Ever Wonder How Jess Became a Sexologist?
Jess has received countless emails and questions from her followers about how she got into sexology and how she became who she is today. Many aspiring students have asked for some guidance on where to start and what to study.
The Sex with Dr. Jess team has composed a few FAQs below. Happy reading!
1. How/why did you enter the field? What has been your career path?
I was a high school teacher and I saw the gaps in our sexual health education system. Students were coming to me with questions and concerns regarding STIs, unplanned pregnancy and abusive relationships — they had so few places to turn and often received misinformation on some very important subjects. I believe that sex & relationship education is the foundation of our daily interactions, from the way we communicate with our parents, friends, and co-workers to the way we respond in intimate relationships. I went back to school because I wanted to be part of a solution that improves sexual health and relationship education.
Once I graduated, I quickly learned that there are (almost?) no full-time jobs in the field — you have to create your own job and brand, so I started writing, speaking and volunteering. Now I work primarily with corporate groups and continue to volunteer with students and teachers.
2. What were your first few jobs in sexology?
- I volunteered as a counselor and eventually the co-director of my Peer Counselling and Sexual Health Centre at the University of Toronto.
- I wrote for a website (Carnal Nation) at $10/article to get my name out.
- I never had a “job”. I was always freelance.
- I worked with York Region on a sexuality education program for youth with disabilities.
- I started as a high school teacher (full time with TDSB) prior to going back to school to study in the field of sexology.
4. What traits or experience do you think successful professionals in the field possess?
Empathy and the ability to see sexuality and relationships through various lenses — what works for you may not work for everyone. And you can see one thousand cases that look the same and the 1001st may be totally different. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to sex and relationships.
5. What is the exact PhD degree you have? Is it Human Sexuality, Sexology or something more specified?
The degree is in Human Sexuality. But my focus was education — teacher training in sexual health education. But I recommend you follow a more traditional path (Psychology or another recognized field); if I could go back, I’d pick Psychology.
6. What credentials, education, or training are needed to enter this field? / What are yours?
There are many routes of entry. Some people are self-taught, while others follow an academic course. I went to school to study education and human sexuality, but you don’t need to take the academic route. Some very successful sex educators are self-taught.
7. In your opinion, how, if at all, can someone get involved in this field without the help of a University? Is there anything someone should be doing on their own to help grow their resume?
- Planned Parenthood is a great place to start. There are also conferences all over the country that you can attend to meet others in the field. I can facilitate introductions if you’d like.
- Do you have a local sex-positive store (look at Good for Her, Good Vibrations, The Pleasure Chest as examples)
- I can introduce you to others in the field; just let me know who you’d like to meet (or what areas interest you).
8. Do you belong to any professional organizations? What benefits does membership provide you?
OACCPP - I purchase liability insurance through their negotiated group rates with an insurance provider.
American College of Sexologists - no benefits I can think of.
9. What can I do, if I enter this field, to make myself marketable and competitive?
- Study business. I hope your program offers some marketing and/or business courses. If not, you can take webinars on digital marketing for low/no cost online.
- Develop your personal brand by blogging or volunteering to speak at events.
- Collaborate! I always make an effort to support newcomers in the field and I believe that giving back is key to my success. If I can help, let me know!
- There are many opportunities in this field; if you want to be an educator, you need business skills. Again, if you have the opportunity to study in a counseling field, you’ll have more opportunities when you graduate.
Enjoy paving your way to success within the realm of sexuality and remember to always practice safer sex.