"I never have the same day twice, and I absolutely love it."
Kristan Elsken felt trapped in a job that was not her true calling, so she enrolled in online graduate programs from the College of Education and Health Professions and changed her life.
"Before, I was stuck in a job that didn't offer the career path I wanted," said Elsken, now a behavior analyst for Community Support Services in Joplin, Missouri. "This is exactly what I wanted to do."
In September 2013, Elsken of Bentonville enrolled in the online Master of Education in Special Education and the Graduate Certificate in Applied Behavior Analysis programs. She knew earning a master's degree would allow her to get the professional certifications she needed to move into her true career choice, she said.
Today she is a licensed, board-certified behavior analyst, and she has never been bored in her new career. She works with infants and toddlers with developmental delays, as well as teenagers and adults with disabilities who are in crisis situations.
"I never have the same day twice, and I absolutely love it," Elsken said.
She graduated in May 2015 with both the master's degree and the certificate. She said many of the courses in the certificate program counted toward her master's degree.
The skills she learned and the knowledge she gained were immediately applicable in her job, she said.
"This program prepares you very well to work in this field," Elsken said. "I think that is really important. There are a lot of online programs to choose from. Some are better than others. I feel like the U of A program prepared me very well."
She also spent time connecting with faculty and her peers through structured discussions, she said.
"That was really nice," she said. "I felt like, especially in the Applied Behavior Analysis program, there was a lot of new, technical language to learn, and by having opportunities to practice using the terminology I was able to become fluent in it."
Having the option of studying online was key to her success, she said.
"I needed to work full-time, and that [program] really gave me the flexibility I needed," she said.
The online program also allowed her to network with other professionals and share ideas, she said.
"There were a lot of assignments that allowed me to interact with other students," Elsken said. "It worked out really well."