Brittany Platt (second from left) with fellow Master of Rehabilitation Technology and PhD students
The decision to attend graduate school while working full-time is not as easy as it sounds. Many of us complete our undergraduate degree as full-time students, which I did in psychology at the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg. Upon completion of an undergraduate degree, some continue directly to graduate school while others, such as myself, enter the workforce. First, I worked in childcare and then I took a full-time position as a rehabilitation aide at UPMC Mercy’s Uptown out-patient clinic. In this role, I work under the supervision of the physical therapists and occupational therapists in the clinical care of patients, which includes helping with their therapy exercises. My job also includes clerical duties.
My rehabilitation aide position is enjoyable, but I wanted more for my career. Like many people, I could not stop working and pay for graduate school, so I took a gap year to work and explore graduate programs. I chose the Pitt School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences (SHRS) Master of Rehabilitation Technology (MRT) hybrid program for several reasons. The objectives and outcomes of the program are consistent with my career goals. I am interested in rehabilitation, but I did not want to be an occupational therapist or a physical therapist. Graduates of the MRT still help patients--we help our clients overcome obstacles associated with their disability using assistive technology and gain greater independence. This includes analyzing their needs and assisting them in the choice of technology and then training them to use it.
Personally, I would like to work with children and their families. The MRT program is helping me achieve this goal and to maintain my full-time job. The schedule is flexible with courses that are offered in a synchronous online format, and there is also a part-time, two-year track. Before I applied to the MRT program I met with Associate Professor Mark Schmeler who showed me some of the assistive technology that I could be learning about and helping clients to use. Associate Professor and Program Director Mary Goldberg helped me to understand the different ways that I could earn certification as an Assistive Technology Professional (ATP). Research Scientist Richard Schein is the MRT clinical coordinator and is assisting me in selecting sites for my internship.
The key to my success in balancing a full-time job and being a part-time student is the flexibility offered by my employer and supervisor at UPMC. My coworkers are very supportive and encouraging of me going back to school. They are willing to adapt my schedule so that I can leave in the middle of the day to attend classes. A nice thing about the program is that mid-day classes are not a common occurrence. So far, I have been able to take all but one class in the evening, so they have not interfered much with my work schedule. If I need to miss work, I can make up the time on non-class days. This keeps me working as a full-time employee, which is important, as part of the UPMC benefit package includes tuition assistance, which helps to offset my out-of-pocket expenses.
The ability to take classes part-time and work full-time has also helped me to maintain a healthy work-life balance. I am still able to effectively manage my work, learn new patient care techniques and also see how my MRT degree will allow me to help others improve their independence. The amount of out of class work has been very manageable as well. I strongly encourage folks to explore this outstanding University of Pittsburgh program if they are interested in opportunities to help others.
Written by Brittany Platt
Current Student in the Master of Rehabilitation Technology program
Published February 15, 2023
Updated February 23, 2023