Have a specific goal? Look at alternatives
Think of any occupation and there’s probably a school for it in Virginia.
If you need retraining or additional training or are changing careers and require training, consider the possibilities offered by career colleges in Virginia, suggested Mark Singer, executive director of the Virginia Career College Association (www.va-cca.org).
Singer said for someone exploring educational opportunities, career colleges are worth investigating because “oftentimes the training we provide is the most up-to-date, the most convenient to participate in [including online opportunities and flexible hours] and generally yields the highest completion and placement rates among career-oriented students compared to other post-secondary training opportunities.”
Most career college students are nontraditional students, Singer said, explaining that a traditional student is one who finishes high school and immediately enrolls in a four-year bachelor’s degree program. “Many of our students are older, they have either completed or attended some portion of college years ago and they’ve decided they need to return to a post-secondary institution for career-specific training.”
Singer said a career college is a for-profit, post-secondary institution that provides career-oriented educational programs.
That means, forget the football fields and concert halls, Singer said. Career colleges “are just about classrooms and training.”
“Our mission is clear,” Singer said. “We need to be sure we provide students with sound, relevant, timely training that translates into a job opportunity related to that training”
To succeed is to survive
Singer said because career colleges receive no state financial aid, they can only succeed if they are successful in both training and placing graduates in work-related opportunities.
To be a member of the Virginia Career College Association, an institution must be accredited by an accrediting agency recognized by the federal Department of Education, according to Singer, who said most of the accredited schools in Virginia are members.
Two career colleges on the Virginia Career College Association Web site (www.va-cca.org) are Bryant & Stratton College with two locations in Virginia (Richmond and Virginia Beach) and National College, with seven locations in Virginia (Bluefield, Charlottesville, Danville, Harrisonburg, Lynchburg, Martinsville and Salem).
Bryant & Stratton
Bryant & Stratton (www.bryantstratton.edu) is known as an “outcome-based school,” said David Mayle, the Richmond campus director of admissions. He said the school’s main focus is “getting students employed in their field of study” He said that last year the school placed 90 percent of its graduates (associate degree or higher) and the average starting salary was nearly $29,000 a year.
“We have required internships which is part of the reason we are very successful [in placing students upon graduation],” Mayle said. Students are able to get hands-on experience in their field along with their classroom training, he added.
Bryant & Stratton also differs from traditional colleges in that its faculty “not only has the degree requirements required for regional accreditation but we also require they have recent industry experience,” Mayle said. This means faculty members “are teaching from the perspective of what the employer wants our graduates to know,” she added.
Target adult students
Bryant & Stratton caters to the adult student with onsite child care and classes offered days, evenings and online, Mayle said. He added that the school also offers scholarships and grants geared toward the nontraditional student.
Among Bryant & Stratton’s offerings are business, medical, legal and human resources programs and a bachelor’s degree program, according to Mayle.
Bryant & Stratton College “is very unique in the sense that we are a career college but we also have the added advantage of being a regionally accredited school,” Mayle said. He explained that this means a student’s credits will probably transfer to another regionally accredited college. University of Richmond, Virginia Commonwealth University and J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College are examples of regionally accredited institutions, he said.
“Get in, get out, get a job.” That’s the motto of National College (www.ncbt.edu), said Josie Perrone, Career Center director for the Charlottesville campus.
Perrone said each campus’ programs vary and that, for example, the Roanoke campus is the only one offering an MBA program. Charlottesville’s programs (which result in a diploma or associate’s degree) include accounting, business management, computer applications, health care, tourism and hospitality.
We focus on one- and two-year programs,” she added.
National College is unique as it offers minimal electives because the majority of the classes are program specific and there is a major emphasis on career placement, Perrone said. “We have at least a 70 percent placement rate in a directly related field within three months of graduation,” she added.
Most of the instructors “are people in the field” and a lot of them work full time, according to Perrone.
The majority of the students are people looking to make a career change, Perrone said. National College caters to these students with small classes, afternoon and evening classes and year-round classes, she said.
Bryant & Stratton College and National College are also on the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) Web site (www.schev.edu).
The SCHEV Web site offers three lists that may be helpful to those looking for education options.
To access the lists, call up the SCHEV Web site, then move your cursor to “SCHEV” on the right-hand side of the thin bar at the top of the page. Next, slide your cursor to the “College & University List” on the pull-down menu. Four lists will appear: “Public College & University List,” “Private College & University List,” “Private Vocational Institution List” and “Closed Institutions Formerly Operating in Virginia.”
On the lists, there are places to click to access each school’s Web site, programs offered and accreditation information.
Bryant & Stratton College and National College appear on the “Private College & University List”
Medical, nursing schools
Looking for medical or nursing schools in Virginia?
For a list of medical schools, visit the Medical Society of Virginia Web site (www.msv.org). Click on “Links” in the gray bar toward the top of the screen. Then choose the last option, “Virginia Medical Schools,” in the gray bar on the left-hand side of the screen.
For a list of nursing schools, visit www.allnursingschools.com. Go to “Find a School” on the left-hand side of the screen. Under “School Location,” select “Virginia” and then click on “Find a School”
Don’t know what you want to do?
The career information and planning Web site KnowHowVirginia.org may be helpful.
Called “The place to discover your career,” the site is an initiative of the Virginia Career Education Foundation. According to its Web site, the foundation “works to bridge the gap between the large number of career and technical positions available throughout Virginia and the comparatively small number of qualified applicants to fill these positions.”