The first step into many careers is through the door of a training facility. And when it comes to gaining the credentials you need to be hired in the shortest possible time, there is no better entry point than a private vocational school.
"The private colleges have grown," notes Western Career College president Jeff Akens, "and I think for several reasons. First is time. Students get their training quickly to get out into the working world. Traditional college preparation takes much longer.
"Therefore, we have to provide an excellent product and give students a reason to pay more." The higher cost of a specialized school (versus a community college, for example) is offset by the promise of getting regular paychecks soon after course completion. Most private schools also provide job placement and financial assistance.
The focus at Western Career College is on healthcare, legal and technical fields. Programs lead to various certifications or an associate of science degree.
The courses, which vary by campus, include criminal justice, healthcare administration, pharmacy technology, veterinary technology, health information technology, vocational nursing, medical assisting and massage therapy.
"There is another reason to choose the private vocational college route," Akens points out. "The faculty is closely connected to the various industries in which they teach, healthcare being number one."
The Western school boasts 17 health-based programs, with nursing and dental hygiene the fastest growing. Medical billing and medical bookkeeping remain strong.
It’s no secret that nursing is the hottest course of study, Akens says. As the baby boomers get older, the shortage will become more severe. To help meet that need, WCC initiated a ‘Bridge Program’ where students can complete the licensed vocational nurse course and then apply to the RN program.
"Getting into any RN curriculum is very difficult," he advises. "It requires good qualifications and above-average grades. But LVNs are in high demand in both home health and long-term care."
Those who want to get into the medical field fast might want to consider becoming a medical assistant or surgical technician. Akens says those positions have good job opportunities with no challenges to career placement. (Job placement is successful for 80 to 90 percent of WCC grads.)
"I would advise anyone thinking of changing jobs or starting fresh out of high school to research the careers that interest them and get started," he states. "I sometimes see students who are so sure they want a certain path that they just wait (for availability of a specific class or program). They can’t see that other alternatives are out there."
WCC has campuses in Sacramento, Citrus Heights, Stockton, Antioch, Emeryville, San Leandro, Pleasant Hill and San Jose. For more information, visit Western’s website at WesternCollege.edu.
Fine-Tune and Fix It
If you’re mechanically inclined, then a technical school like Wyotech has a number of programs to rev your imagination. With California campuses in Fremont, West Sacramento and Long Beach, Wyotech can prepare you to work in the automotive, diesel, motorcycle, aviation, watercraft, HVAC or collision/refinishing industries.
The Fremont campus specializes in automotive and motorcycle technology, advanced auto diagnostics and service management. In West Sacramento, the automotive courses include high-performance powertrains, motorsports and street-rod chassis and custom fabrication, as well as trim, upholstery and repair/refinishing.
In Long Beach, the focus is on electrical, automotive technology, plumbing, and residential heating and cooling.
"Wyotech is for the people who have a passion to dream about what they want out of life. If you like working with your hands, and love cars and motorcycles like I do, this is the place for you," explains Fremont instructor Gary Meyers.
The job opportunities are "incredible" and Meyers says most students are offered jobs before they complete the program. For more information, go online to wyotech.edu or call 888-577-7559.
If you want to tap into a growing field that has been around for over 3000 years, then the American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine in San Francisco could be a wise prescription.
"We find that many people are frustrated with Western healthcare and are looking for an alternative," comments communications director Rebecca Wilkowski. "Open-minded healthcare practitioners, too, are enrolling to add holistic health to their practices. These include physicians, midwives, chiropractors and nurses."
Holistic health, which incorporates the use of herbs, acupuncture, massage and other ‘natural’ techniques, is not your standard Western healthcare routine of visiting a physician for five minutes and walking out with a prescription, she says. Acupuncturists can spend anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes with a patient.
"Nurses who come to the college have seen how effectively holistic medicine works for the patients and want to learn the treatment for themselves," Wilkowski explains. "They admit their jobs are in high demand and stressful, and holistic medicine is an alternative way to treat that stress."
Students are required to have a minimum of 90 semester or 135 quarter units from a regionally accredited college. A 3.0 grade point average is recommended for all undergraduate coursework. Some background in the hard sciences – chemistry and biology – is essential. Students tend to be older (late 20s to 50s), with jobs and other life commitments.
The college offers three different attendance options – full time, three-quarter time and half time. "Those who attend the college full time can complete the training in three years and six months," Wilkowski says. "Tuition for the entire program is $51,612."
Job opportunities depend on each individual student’s ambition and the specialty they develop – cancer management, massage, acupuncture for animals, and much more.
As they go through the program, enterprising students make connections with community health practitioners, so when they graduate they have partnering networks established.
"The college has real-life experience for its students," she adds. "We do no-fee acupuncture at the Haight Ashbury Free Medical Clinic. It’s a gritty community-service sector for those with no insurance. Another site is the Jewish Home for Aging, which deals with end-of-life care and pain management." Students also do side-by-side rotations with physicians in local hospitals, working with spinal-cord injury, motor coordination and rehab patients.
"More and more insurance companies cover Chinese medicine, and an increasing number of Western medical schools are requiring holistic medicine in their curriculum," Wilkowski notes. "More hospitals offer alternative medicine and therefore, more practitioners are needed.
"In fact, this centuries-old medicine is becoming a new thing."
Updated reprint from CJJ Issue 1106, October 21, 2007