When I ask fellow evaluators about their career path, I’ve heard:

  • “I stumbled into it.”
  • “I kind of fell into it.”
  • “I couldn’t stand research anymore.”
  • “I wanted to do something useful.”
  • “I wanted to influence policy decisions.”
  • “I love math.”
  • “I hate math. That’s why I do statistics.”
  • And one more that always surprises me: “I needed something to do after graduate school.”

For me, I accidentally-on-purpose fell into evaluation.

In college I worked in a ton of different research labs – social psychology research, public policy research, psychiatry research, adolescent development research, early childhood research…. Except they weren’t all research. It turns out that my favorites were actually evaluation, or at least siblings to evaluation. We were “researching” whether students were better-off after completing a Head Start program. Or “researching” whether a mental health counseling program for low-income mothers was effective.

After college I applied to an “educational research and evaluation” position. I had no idea what evaluation meant, but the educational research part sounded great. The rest was history.