Gaining an education is important before entering most career fields, but without any hands-on exposure to the job itself, there can be a disconnect when the education component is complete and it’s time to find your place in the work force. While some occupations are able to provide this hands-on aspect within the education environment, others require a practicum for students to get a solid feel for what their career may be like.
Education assistants have found their practicums invaluable to their future. This is why Ashton College has made a practicum an integrated component of its education assistant courses. Students find the practical, in-person learning ideal for a variety of reasons:
- Theory is essential to learning an occupation, but it does little to help you understand how that theory is applied in real-life scenarios. While a practicum can’t possibly expose you to every potential career situation, it can certainly give you a much better feel for how your education is applied in an on-the-job format. You’ll also gain a feeling for how to apply that learning. For example, students with similar challenges may need similar support, but where one may excel with an “I do this with you” approach, another may prefer to have the tools laid out for them and they figure out how to use them to create the support they need as you provide guidance from the background.
- Practicums are conducted in organizations filled with those in the career you are pursuing. You are going to meet a wide range of people in your EA program and you will meet more people in your practicum. This exposes you to those who will be and already are in the field. Not only can this provide the support you need from others within your field, it can also help you create connections for the various levels of your career. Having a solid network of professionals in your field is essential for ongoing career growth.
- Experience gives you the understanding of your field to help you narrow down your preferences. While you may already know that you want to work children age 6 to 13, you may not know that you tremendously enjoy working with those who have Down Syndrome. Being aware of this alignment to a specific aspect of the education assistant field will give you the opportunity to specialize in both your job choices and career and also in your future education choices. That last point, about future education, takes us to another benefit of a practicum:
- Undertaking a practicum allows you to determine if it’s time to head out into the work force, or if you’d really like to add more education to your portfolio of learning. Or perhaps, integrating both by working while taking more education is the best fit for you.
- Within a practicum, you will be able to apply your learning and make mistakes before you enter the work force. The organizations who take on practicum students are fully aware that, in most cases, they will have someone working with them who has limited to no hands-on experience. They know that there will need to be guidance and training provided as part of the practicum experience. In essence, a practicum is an adjunct to your formal education and one that gives you essential experience that is directly fitting for the jobs you’ll be considering once you graduate from your education assistant program.
- Perhaps one of the most important benefits of a practicum is that they give you regular and direct interaction with students. This ability to relate to students on a personal level can be the fuel that gets an education assistant through a challenging day. You will be able to recall the times when you first met a student with a certain challenge and recall how important it was to get to know them as a person in order to help them grow.
Having a practicum is an important aspect of many education programs and for future education assistants, it’s definitely a component to look for when selecting a school. Take full advantage of what you learn in your practicum. Volunteer for more opportunities and continue to treat it like the education it is – it can only benefit your career.
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