Defining Your Career Path Through the Health Sciences Program

Robin Harvan, Director of Health Sciences programs, explains how the health sciences program can be customized with a student's professional aspirations in mind.

Robin Harvan, Director of Health Sciences programs at Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences (MCPHS), knows just how broad the field of healthcare can be and that students may not be sure which career path to take.

"Not everybody comes out of high school knowing what they want to do with the rest of their lives," said Professor Harvan. "The Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences is for somebody who’s interested in the health sector but not sure exactly what profession to pursue. In your first year, you’ll be working with me, as well as the other advisers, to help you figure that out."

The program allows students to work directly with Professor Harvan and other faculty and career advisers along the way to create a truly customized experience, designed to empower students to attain their professional goals.

With three different tracks offered, the BSHS program gives students the versatility to choose between clinical, management, or education career paths. We sat down with Professor Harvan to learn more about why the Health Sciences program at MCPHS is a great option for those considering a career in healthcare.

What’s the typical career path in Health Sciences?
There’s no such thing as typical! That’s what’s so great about it. For instance, in the healthcare management field, you get a sprinkling of all the possibilities. If someone decides to go the route of human resources, there’s a course on human resources. If someone decides to go for accounting, there’s a course in finance and accounting. If someone decides to do marketing, there’s a course in marketing.

What makes Health Sciences at MCPHS different?
In the Longwood area of Boston, the opportunities you have when it comes to your practicum and career are incredible. I’m also at Harvard, so students can have experiences with me there. And I have you do a service learning activity, where you go out into the community to volunteer to expand your perspective and local experience.

Tell us more about the hands-on experiences in the program.
You’ll have a full practicum semester where you work professionally for a minimum of five hours a week. You’ll also be required to interview various people at different times during the program and job shadow others in the field. Through the Center for Professional Career Development (CPCD), we connect you with alumni as well for networking opportunities.

Why do parents love Health Sciences?
The basic question parents ask is, “What can my child do with a Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences?” Because of the customization and strength of advisement, basically anything. Your child will have one-on-one time with me, with a career adviser, and with an academic adviser. It’s a team approach with a lot of hand-holding. We work hard to help everyone find their way and make sure their chosen path is what they really want to do.

How does MCPHS help students define their career goals?
In the fall of sophomore year, students take the Health Sciences Seminar, which is where we really concentrate on healthcare management, health education, or a postgraduate study pathway. Which one do you want? We’ll do informational interviewing to help you figure it out. If you are interested in nursing, dental hygiene, or anything else, you do informational interviewing with a professional along with a job shadowing experience to really get a feel for the career.

Many of our students are interested in graduate school. How does the generalist track help prepare students for advanced study?
We can design the BSHS to include all the prerequisites you’ll need for graduate school as part of your curriculum. For instance, if you want to go on to graduate school in physical therapy, all 18 of your concentration courses in the BSHS curriculum will be the prerequisite courses you’ll need in order to apply to that program.

What about students who are interested in a future in management?
The concentration in healthcare management prepares you for a healthcare administration career. It’s your path to becoming a healthcare manager. We’ll look at the market to see where the best opportunities are and match that with your strengths and interests to zero in on your specific career path.

Is there an option for those interested in healthcare education?
The concentration in health education prepares you for a career teaching the next generation of healthcare professionals. It’s your path to becoming a health educator. We’ll look at the market to see where the best opportunities are and match that with your strengths and interests to zero in on your specific career path.

What’s the benefit of pairing Health Sciences with clinical career goals?
If you are interested in nursing, for instance, you can still do nursing. But think about this: You could do the Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences – Healthcare Management and then go on to nursing postgrad, and then you’d be a nurse manager. You could do the Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences – Health Education, become a certified health educator, and then go on to nursing postgrad. Then you’d be a certified nurse health educator. It takes a little bit longer to follow this path, but at the same time, think of all you’re doing to build your résumé and make yourself more competitive in the market.

Tell us about the junior and senior years in the Health Sciences program.
In your junior year, you’ll do a practicum in healthcare management or health education, and in your senior year the capstone course gets you ready for the job. For those in the generalist pathway, the practicum can be a laboratory or public health internship or an intensive job shadowing experience with health professionals in nursing, physical therapy, occupational therapy, or another healthcare career focus, and in your senior year the capstone course for generalists helps prepare you to apply to postgraduate health sciences programs.

How does Health Sciences help students build their résumés?
In Health Sciences, we focus on building your résumé and networking. I have representatives from the Center for Professional Career Development (CPCD) come to all my classes, and you are required to meet with a career adviser in your freshman year. The CPCD or the Writing Center can help you write your cover letter when you’re trying to go from one program to another. Or when you get to the capstone course, we can help you polish your résumé and application, and if you’re going on to graduate school, polish that letter. We do mock interviews as well as practical cumulative-type projects that are attractive to employers. By the time you walk across the stage at graduation, we want you to have a job.