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Career Story: Research Associate Evaluating Family Service Programs

Research Associate Evaluating Family Service Programs

Job Title: Research Associate

Type of Company: I work for a nonprofit dedicated to improving the lives of children and families by linking relevant research to policy and advocacy.

Education: MA in Child Development and Public Policy, Tufts University •• BA in Psychology, Grinnell College

Previous Experience: I have worked as a research/policy associate for a non-profit organization for 4 years and a researcher/project manager at a university for 4 years.

Job Tasks: My main responsibility includes evaluating programs such as preschool programs, in order to see if they have the intended impact on children and families. For example, this past summer I conducted a study on a summer preschool program that was meant to give a "boost" to children who were entering kindergarten the following fall. We gave surveys to parents to see if parents felt that their children's skills improved as a result of participating in the summer preschool. We also did assessments on the children to see if their early literacy (reading) skills got better after they were in the program.

I also provide research support for our advocacy staff (lobbyists) who are working to improve child health care coverage in the state and nationally. When our lobbyists are trying to advocate for a certain bill or section of a bill, I help find research that they can use to make their arguments when talking with policymakers.

I also assist with finding research that can be used in papers or policy briefs written by our organization. I help with proofreading and editing of reports and written documents to ensure that our message is clear, concise, and understandable for various audiences (citizens, policymakers, other researchers).

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The organization I work for is incredibly flexible and understanding about having a good work-life balance. We have a 9-5 schedule, but I often work from home on projects, or come in and leave earlier or later depending on my needs. Everyone at the center is committed to the mission of our organization, and it is nice to work with people who have a similar mindset in terms of what programs and policies for children and families should look like.

Job Tips: Get involved with a summer internship - these often allow you to work on a variety of projects in many content areas (child welfare, juvenile justice, health care, education) so that you can determine which are of interest to you and which you might want to avoid.

Understand that if you enjoy this work, your salary might not be like that of your peers who are going into business, law, computer science, etc., and be sure that you are okay with that fact.

Take writing courses in college - being able to communicate effectively is a key skill in this field.

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