Graduate Studies as a Career Bridge

Photo: Mike Peters

Adagio Teas founder Michael Cramer (left) and executive director of PCCASAC, Erica Fischer-Topp.

Is the job you have the career you had imagined? Whether you earned your bachelor’s degree two years ago—or 20—it may be time to use graduate studies to advance your career.

Graduate programs at Montclair State—such as a doctorate, a master’s degree, a certificate, a post-baccalaureate teacher certification program or simply some classes that could fill a knowledge gap—can provide the edge you need. Students can choose from 85 graduate programs in 38 academic departments within our five colleges and schools.

The real challenge for most graduate students is that this additional education has to fit into their existing lifestyles. “Our average graduate student is over 30 years old and 70 percent of those students are taking classes part time. They need a program that can fit into an already busy life,” says recruitment coordinator Frank Salfi.

Looking for a Boost

You loved studying psychology as an undergraduate, but as your career has progressed, you’ve found yourself stalled by not having a comprehensive business background. Montclair State University has the MBA program that can help you move forward.

The School of Business offers its AACSB-accredited MBA degree in two convenient formats specifically designed with busy people in mind (over 80 percent of the school’s MBA students are working full time).

On the main Montclair campus, the “traditional” MBA program features classes that meet once a week, from 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., on Monday through Thursday nights (a small number of courses are offered on Saturday mornings, too). This allows students to pursue either full-time or part-time study.

An accelerated Saturday-only MBA program is also offered, allowing students to complete the degree in just two years, without interrupting their careers. This is a cohort-based program, in which groups of students progress together through the MBA sequence.

“The cohort model for the MBA offers students a hidden bonus,” says assistant dean Karen Dennis, who directs the School of Business graduate programs. “It gives these very busy people a teamwork advantage right from the start, which is especially important in this fast-paced program.”

The Saturday MBA program is offered on the campus of Brookdale Community College in Monmouth County, New Jersey, but all courses are taught by the same Montclair State faculty who teach on the main campus—and 95 percent of the MBA courses are taught by full-time faculty.

Filling in the Gaps

Maybe you already have a job you love, and are proud of your new promotion, but find that you have some knowledge gaps. The executive with an MBA in marketing may be called upon to do financial planning that outstrips his or her knowledge. A post-master’s certificate in accounting can enhance performance in the job he or she already has.

Michael Cramer, founder of online gourmet teashop Adagio Teas, had an MBA and worked in finance, but returned to the classroom to hone his public relations skills. “I had always thought of public relations as an area best outsourced to PR specialists,” he says. “But when I founded this business and was working on a shoestring budget, I knew it would be more cost-effective for me to have the skills myself.” After studying public relations at Montclair State, he put the methodologies and concepts he learned into practice. Was it effective? The Adagio Teas Web site is filled with press clippings of coverage from papers all over the country.

“Our students are go-getters,” says assistant director of graduate admissions Amy Aiello. “They are working professionals; they have family responsibilities, community responsibilities... they are coaches and teachers and parents and they bring all of those outside interests with them to the classroom. And the classroom is better for it.”

Changing Careers

As a child, you wanted to be a teacher, but when you were in college “everyone” said you should study computers. “People come to a point in their lives when they have an awakening and want to pursue something that has meaning for them,” says Kim O’Halloran, associate dean of the College of Education and Human Services. “While many of our students at the graduate level are already teachers seeking advanced degrees, many are changing careers.”

Some studied what they loved—English, history, art—and now want to teach what they know at the middle or high school level. To lessen the time that it takes to earn a teaching certification or master’s degree, there are convenient learning options available, including accelerated course offerings at convenient times. According to Dean O’Halloran, “Saturday morning classes that run for eight weeks mean that during a single semester, a student can earn two classes worth of credits but only have to concentrate on one class at a time.” Hybrid classes—a combination of in-person and online learning—provide another convenient learning option.

Through a generous grant from The Prudential Foundation, individuals with undergraduate degrees in math and science can pursue teaching certification—36 credits over two years—with the tuition fully covered in return for teaching in the Newark Public Schools for three years.

Knowledge and Credibility

Certificate programs, at the graduate, post-master’s or post-baccalaureate levels, can provide the additional knowledge—and credibility—you need to take the next step in your career.

Erica Fischer-Topp graduated from high school in three years and completed her degree in sociology with a concentration in child and family welfare in just three years as well. She had every intention of going to law school to pursue a career in family law, took the LSATs and was accepted to law school. But her experience as an intern in the Morris County Family Court helped her decide that her true passion was working more closely with children.

Fischer-Topp pursued a certificate in child advocacy at Montclair State as a way to increase both her background and her credibility. At the remarkably young age of 22, she was named the executive director of the Passaic County branch of Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children. In her role, she oversees the selection and training of volunteers who speak up on behalf of children who have been removed from their homes. She had the skills—she had volunteered in support of children since her own childhood—but earning a certificate in child advocacy gave her the gravitas she needed to be effective. “I am very pleased with the caliber of the programs and professors,” she says. “Many of the professors I had are now colleagues because they actually work in the field of child advocacy—from prosecutors to the State Office on Child Advocacy.”

Taking the First Step

For some people, the desire to take graduate programs is overshadowed by the fear of going back to the classroom. Graduate Admissions offers a “pre-admit” status where a student may take up to six credits even before officially applying for admission. This opportunity to take graduate classes without a commitment is an easy, stress-free way to test the waters. The six credits earned may be applied to a graduate degree program upon completion of the full application.

While pursuing graduate studies can be an effective career booster, many students further their education for their love of the subject. Graduate programs enroll students of every age in over 85 programs of study.

The Office of Graduate Admissions and Support Services offers advisement to graduate students through every aspect of the process. Some students want to pursue a graduate degree but are undecided about the specific course of study. “Higher education is a dream and our counselors will work with students as the conduit to help them realize that dream,” says director Ben Enoma. “We help them to identify the specific major that will best meet their goals.” The Office of Graduate Admissions and Support Services serves as a resource for students throughout their entire time at Montclair State, offering presentations on how to finance a graduate education, graduate development conferences that cover time management and juggling competing responsibilities, and informal networking and mentoring programs. Enoma articulated a recurring theme of the faculty and administration at Montclair State: “Our goal is to help ourstudents succeed.”