DAVIDSON COUNTY, N.C. -- Eight May graduates from a specialized program at Davidson County Community College have jobs before they have degrees.
David Ring is the aquarium science technology instructor at DCCC. Ring said for a program that started just five years ago, having eight employed graduates before commencement is a huge accomplishment.
"We've been getting the word out slowly but surely," Ring said. "Now the aquarium track has caught up to the popularity of the zoo track."
The aquarium track shares the same space with the zoo program that's housed inside of a converted vehicle repair garage. Baby sharks, puffer fish, spiders and snakes are some of the many animals that now fill the large space.
Whitney Forslund is a May graduate. She selected DCCC for many reasons. One being the college has so many animals in their collection.
"We learn from books, but we also learn hands on," Forslund said. "We have tons of different animals and different systems. We learn from using our hands and knowledge to take care of these animals."
The program normally takes in 20 students. So becoming a part of the aquarium track is tough. Especially when the program is catching the eye of students from across the nation. Forslund is from Minnesota.
"Google is a wonderful tool," joked Forslund.
Davidson County Community College is one of two community colleges in the United States with an aquarium program. Ring said aquariums and other businesses are looking for people who can care for coral, fish and maintain critical life support systems. That's why DCCC's program is growing.
"This is one of the first years we seen enrollment that is surpassing the number of students we can take," Ring said.
The aquarium program will continue to grow because Davidson County Community College is finalizing an agreement with Winston-Salem State University. With a bachelor's in biology degree, the aquarium world is your oyster.
"When you graduate with a four-year degree and experience in the industry and a specialized associate's degree, the industry is pretty much yours for the taking," Ring said.
The 2020 class of the aquarium program has a record 30 students.
Interest for fall 2019 is very high. Davidson County Community College is taking applications for the fall semester until May 10.