PENDLETON — Rich Snead will be the first to admit that there were fears and uncertainty associated with leaving his longtime and lucrative position as an insurance executive in Manhattan and moving to South Carolina to contemplate a return to college and a third career change.
He was an Army infantry officer for five years following graduation from Kent State University in the 1980’s, an insurance executive for 20 years and now he’s embarking on a career as an oncology nurse.
“At 35, I never thought about my career path. At age 45, I began to question what to do with the rest of my life. I didn’t want to end up like many co-workers I observed counting the years until retirement. You get one ride on the ferris wheel. If you need a change, go for it,” he advises.
At nearly 50, he moved to Anderson to spend time with his parents and to look at Upstate colleges’ nursing programs. With a bachelor’s degree, he only needed prerequisite science classes to apply to the accelerated second degree nursing program at Clemson University.
He began the journey at Tri-County Technical College, completing three semesters of courses before transferring to Clemson’s 14-month program designed for individuals looking for a career change and who already have earned a bachelor’s degree from a regionally or nationally accredited college or university.
“Tri-County played a pivotal role,” said Snead. “I completed my prerequisites (four science classes, along with math, psychology, computer and literature classes) quickly and affordably with a seamless transfer to Clemson’s accelerated second degree nursing program.”
He was among the 22 accepted into the program in 2012. He was in class with graduates of Clemson, the University of South Carolina, Medical University of SC and the University of North Carolina.
“My science preparation was equal to or better than my fellow students. I was extremely well prepared in science knowledge to complete the nursing program,” he said.
Snead graduated magna cum laude in December 2013 and is employed as an oncology nurse at Tuomey Health Care System in Sumter.
“Without the basic foundation in place, along with affordable tuition and high quality instruction from Tri-County, I don’t know if I could have completed my degree at Clemson,” he said.
“If you are looking for a basic foundation, Tri-County is the place to start. Your educational opportunity can begin here, even if your goal is to eventually earn a Ph. D.,” he said. “Your Tri-County classes can be taken to any level depending on the motivational goals of the student. It’s a superb place to start.”
Several weeks after beginning his new job as an oncology nurse, Snead sat down and wrote an e-mail to Tri-County President Ronnie L. Booth, reflecting on his positive experience at Tri-County and how it had prepared him for a second bachelor’s at Clemson.
“I realized what I learned at Tri-County I used hourly in classes at Clemson and even today in my nursing practice. People are always quick to say what went wrong. I wanted to let Dr. Booth know I appreciated Tri-County’s value proposition, as well as the caliber of its instructors. Tri County is not named on my degree, but I wanted him to know how grateful I am for the value and quality of education I received from the College.”
Snead says he admired the motivation of Tri-County instructors and the quality of education.
“The courses were truly challenging. Smaller classes and strong instructor involvement made my educational experience equivalent to any four-year degree. There was no cookie-cutter instruction. Each instructor has his or her own style of teaching and reaching students,” he added.
“The instructors really want you to succeed. Their primary goal is student success. They are approachable. They aren’t giving away any grades. You have to earn them,” he said.
Looking back, the decision to make the career change was actually harder than pursuing the degree, he said.
“It’s challenging when you make life changes. But it’s worth it. I grew up in a small town and I’ve lived in major cities all of my life. I wanted to return to a relaxed pace of life and a career I love. Nursing is a good fit for me.”