Scoping your Career Goals? Let’s Hear from the Director of Career Services at the IU School of Public Health

Dr. Susan Simmons is the Director of Career Services at the IU School of Public Health, overseeing all aspects of career services for the five departments in the School, particularly creating programs, tracking outcomes, and building relationships to facilitate student success.

We interviewed Dr. Simmons on March 3rd, 2017, to get a bird’s eye view of the initiatives in the Career Services, engagements with students and potential employers, building career communities, brainstorming robust career matrices and analyzing recruiting trends. Here are her candid responses to some of our questions:

Question: How is first destination information collected?

Answer: We survey graduates once their degrees are certified. The survey is sent to all levels: Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctoral degree graduates. We ask recent graduates about employment, volunteer service with programs such as the Peace Corps or Americorps, fellowships/post-doctoral work, military service, and continuing education. We want to hear from everyone so we have a clear idea of where graduates are headed after completing a degree in the School of Public Health. In addition to surveying students directly (what we term survey response rate), we also reach out to faculty and advisors who may have heard from graduates about their employment outcomes or graduate school plans. We also find information about first destinations through social media sources, such as LinkedIn. These additional sources of information, combined with survey responses, give us our overall “knowledge rate”. For the most recent data set of students who graduated during the 2015-2016 reporting period, we know the first destinations of 71% of our Bachelor’s graduates, 87% of our Master’s graduates, and 96% of our Doctoral graduates.  We have a successful career outcomes rate of 94% for Bachelor’s graduates, 90% of Master’s graduates, and 96% for Doctoral graduates (students who graduated between July 1, 2015-June 30, 2016).

Question: Why is it important for our office to collect first destination data?

Answer: It is important to collect first destination data for a number of reasons:

First, one of the most common questions we get from prospective and current students is, “What can I do with a degree in this field?” Having the latest data from our graduates helps us to track first destinations and provide an answer to this question. Therefore, it is extremely important that graduates respond to the survey and let us know their next step.

Second, information on first destinations helps us to build relationships with companies and organizations that employ our graduates. This creates a better recruiting pipeline for students.

Third, the first destination data is a critical part of our accreditation process to ensure our academic programs are successfully preparing graduates for the workforce.

Question: How is the data used?

Answer: The data is used to plan our recruiting practices, create new career programming areas, benchmark with other offices on campus, as well as other schools of Public Health. We can also use aggregate data to help advice a student who has questions about their career path and how it relates to what fellow students have done. We are continuing to develop ways to make this data more accessible to students and faculty.

Question: Where might undergraduate, graduate, and Ph.D. student find themselves employed?

Answer: As per a self-reported data from 826 students, and as reported in the 2015-16 annual report of the Office of the Career Services, 68% of the students were employed full-time, 6% were employed part-time, 20% in continuing education,  and lesser than 1% in military services and continuing education. About 4% were seeking employment while 2% were specifically looking for employment in the Continuing Education Sector. Again, less than 1% were not seeking out for any employment. For those graduates for whom employment status is known, most Bachelor’s level graduates begin employment in the for-profit sector (67%), whereas most Masters and Doctoral level graduates begin in the non-profit sector. For the 2015-16 cohort, 47 percent of doctoral graduates for whom employment status is known reported to be working in the not-for-profit sector in universities, healthcare systems and research centers (Ref: Annual Report, Office of the Career Services, 2016-17).

Question: How many undergraduates go on to graduate programs?

Answer: For the 2015-16 cohort, 20% of those graduating with a Bachelor’s degree indicated that they are continuing their education. This can fluctuate from year to year or from one major to the next but is typically between 20-30%.

By Tapati Dutta
Tapati Dutta Tapati