July Alumni Career Profile
Name: Karen Croteau
Class Year: 1983
Major: Physical Education with a Concentration in Exercise Science/Health Fitness
Current Employer: University of Southern Maine
Describe your career path since graduation.
Since graduation, I have worked in the health fitness field in a variety of settings in New England and the northwest. I attended graduate schools in the south and in Boston.
What is your current position and how long have you been with your employer?
I am an Associate Professor of Sports Medicine at the University of Southern Maine. This is my 7th year.
Describe the main responsibilities of your position.
My responsibilities relate to teaching, performing service activities and conducting research. I teach courses in the health fitness major, both lecture & practical, and I supervise interns. I represent the university as a member of the Maine Governor's Council for Fitness & Sports and the New England chapter of the American College of Sports Medicine. I conduct research (and get to review others' research) on the use of pedometers to increase the physical activity levels of adults in the workplace and older adults. I present that research at regional and national conferences.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
All of my job activities relate to getting people to be more physically active, either directly through my research or indirectly by training future fitness professionals. I get to work towards that goal through a variety of activities each day, the most important being teaching.
What do you find most challenging about your job?
The most challenging aspect to my job is balancing the job responsibilities and not taking on too much. While it's easy to keep focused on my teaching, it can be hard to say no to additional research and service activities.
Describe your typical work week. (How many hours you work, your work environment, etc.)
I teach lecture classes on Monday and Wednesday afternoons and practical classes on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. I keep office hours to meet with students, prepare for classes, go to meetings, correct papers, etc. Tuesday and Thursday afternoons are typically meeting days and Fridays I try to keep for research.
What job search methods did you use to obtain your current position?
I "cold called" physical education and sports medicine departments at schools in Maine, New Hampshire and northern Massachusetts (sent resumes, called by telephone, or visited in person). I checked college web sites for job listings. I read the Chronicle of Higher Education's job listings section. I networked at conferences.
What advice could you give to students interested in your field?
If it's to begin work in the health fitness field, while it's important to find your niche, I also feel it's important to be a generalist as well. Many health fitness students are interested in personal training only - being involved in reception desk work, sales, and group exercise will help you get more clients, earn extra income and prepare you for possible future management positions. If you're interested in training health fitness instructors, whether it's conducting instructor training workshops or teaching at a college, I think it's important to gain some practical experience in the field. You need a master's degree at a minimum, doctoral degree at some, to teach at most colleges and universities.
Last Modified: July 7, 2005