Earning his associate degree in information systems technology has helped put first-generation college graduate Joshua Richards into a career he enjoys.
After graduating from Culpeper County High School in 2008, Richards worked as an automotive technician and then quality engineer. All the while, he was hoping to work in the IT field.
“Even when I was a kid in middle school and high school, all of my electives were pretty much computer classes,” Richards said.
In 2012, he enrolled in Laurel Ridge and studied information systems technology (IST).
“I did that as I worked full time doing night shifts at a local factory,” Richards said.
He earned his degree in IST in 2016, and also earned a networking specialist certificate and networking engineering professional certificate.
“Laurel Ridge was great,” Richards said. “There were a lot of caring teachers who made it really enjoyable.”
As a first-generation college student, the key to his success was working closely with his advisor, Richards said.
“I leaned on my advisor a lot,” he said. “The advisor was very helpful because my parents didn’t really have any experience with college.”
After graduating from Laurel Ridge, Richards transferred to George Mason University, but has since switched to Western Governors University. He said it was taking him more than an hour to commute to GMU, so online courses at WGU work better for him. He expects to earn his bachelor’s degree in IT in early 2024.
Already, Richards is working remotely as a compliance specialist for Cisco Systems. He is happy to be on day shifts again.
“Once I got my associate degree, that kind of helped me get into the quality engineer role,” Richards said. “I love my job. Without getting my associate degree, none of this would’ve been possible.”
Laurel Ridge Community College was known as Lord Fairfax Community College until June 2022. For consistency purposes, the college will be referenced as Laurel Ridge going forward.