Maria Pina graduated from Pasco-Hernando State College's West Campus in December, ready to reinvent herself as a registered nurse after a career as a teacher.
It didn't take long.
After obtaining the required credentials and a brief search, Pina landed a job at Morton Plant North Bay Hospital in New Port Richey this month.
She gives a lot of credit for the quick placement to PHSC and a nursing program at the college that sees virtually all of its students find a job in the profession after graduation.
"I think it's very comprehensive," Pina said. "Students are highly desired."
Roughly 96 percent of all nursing program graduates in the job pool — 127 of 132 — landed jobs in the field, according to placement rates for students graduating in 2011-12, the most recent data available from the Florida Department of Education.
The nursing program isn't the only one with success at placing students in jobs.
About 91 percent of Pasco-Hernando State College students in associate of science programs — everything from information technology security to dental hygiene — were placed in jobs tied to their fields, according to the most recent data. That's roughly 229 of 251 eligible students.
That's better than the average placement rate of 88 percent for the 28 colleges in the Florida College System for students earning their degrees in 2011-12.
"People are getting jobs and are in jobs," said Geri Cochran, the associate dean of institutional effectiveness. "That's important in Pasco and Hernando counties."
While PHSC often looks at placement rates, Cochran said it's difficult to compare numbers across the state, given the differences among counties, their sizes and economic conditions. She said PHSC's rates, given the recent downturn in the economy, are very good.
"When we get into the 90s, that's success really," she said.
Cochran said a vast majority of graduates stay in the region. According to a survey taken late last year, roughly 90 percent of students want to remain in the area, which might force some graduates to take jobs slightly outside their fields.
"I think that's our big claim to fame here," she said. "We are supplying the workforce for this two-county (region)."
PHSC's job placement rate also fares pretty well when looking at all graduates in the college's vocational programs, a broader category that includes certificate programs.
For the most recent year, 688 of 770 graduates — or 89 percent— obtained jobs in their fields, on par with recent years. Historically, the rate has been even higher. Between 2002-03 and 2008-09, more than 90 percent of graduates were placed.
The placement rate peaked at 97 percent for students finishing in 2005-06.
It's not clear how many of the graduates are in full-time versus part-time jobs.
Cochran says it is difficult to pinpoint exactly why the numbers fluctuate, but factors include the qualifications of students coming into the program and program selectivity.
David Hamilton, operations manager at CareerSource Pasco Hernando, says PHSC is a valuable asset in the region and "very important as a career training source in the two counties."
Donna Burdzinski, the associate provost for the PHSC North Campus in Brooksville, said college officials closely study the numbers and use them when determining what programs to offer.
"You don't want to train people if they're not getting placed in the jobs," Burdzinski said. "That's our mission: to provide the training for the workforce.
"I do believe that we have a very solid impact," she said.
Danny Valentine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1432. On Twitter: @HernandoTimes.