SEA Week: Jason Lawrence on Making the Most of Graduate Education in the Evaluation Profession

My name is Jason Lawrence, Grants Manager at the Florida Office of the Attorney General and Student Sector Representative and Board Member for the Southeast Evaluation Association (SEA), a regional affiliate of the American Evaluation Association (AEA). I am also a second-year Masters of Public Administration (MPA) student in the Askew School of Public Administration and Policy, at Florida State University.

A career in evaluation often begins with solid graduate-level education. But the classroom isn’t the only place where you can prepare for the field. You’ll need additional skills to complement your degree before entering the job market. And those competencies can be acquired in three ways: internships or volunteer assignments; joining professional organizations; and presenting research at conferences.

Hot Tip: If you’re not already working as an evaluator or in a related position, then acquiring practical skills is a critical first step. Finding internship programs can help you overcome this deficiency, but acquiring one can be difficult and highly competitive.

Hot Tip: There is a shortcut. Instead of going through the painstaking application and interview process for an internship, you may consider volunteering your time with a local non-profit organization. These organizations spend a great deal of time measuring the results and effectiveness of their services, but may not have the resources to conduct rigorous evaluations.

As a volunteer, you may inquire how you could be part of their evaluation process. This quid-pro-quo gives the organization the human capital it needs to be effective and equips you with practical skills you need to advance your evaluation career.

Rad Resources: Many times such arrangements take shape through budding professional relationships.  As a member of AEA, you have access to a cadre of evaluation professionals who joined the organization for the very purpose of making connections and sharing skills of the trade. Memberships in professional organizations also afford opportunities to present your academic research at conferences. This is an impressive addition to a fledgling professional resume. Both SEA and AEA offer presenting opportunities year-round.

These are just a few of the ways an aspiring evaluator can break into the field. If you haven’t managed to do any of the above, there is still time. Having a year or even a semester left in graduate study means you have plenty of time to develop the skills needed to land your dream job. Enrolling in a graduate program is only a starting point.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Southeast Evaluation Association (SEA) Affiliate Week with our colleagues in the SEA Affiliate. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from SEA Affiliate members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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