College graduates return to WCC for new career paths

by Suni Jo Roberts

Deputy Editor

Among WCC’s diverse student community, there exist diverse paths to a successful future. For the nearly 15 percent of WCC students who already have a college degree, this path can look like backtracking.

“I think I certainly learned a lot throughout my process of getting my first bachelor’s degree,” said Anna Zaleski, a WCC nursing student who is currently taking classes at WCC after she received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan in biopsychology, cognition and neuroscience. “I do kick myself that I didn’t just decide to go into nursing the first time … maybe I wouldn’t have gotten these opportunities had I originally gone into nursing and maybe I wouldn’t be interested in psychology and psychiatry had I just gone to nursing the first time around.”

Zaleski says she was able to discover her career goals through opportunities she received at her current job, which she received after getting her first bachelor’s degree. She began working at the the University of Michigan four months after graduating from there, on a research project at the University hospital. She built connections and did research to learn more about certain careers.

“I realized that I am super passionate about psychiatry and that I wanted to pursue a career in that field,” said Zaleski. “I did a lot of research and shadowed different people and I talked to a psychiatrist, a nurse and therapist in the field, and asked what they like about their jobs, what they feel about their field.”

Zaleski decided to take prerequisite courses at WCC in order to enroll in an accelerated bachelor of nursing in science degree, or BSN, and then go on to graduate school to become a psychiatric nurse practitioner. This way, she says, she can provide therapy and prescribe medications under supervision, while still focusing on the holistic approach that nursing provides.

Of the 1,811 students this Winter 2018 semester who attend WCC and have a college degree, which include both two- and four-year degrees, a high number of these students choose to pursue health care–related fields. For Zaleski, the stability and high median income of nursing jobs wasn’t a deciding factor, but it is attractive for many.

Health-care occupations are projected to increase 18 percent from 2016 to 2026 and have an annual median wage of $63,420 compared to the annual wage for all occupations, which is $37,040 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What advice does Zaleski have for students just starting their educations?

“I wish I had gotten the advice, at the beginning, to just try different things,” said Zaleski. “You don’t have to have it all figured out at 18. I remember when I was in college, at the beginning, I was like ‘wait, that’s a job?’ You know, when you are growing up and in high school you know ‘you can be a doctor; you can be a lawyer; you can be a teacher,’ and then I remember getting to U of M and I was like ‘wait, what?’ I didn’t know that that was even a job.”

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