It can be difficult to predict which is the most successful career path to take, but according to several degree-seeking students at Kenai Peninsula College in Soldotna, how you define success can help with the decision.
For them, having a high quality of satisfaction at a job that pays fair is more important than a bleak job that pays a six-figure salary.
"It's not all about having a big house and a nice car," said Aileen Angeles, a 34-year-old single mom with four kids who said she has been attending KPC off and on since 1997.
"This is my fourth attempt due to life circumstances," she said. "Other years I pursued accounting or business administration, but when I applied them in real life, it wasn't my forte."
Angeles said she decided to look at what component of these other degrees choices was the most interesting to her.
"It is my love of math and solving algebraic equations that seems to be the best fit for me, so I'm currently pursuing becoming a mathematician," she said.
Angeles said she hopes to one day use her degree to teach math to others, such as high school or college-aged students.
"It's just my passion," she said. "I can teach my children and other children. It's not all about making money. I want to help others."
Shevie Johnson, into her second semester at KPC after graduating from Barrow High School in 2009, said she is also looking to find fulfilling work, and hopefully something that pays well.
"My goal is to go for both," she said, "but in the end, I want to do something I love."
Johnson said currently she is pursuing a career that would be far from a mainstream profession, but an important one nonetheless.
"I want to become a cold water survival instructor," she said, "working to teach people who work on oil platforms, or anyone else that flies over the water in a helicopter, what to do in an emergency."
Johnson said she has been a lifeguard for most of her adult life, but was intrigued by pursuing cold-water survival instruction last year after attending a presentation by a professional in the field. She said the complicating factor to pursuing this career is that the classes for it are few and far between.
"Even though I want to do it here in Alaska, I have to go somewhere warm -- like Hawaii or Florida -- to get all the training," she said.
Since logistics could be a problem, Johnson was also pursuing courses at KPC for an alternative career.
"I'm also pursuing processing technology," she said. "I wanted to learn something new and thought this could help me out."
Nina Hunt, an '09 graduate from Nikiski High School, said she is working toward an associates degree at KPC, and she hopes to finish pursuing a health and sports medicine degree out of state.
"I hope to do personal training," she said. "There's good money in it and I want to do something active that I enjoy."
Hunt said much thought went into her degree choice. She thought about her interests and hobbies, and where the economic trends were pointing.
"I thought about pursuing dance, but decided to keep it a hobby because it's difficult to make a career of it," she said. "And with the economy, there might not be as many people looking for a personal trainer because they are expensive, but I could still do sports medicine or something like that with this degree."
Hunt said ultimately, satisfaction would be the deciding factor in what career she chooses.
"Money is a big deal," she said, "but I think being happy with what you're doing is more important, and if you can find both, that's perfect."
Joseph Robertia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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