Industry experience is the gold standard for graduate school programs. One of the most effective teaching methods higher-level institutions can offer is incorporating practical work experience into graduate courses.
Learning at this type of graduate school takes two forms: 1) traditional lectures and tutorials within campus grounds that impart technical knowledge; and 2) practical work experience gained through placements with off-campus companies and organisations.
Internships and fellowships play crucial roles in the professional development of graduate students. In addition to providing valuable career insight and relevant experience, graduate students get a realistic perspective of what it’s like to work within a given field. This signals to future employers that these students are making informed choices when applying for future positions, painting them as more viable candidates in the eyes of recruiters.
Omu Oreva David, Master of Science in Information Technology (MS IT) student at the University of New Hampshire (UNH), knows this well. His academic journey at UNH’s Manchester campus began with personalised orientation from his course adviser. Together, they worked out which courses to take based on his past experience and future goals.
“That one-on-one with the students helped create a better learning environment,” he said.
UNH also connects students with leading companies. As part of the mandatory internship component, UNH’s MS IT students are required to complete a placement with a local technology company during their course of study.
The aim of David’s MS IT is to equip students with the skills needed to identify, analyse and meet the IT needs of all users, whether they’re end-users of information systems, managers of enterprise applications, developers of IT solutions or customers of IT-reliant work systems.
To supplement and put into practice what he learns in class, David credits the UNH Career and Professional Success office (which also organises career fairs and reviews résumés) for exposing him to “real industry experience” through an internship as a Business Analyst at Geneia, a healthcare analytics company based in Pennsylvania.
“My job as a BA is to understand an IT business system, document and design requirements and set test cases,” he said. “Geneia has a long-term project to manage its Configuration Management Database, and they are making me the librarian and BA for that project, so my job would be to manage the configuration and assets of the configuration Items.”
“The company is great, has good and friendly staff…It’s still a growing company with a lot of great plans, and I’d like to be part of the team that takes it to its peak,” he added.
Studies have shown that such experience brings a suite of benefits to students. The obvious advantage is first-hand insight into the type of work, location and size of the company, supervising style, time commitment, work values, etc.—all of which are beyond the realm of the traditional lecture model.
But the benefits of internships go far beyond this.
In a survey of more than 6,000 recent graduates from five public universities, education consultants EAB found that internships are the second most important factor contributing to a high Gainful Employment Score. Students who had a paid internship during college were 14 percent more likely to secure a good job after graduation.
“Schools that integrate their career preparation and advising efforts are better able to inform students about the importance of certain activities, like finding an internship or starting to search for jobs early,” EAB stated in its report.
In its 2017 Internship & Co-op Survey Report, the National Association of Colleges and Employers also found that employers are more likely to hire interns that year compared to others. The vast majority of employers also said that the primary aim of their internship programs was to recruit college graduates for full-time, entry-level positions.
To top it all off, UNH’s Manchester location is another reason for UNH to be ranked 46th by US News & World Report, since it’s the place to be for IT enthusiasts.
A technological hotbed, Manchester is where tech-based companies are springing up and growing intensely, including internet performance companies like Oracle Dyn, healthcare analytics firms like Geneia, IT engineering organisations like Texas Instruments and DEKA, robotics businesses like FIRST. These are just a few of the companies that make Manchester a top-10 tech city in the U.S. and earned its historic millyard the nickname of ‘Millycon Valley’.
“There’s a huge demand to diversify the work and educational bodies here in New Hampshire, especially in Manchester,” David said. “A lot of forums have been organized to this respect. Colleges are putting more efforts every year in bringing in new students from all over the world and the industries here are growing and becoming more diverse.”
“Manchester, and N.H. in general, has a very low unemployment rate,” David added. “It’s very affordable to live in compared to a lot of other cities or states with such great opportunities. It’s also a very safe place for an international student to live.”
*UNH’s new MSc in Cybersecurity Engineering is coming soon – launching in the fall 2019, now accepting applications!!