Most industries have a ceiling for how far you can climb without a degree. Fort Myers, Fla., accounting graduate Jennifer Kickbush found herself up against that ceiling before enrolling at Rasmussen College. Kickbush worked in a call center and had been promoted to a quality analyst (QA) position, but didn’t see much room for growth from there.
“There just really wasn’t anywhere else for me to move up to from there,” Kickbush says. “It wasn’t taking me anywhere career-wise.”
Kickbush found her way out of a dead end and into a promising career with the help of a college degree. But it wasn’t without challenges along the way.
Providing a way up
In order to have a chance at breaking through the career ceiling, Kickbush knew she needed to earn a degree, but she also knew that she’d struggle at some of the larger universities near her home. She wasn’t confident she’d be able to learn as well in the larger classes those schools had to offer, so when she found the smaller classes at Rasmussen College, she felt right at home.
Also important for Kickbush was having schedule flexibility so she could continue working full time while earning her accounting degree. In fact, Kickbush says the majority of her classes were online, something which took her a little bit of getting used to.
“It was kind of a challenge [learning] online since you don’t have the one-on-one interaction you’d get in class,” Kickbush says. “I’m more of a visual learner so it took some getting used to. Once I realized how to use all the resources like tutoring and Wimba sessions, it was easier for me.”
Transitioning to the unfamiliar format of online classes wasn’t the only challenge she faced.
Solving the puzzle
The accounting field can seem like a nightmare for those of us who struggle with balancing a checkbook, let alone a company’s payroll ledger. But for Kickbush, the mystifying maze of accurate accounting is a big part of the appeal.
“I tend to look at accounting as a puzzle—you have all you need to figure it out, it’s just a matter of getting it in order,” Kickbush says.
Accounting can be a bit of a dry subject if you don’t have a passion for numbers, but Kickbush says she has always been intrigued by it. Her enthusiasm for “solving the puzzle” paid off in the form of a promising new career, once she earned an associate degree in accounting.
She landed an auditing job at ClientFirst Settlement Funding—something she says wouldn’t have been possible before committing to her education.
Kickbush already had her associate degree when she applied for the job but she says the fact that she was in the process of earning a bachelor’s degree is what distinguished her from the competition.
From her auditing position, Kickbush moved into a role as a financial analyst at the same company. She plans to continue on an upward career trajectory, and has talked with her employer about mapping out a path into a more traditional accounting role.
Kickbush says there’s a lot of opportunity to grow within the company, and now that she has a degree she just needs time to build seniority before reaching the next stage in her career.
Education paying off
The benefit of Kickbush earning her degree isn’t limited to just unlocking a more desirable career path; her degree also provides her family with a source of pride.
“It’s a big accomplishment for me to have my degree,” Kickbush says. “Neither of my parents have a degree so they were very excited to see me reach that goal.”
Kickbush has also seen a substantial increase in pay since earning her degree, with her wages nearly doubling what she was making in her previous job at the call center. The opportunities that are now available to her give Kickbush the ability to continue increasing her earning potential.
“It’s nice having that cushion so I don’t have to live paycheck to paycheck as much,” Kickbush says. “But the most rewarding part for me is being able to work with numbers in my job and put my degree to use.”
In the future, Kickbush hopes to work in a financial advisor role where she would be able to work with families to get their finances in order. Additionally she has plans to eventually earn the designation of Chartered Financial Analyst or Certified Public Accountant. Either will require substantial study time and preparation to pass, so for now Kickbush is content to sit back, gain experience and wait.
Have you hit “the wall” at your job? Does your career path seem limited? Take a look at Rasmussen College’s degree programs to unlock the next step in your professional life. If you’ve already taken that step, feel free to share your story with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.