Monday, March 28, 2011

Career Prospects: consternation over courses

I realised over the course of the weekend that I have more questions that need to be answered before I can go ahead and structure my expectations for the future around doing the Master of Environmental Health (MEH).  Later this morning I plan to call the coordinator of the MEH course at Curtin in search of answers.  But, as always, a big part of making decisions based on the best information that you have is knowing what questions to ask.  Knowing which questions to ask comes from identifying gaps in your knowledge and identifying assumptions you might have made without foundation.

The first thing I might mention to the course coordinator is that the list of course coordinators for the School of Health might be incorrect or outdated.  I wrote to the course coordinator for the MEH course over a week ago and waited patiently for a reply for a week before trying to call her.  Even then I had to leave a message on her answering machine.  I did receive a call later in the day from a different member of staff who informed me that he was the course coordinator, not the woman I had been trying to contact.  Thus was a week of worry wasted.

I will ask him about career prospects.  In assessing and comparing the Post-grad. dip. in Occupational Health and Safety (PDip OHS) and the MEH programs, I thought that the career prospects for the two groups were quite similar and so the MEH won my commitment because I thought the work might be more interesting.  But having had the time to reflect on and process what I had read and from rereading some of the course information this morning, now I am not sure that the two courses will launch me towards a career at the same velocities.  I get the impression that MEH graduates generally start off as Environmental Health Officers while some find employment as "Scientific Officers in government and a wide range of other fields including the food industry and environmental management".  That sounds promising but I haven't seen any real indication anywhere of career prospects and the demand for graduates.  In contrast, the PDip. OHS page includes a section headed Career Opportunities wherein graduates' career prospects are described as excellent and their salaries being above average.  I need to ask the course coordinator about what this means.  For the program area Health, Safety & Environment more broadly, apparently "Employment opportunities are excellent, with the majority of graduates gaining positions before graduating and over 90% employed within six months".  That sounds great and it does sound like I wouldn't have trouble getting a job after I graduate (or before) but I wonder about the prospects for career progression.  In addition to that last reassuring line about graduates and salaries, another page about environmental health careers proclaims that, "the only course in Western Australia recognised by the Australian Institute of Environmental Health, a member of the International Federation of Environmental Health".  Later in the same page you can read that, "Employment opportunities for graduates also exist with health agencies in overseas countries".  That is very reassuring for me, given that I expect to live in Canada with my Canadian partner in the future, and suggests that the Curtin qualification will be well-recognised overseas.  The same page also suggests that people in this area earn between forty and ninety thousand dollars a year.  That is a lot less than the salary suggested for health & safety professionals on the Health & Safety careers page - fifty-five to three-hundred and forty-five thousand dollars per year!  I think I should ask the course coordinator about this too.

Another query I need to direct to the course coordinator concerns my suitability for the courses.  To do the MEH I would need to complete a few bridging units before spending 18 months completing the course.  In contrast to that, to qualify for the PDip. OHS you need, "A bachelor degree in an appropriate field plus at least two years’ work experience" while qualification for the Master of OHS entails, "A Bachelor of Science plus at least two years' relevant post-qualification work experience. Your work experience will be assessed on the basis of your level of seniority and responsibility, job description, work-based referee reports, publications or other written reports and short courses or conference attendance".  I don't think I qualify for the Master of OHS but perhaps I could get into the PDip. OHS.  I need to clarify this with the course-coordinator.  If I was able to enrol in the PDip OHS, would I be paying the more expensive rate for the units, something like $1,700 per unit?  Would I need to complete some bridging units in order to enter into the PDip. OHS?  More questions for the course coordinator.

Another query I would like to settle regards study methods for the bridging units.  Last time I spoke to the course coordinator he suggested that they are available online, i.e., over the Internet.  This would be wonderful as it would allow us to live and work overseas teaching English somewhere for six more months while I study part-time.  At the moment the Curtin website lists these units as being available either internally or externally (by correspondence).  I need to clarify this if I can.

The last question I have concerns how well I might travel with my career, if and when we relocate, overseas.

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