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There are many reasons adults return to school to continue their education, but most commonly cited are either to add to employment skills, pursue a hobby or interest, or plan for a retirement/second career.
Ray McFarland, an information technologist 2 – or as he puts it “the PC network guy” – has earned two associate’s degrees and is studying for his third for all of those reasons.
“For the last four years, I’ve been taking classes at Columbus State Community College using the Union Education Trust,” McFarland said. “I’m working on my third degree. This is a blast!”
McFarland added that the UET is a benefit he has as an OCSEA member and he’s going to use it.
“It’s a great program,” he said. “The union is helping pay for college. I think it’s just amazing.”
A state employee for seven years, McFarland began with a networking degree. He’d been taking certification classes and realized that UET had programs for more, including vocational schools, community colleges and universities. McFarland had studied accounting at The Ohio State University previously and had found the required programming courses to be fun.
The additional skills he learned in the networking class at Columbus State assisted him in his state employment.
“I learned a lot of stuff on how to troubleshoot networking issues,” McFarland said. “Even though it was networking, we did a lot more.”
For example, he took a database class to learn Microsoft Access and noticed that it had a practical application to improve how information is gathered for new employees as well as when employees leave state employment.
“Basically, I said, ‘We can make this better,’” McFarland said, explaining that everything was done on paper. “I came up with the solution of putting it all on the network. I helped build the system for that.”
Once McFarland had completed his core or preliminary classes at Columbus State, it was easier to earn additional associate’s degrees.
“I like doing photography and I was like, ‘Hey, they have a photography degree!’” he said.
From taking photography classes, he decided to study digital media and earn a degree.
“Photography and digital media kind of go together: Here’s how you edit the pictures using software,” McFarland said.
Now McFarland is pursuing a degree in criminal justice, which affords him the opportunity to continue his service in the public sector.
“I was interested in the law and thought ‘Let’s see what this is about,’” he said.
“If I get to retirement, I may just go into the probation officer-type field,” McFarland added. “If you look at the job requirements, you need an associate’s degree,” which McFarland has several times over.