Get a Job

Professor encourages students to seek certification

by Murray J. Côté

Long Gone are the days when a college degree was enough to land a job. The entry-level employment market has become increasingly competitive during the last decade. Graduates entering the workforce are expected to develop skills and experiences outside of the classroom. They must have more to offer organizations than their newly conferred degrees. 

As an associate professor and director of the master’s of health administration degree program at Texas A&M University’s Health Science Center, I am responsible for facilitating students’ pursuit of post-graduate fellowships and entry-level employment in the healthcare industry. I am also a senior member of ASQ.

My approach to cultivating students who will be ready to hit the ground running has been three-fold. First, I encourage students to work for one of the university’s local healthcare partners while completing their studies to gain on-the-job experience. Second, at the campus level, I encourage leadership or participant roles in our student-run organizations, including student chapters of the Association for Future Healthcare Leaders, the Institute for Healthcare Improvement and the Medical Group Management Association. Last, an important third component is that students obtain external evaluation and validation on a specific body of knowledge in the form of certifications from professional organizations.

Certify for success

Quality certifications are becoming an essential résumé credential of today’s prospective healthcare employee. I have taught a graduate course on healthcare quality and process improvement for 10 years and began referring students to ASQ’s certification program about five years ago. Initially, maybe a handful of students would heed my recommendation and pursue certification. Within the last three years, however, more and more of my students are taking the plunge. ASQ certification provides:

  • A sense of accomplishment. Translating what they learned into a tangible achievement such as an ASQ certification is invaluable. Almost immediately after my students receive their certification results, my email inbox becomes flooded with (usually) good news and screenshots of their exam results. As an educator and a senior member of ASQ, I am so proud of them.
  • Greater employment prospects. When my students apply for fellowships or jobs, their ASQ certification often garners the most attention on their résumé. While the healthcare industry sees quality and process improvement as necessary, rates of formal recognition of quality skills and knowledge still lag behind other industries.
  • A credential that distinguishes my students from other applicants for a job or fellowship. Students tell me their ASQ certification was one of the deciding factors for a job or fellowship offer.

On average, about 10 of my students earn certifications each year. This past summer, three of my students were certified as quality improvement associates, three received Six Sigma Green Belts, two achieved process analyst certifications and one earned the lean bronze certification. To date, 36 of my students have become certified, and five earned multiple certifications. Equally important, most remain ASQ members after graduation.

Of course, I acknowledge there is another link in the relationship between post-graduate success and certification. Students who are generally ambitious and focused on their careers tend to be more successful. These are the students who recognize that certifications are an important mark of achievement that can help distinguish them.

As an educator, one of my responsibilities is to present as many opportunities as possible to my students so they are prepared to succeed. Certification from ASQ has become a valuable resource for me as an educator and for my students as job seekers.

Murray J. Côté is the director of the master’s of health administration program and an associate professor at the Texas A&M University Health Science Center in College Station. He earned a doctorate in management science from Texas A&M University. Côté is a senior member of ASQ.

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