South Piedmont Associate in Arts in a Year Student Is Pursuing a Degree to Advance His Auto Maintenance Career

Photo of Richard Purser

Richard Purser is a supervisor in the automotive maintenance industry. He is studying in South Piedmont’s Associate in Arts in a Year program to advance his career.


When he graduated from high school three decades ago, the last thing Richard Purser wanted to do was sit in a classroom.

Instead of college, he went straight to work in the automotive maintenance industry. He started as an apprentice, mainly doing oil changes. Today, he is a maintenance shop manager for a large car dealership, overseeing nearly 40 technicians.

As of this August, he also what he thought he’d never be: a college student.

Purser is enrolled in South Piedmont Community College’s Associate in Arts in a Year program.

The Associate in Arts in a Year program allows students to earn an Associate in Arts degree, which would normally take two years, in just 12 months. Applications for the spring semester are now being accepted; the deadline is Nov. 1.

“I’m back in school both for my self-confidence and because I’ve realized that if I’m going to move up in my career, I need a degree. I have experience and the skills, but I’ve topped out until I get a degree,” Purser said.

Purser, a Unionville, North Carolina native who graduated from Piedmont High School, enjoys working with auto technicians. Eventually, he wants to work for an automotive manufacturer in a teaching capacity, helping to train up-and-coming technicians.

His associate degree from South Piedmont will open doors that right now are firmly shut.

“I want to be the one teaching technicians how to use the new technology coming out, but right now, an associate degree is the minimum education requirement to even be considered,” he said.

He was drawn to the Associate in Arts in a Year program for a number of reasons.

“It’s accelerated, which I thought would be good for me because I get bored easily. I can also do everything online, which makes it easier for me to go to school and still work,” he said.

His wife, a college graduate herself, and his son, who holds a master’s degree, also encouraged him to enroll.

“I always supported their education,” Purser said. “They turned it around on me and said, ‘This is going to be a challenging program, but it’s your turn now.’”

Two months into the program, Purser is still adjusting to being a student again, but this time around, he has a deeper appreciation for what he’s learning.

“I’m older now, and I want to learn, whereas when I was younger, I didn’t,” he said. “I also have an understanding of how this is going to benefit me.”

For anyone out there who may be in his same situation, Purser had this to say:

“I thought school wasn’t for me. I thought it was way too late,” he said. “But it’s never too late. Will it be hard? Yes. Is it worth it? Yes. Can you succeed? Yes.”

Learn more about the Associate in a Year program at spcc.edu/associate-in-a-year.  

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