Many students are looking to do one of two things when they leave Parkland: find a job or transfer to college. For students wishing to transfer, there are general education courses and transfer-based courses that will help them earn a bachelor’s degree. For students looking to work straight out of college, there are career programs that fast-track to earning an associate’s degree or certificate.
“Career programs are designed for people to get a job after they’ve finished, and therefore the courses mostly deal with the major,” said John Sheahan, director of counseling and counseling at Parkland. “Transfer programs are the opposite of that, the goal is to prepare students to take the next step: completing a bachelor’s degree.”
An associate degree normally takes two years, but can take longer or shorter depending on the person. What can be done with an associate degree depends on the major a student is studying.
“Anything in health care is now very marketable: nursing, surgical technology, veterinary technology,” said Sandy Spencer, director of the Parkland Career Center. “We get so many vacancies for vet techs; we are one of the few state programs.
Respiratory therapists, occupational therapy assistants, radiology technicians, as well as jobs in network administration, computer programming and technical support are in high demand.
A degree isn’t always necessary in information technology, although encouraged by employers, Spencer explained.
Parkland has an associate’s degree in accounting, which would prepare someone to become an accounting clerk or bookkeeper.
Parkland offers many certificates in addition to an associate degree.
“Career programs are much more skills-based, but are also resume builders,” Spencer said, noting that an associate’s degree in general studies is one of the least desired degrees by employers.
“A lot of students get it because they realize they’re only 10 credits away from a degree. Obviously, it’s better for them to finish this and finish something for it to appear complete to an employer.
The general studies degree is so broad that it is sometimes not as marketable as some of the more advanced degrees, such as computer science or accounting.
Parkland Career Center does a few things to help students with employment.
They are willing to talk to students about what they can do with their degree or which major to choose based on what they want to do after graduation. Guidance counselors are available to students almost every day of the week.
The Career Center can also help students choose a major by narrowing their choices based on surveys of interest.
“Sometimes we can’t figure out exactly what a student wants to do, but we can at least narrow it down to an area they can start in,” Spencer said.
Many transfer students leave Parkland without getting an associate’s degree simply because they’re transferring to get a bachelor’s degree, but Spencer noted that’s not always a good 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 continue their education to obtain a bachelor’s degree do not make it, it is not as high as we would like it to be.”
With an associate’s degree, students leave Parkland with a degree and enough credits to progress to a bachelor’s degree if they wish.
“Whether it’s a certification or an associate’s degree, just something on top of a bunch of courses,” Spencer said.
Students who want to learn more about careers in their field or how to narrow down their major choices can contact the Career Center at 217-351-2536 or stop in Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. room U238.