Many jobs available to those with associate degrees

Brittany Webb

Staff Writer

Many students look to do one of two things when they leave Parkland: get a job or transfer to a university. For students looking to transfer, there are general education courses and transfer-based classes that will help them work towards obtaining a bachelor’s degree. For students looking to work directly after college, there are career programs that fast-track students to getting an associate degree or certificate.

“Career programs are designed to get people jobs when they finish, and therefore the classes deal mostly with the major,” John Sheahan said, Parkland Director of Counseling and Advising. “The transfer programs are the opposite of that, the goal is to prepare students to go on to the next step: to finish a Bachelor’s degree.”

An associate degree normally takes two years to complete, but can take longer or shorter depending on the person. What one can do with an associate degree relies on the major a student is studying.

“Anything in healthcare is very marketable now: nursing, surgical technology, veterinary technology,” Sandy Spencer said, Director of the Parkland Career Center. “We get so many job postings for vet techs; we are one of the few programs in the state.”

Respiratory therapists, occupational therapy assistants, X-ray technicians, plus jobs in network administration, computer programming, and tech support are in high demand.

A degree is not always necessary in Information Technology, though encouraged by employers, Spencer explained.

Parkland has an associate degree in accounting, which would prepare someone to be an accounting clerk or bookkeeper.

Parkland offers many certificates in addition to an associate degree.

“Career programs are much more skill related, but are also résumé builders,” Spencer said, noting that an associate in general studies is one of the lesser desired degrees by employers.

“A lot of students get it because they realize they are only 10 credits away from a degree. Obviously it is better that they finish that out and complete something so it shows as complete to an employer.”

The general studies degree is so broad that it is sometimes not as marketable as some of the more in depth degrees, such as computer science or accounting.

The Career Center at Parkland does a few things to help students in the area of employment.

They are willing to talk to students about what they can do with their degree or what major to pick based on what they want to do after graduation. There are career counselors available to students most days of the week.

The Career Center can also help students pick a major by narrowing down their choices based on interest surveys.

“Sometimes we can’t get to exactly what a student wants to do, but we can at least narrow it down to a field they can start in,” Spencer said.

Many transfer students leave Parkland without getting an associate degree simply because they are transferring to get a bachelor’s degree, but Spencer remarked that this was not always a smart idea.

“Students don’t realize that many don’t complete the bachelor’s degree for whatever reason,” Spencer said. “Statistics show that many students who move on to get a bachelor’s degree don’t, it is not as high as we would like to see.”

With an associate degree, students leave Parkland with a credential and enough credits to move on towards a bachelor’s degree if they choose.

“Whether it is a certification or an associate degree, just something besides a bunch of classes,” Spencer said.

Students wanting to know more about careers in their field, or how to narrow down their choices of majors can contact the Career Center at 217-351-2536 or stop by Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in room U238.