Fisher-Price Friends, a small satellite office of the Fisher-Price corporation that handles most of the licensed business for the brand. After freelancing for a year, Katie was eager to return to the collaborative environment of an in-house design team.

At Fisher Price, Katie did not get the first position that she interviewed for, but she did get the second one; she was hired as a Senior Designer for the Thomas and Friends team, and she helped launch and develop the Wooden Railway line. After two years of designing wood and motorized train systems, Katie transitioned to the Octonauts’ license where she continues to design vehicles and play sets based on the popular television show and illustrated book series. At Fisher Price, which is twice the size of her previous companies, Katie gained new experience in working with external licensors and dealing with a more aggressive schedule and project load.

While the process of finding an industrial design job on the East Coast may have proved more difficult than initially expected, Katie does not regret her decision not to attend an East Coast arts school. In looking back at her college experience, Katie says, “I wouldn’t change anything about my education. My professors were so focused on helping me to find success. I also like that I was able to take other classes outside of art, like Anthropology and Chinese Philosophy, and I had the opportunity to study abroad in Ireland my junior year.”

This broad education gives Katie the confidence that she could work for any company, designing kitchen goods or motorcycles. Notre Dame purposely did not structure their design classes around instruction of specific software programs like Photoshop or Illustrator, because their philosophy is that the theory of design is most important.

“You need to know what’s a good design and what isn’t and how to communicate your ideas so that they make it from conception to production.” Katie said.

“The biggest struggle in my career,” says Katie, “is continually opening up a blank sketchbook and striving to draw something that no one has thought of before. Half of the battle is often having enough patience with myself to know that the ideas will come, just not always as fast as I’d like. I love being an industrial designer because every day presents a different challenge with a new set of rules and the possibilities for design are limitless.”

Also, her desk is fully stocked with Nerf guns, miniature trains, and glow-in-the-dark slime containers, and her coworkers crash remote controlled flying drones into the light fixtures on a daily basis. It’s never boring.

Applying to B-School: Do You Have the Right Work Experience?

MBA applicants are evaluated according to a variety of factors, many of which are common to nearly all admissions processes – grades, test scores, personal statements. Unique to the process, however, is the significant role of work experience. But what particular kind of work experience are B-Schools looking for? And how much? Do my internships count? What about my time at graduate school? Or the year I spent in the Peace Corps? Why do I have so many questions?

Take a deep breath. Collegiate Gateway is here to help you make sense of it all.

What is the desired length of work experience MBA programs like to see in candidates?

Though seemingly a basic question, there really is no straightforward answer – how much work experience you’ll need will depend a great deal on who you are, and how your experiences contribute to the total picture of you as an applicant. For the purpose of the MBA application, you’ll want to evaluate your work experience qualitatively, rather than quantitatively. The question is not so much “ how many years have you worked?” but “what have you accomplished?” and “how has your work experience helped you define your future career path?” There is no universal “right time” to apply. In the words of Wharton’s admissions office:

“[W]e evaluate work experience not in terms of years, but the depth and breadth of an individual’s position, his or her contributions to the work environment, and level of responsibility and progression.”

That said, students at top business schools typically matriculate with at least one or two years of professional experience in the form of full-time, paid positions, though different programs will have different norms and standards. While there are some schools that have hard-and-fast requirements, like Fordham, which requires at least two years of work experience, most impose little or no formal requirements. The Class of 2015 at Stanford Business School ranged from 0-12 years of work experience, with an average of four years. The average student admitted to Wharton has worked for five or six years, but the program does accept exceptional early career candidates with limited or no experience (provided they exhibit strong managerial and professional potential).

Harvard’s MBA program, on the other hand, encourages college seniors to apply, but with the expectation that they will be offered deferred admission, conditional upon acquiring full-time work experience. In fact, Harvard has recently developed a special “2+2 Program” for a group of 100-125 students who are graduating college or graduate school without having had full-time work experience. The program especially targets students who have majored in areas such as science, technology, engineering and math, holding about half of the 2+2 spots for such students, with the remainder open to a broad range of undergraduate majors.

In an interview with US News, Graham Richmond, a graduate and former admissions official at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, and co-founder of MBA admissions consulting firm Clear Admit, encourages students to think less about the number of years they’ve worked, and more about the quality of their “professional profiles” as a whole:

“In all cases, candidates should ask themselves several key questions: Have I made a significant impact on my company, clients, or co-workers? Have I been recognized in some way for my efforts on the job? Have I learned all that I can in my current role? Are other areas of my candidacy (academic profile, community service, etc.) strong enough such that I may be relatively less reliant on my work experience in the admissions process?”

What qualifies as work experience? Are there specific kinds of experience that MBA programs prefer?

In almost all cases, work experience is fairly broadly defined. Harvard states that work experience consists simply of “opportunities in which students have been able to develop their professional and leadership skills.”

The truth is, top business schools seek a well-rounded student body, and regularly accept students from a wide variety of both traditional and non-traditional backgrounds, from Peace Corps workers, to venture capitalists, to brand managers.

Rather than focus on specific categories of work experiences, programs are more interested in applicants’ roles, responsibilities and achievements. According to Richmond, “…work experience—whether full time, part time, interning, etc—doesn’t have to be paid work experience in order to be valuable in the admissions process per se. It’s more about what you have accomplished, how you have led, who you have collaborated with and how you have grown.” And leadership can certainly be demonstrated by a variety of extracurricular and community service activities in areas you are truly passionate about.

Generally, however, full-time work is valued more highly than internships. But exceptions may be made for younger applicants with zero to one year of full-time work experience. For these students, summer internships can be helpful, and reflect a student’s accomplishments and dedication to a certain career path.  It’s also important to note that graduate school is universally not regarded as a substitute for professional work experience.

For more guidance or information regarding MBA admissions, contact Collegiate Gateway. As always, we’re happy to help.