When Mental Health and Business Career Goals Converge

Post-bacc graduate Jensine Sneeden seeks a Psy.D. and M.B.A.

Photo of Post-Baccalaureate Program for Counseling and Psychology Professions graduate Jensine Sneeden

Jensine Sneeden does not let geography hinder her career choices.

In 2012, Jensine earned a B.A. from St. Lawrence University in upstate New York, where she majored in government and minored in economics, and got a job in financial services. After living in New England for two years, she moved across the country to continue her financial services career in San Diego.

Since then, she has worked her way up: starting off as a broker, then transitioning into retirement accounts and, finally, providing financial education to others. As a financial educator, she flies all around the country, training various organizations’ employees about financial health. It was those business interactions that sparked Jensine’s intellectual curiosity and influenced her decision to switch career paths—to psychology and mental health.

Reinvestment in Herself

How did Jensine transition from a growing career in economics and financial services to one in psychology and mental health?

“A few years into my career, I realized that I wanted a change,” she recalls. “I became overwhelmingly interested with the inner workings of the mind.

“Professionally, I observed and experienced firsthand how physical health is inextricably tied to one’s mental health,” she continues. “Work can be stressful, and that stress can cause anxiety from which other health problems can develop. I listened to colleagues—who had been clocking in and out for 20 years—explain how they suffer from severe anxiety and depression, along with high blood pressure and back problems. They were unhappy with their careers, yet riddled with anxiety about how they would support their families if they were fired. I realized that the psychological health of workers is often overlooked. Their situation sparked my desire to further my education so that I could make a difference in the lives of employees like them.”

Combining Business Skills With Personal Interest

Even with her growing interest, Jensine wanted to be sure that pursuing a formal education in psychology was what she really wanted.

“Since I did not take psychology courses during my undergraduate studies, I first explored my fascination with how the mind works by reading psychology books in my spare time—some that applied to me and others just out of curiosity,” she says. “I was also fascinated by corporate culture and found myself wanting to be in a role where I could help improve employees’ lives. After I decided to go back to school, my first course at UC Berkeley Extension was General Psychology, which helped solidify my desire to continue my psychology studies.”

The subsequent psychology courses continued to shine a light on her new career. “Introduction to Developmental Psychology with Dr. Richard Sprott was one of my favorite courses,” Jensine enthuses. “The writing assignments called for a lot of self-exploration, which enabled me to connect to the course material and was integral for me at the time as I was considering the next steps for a career change.

“The two seminars with Dr. Richard Chiovarelli, Counseling and Psychotherapy as a Career Option and Seminar on the Graduate Application Process, also were immensely helpful. It was interesting to hear directly from professionals about the paths that can be taken with different graduate degrees in psychology. And in the application seminar, I had built a strong foundation in the application process months before applying to schools, which prepared me for when the time came.”

And, despite working full time and completing her coursework, Jensine still managed to find time to fit in some important out-of-the-classroom learning experiences, such as volunteering at the UC San Diego Medical Center in the Senior Behavioral Health unit. She also taught yoga classes at San Diego Rescue Mission’s 12-month residential recovery program for women and children, and to at-risk teens through a nonprofit called Live and Breathe Yoga.

“Each subsequent course in the program helped me to more fully understand the field—and my passion—and to refine my career goals.”

Breaking Down Geographic Barriers

Because Jensine was living and working in San Diego, it should come as no surprise that our fully online Post-Baccalaureate Program for Counseling and Psychology Professions was the right fit for her.

“I have a friend in San Francisco who, at the time, was taking prerequisite courses at UC Berkeley Extension in order to apply to programs in occupational therapy,” she explains. “My friend spoke highly of the psychology courses. I ended up choosing UC Berkeley Extension’s post-bacc program over others because it allowed me the flexibility to complete the coursework at my own pace while still working full time.”

With the exception of one one-day seminar, for which she chose to fly to Berkeley, Jensine completed the program online.

“The online format worked well for me as my job entailed a lot of travel,” she adds. “I could spend my time on airplanes, in airports and at hotels studying between meetings. Each course was separated into modules, and I would make it my goal to complete one module each week. I was also able to choose which courses I wanted to take and when. I usually only took one class at a time, but when work was slow, I was able to take on a two-course workload. Each subsequent course in the program helped me to more fully understand the field—and my passion—and to refine my career goals.”

One Clear Choice

Upon completing the Post-Baccalaureate Program for Counseling and Psychology Professions in August 2017, Jensine had the psychology coursework and know-how—but ever the learner, Jensine took her education one step further.

Widener University (Chester, Penn.) offers a unique dual-degree program, “one of only several in the country that train doctoral-level psychologists to enter the workforce straight out of graduate school as health care administrators or organizational consultants,” according to the university’s website.

“Widener’s Psy.D./M.B.A. dual-degree program was my top choice because of my background in the financial services industry and my desire to bring psychology into the workplace,” says Jensine. “I did not see this specific type of program offered anywhere else. I initially considered applying for master’s programs in industrial/organizational psychology; however, I then realized that that degree would not provide me with the necessary training to provide one-on-one therapy.

“The dual-degree will take five years to complete, after which I hope to work with the professional population in a mental health capacity,” Jensine continues. “I am interested in both consulting for organizations to improve company culture and having my own private practice to provide therapy to individuals.”

With her strong drive and clear career plan laid out almost from the beginning, Jensine makes pursuing continuing or graduate education look easy. What advice does she have for others thinking about furthering their education?

“Taking courses is the best first step in considering whether or not to pursue a graduate degree,” she says. “Each course helped me solidify that I wanted to pursue a Psy.D. and change my career path. The post-baccalaureate program as a whole provided me with a strong foundation in psychology so that I could articulate my goals and be a competitive candidate in my applications to graduate programs.”


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