Ultra Planner Earns Degree
She’ll Use in Retirement

Written by Dena Roché

People who consider themselves to be planners could take a few lessons from Tara Thibodaux. A 2014 NCU graduate with a Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy, Thibodaux earned the degree for the career she plans to have when she retires…in 17 years!

Tara Thibodaux Tara Thibodaux

Thibodaux currently works for the U.S. Department of Labor as a supervisory investigator tasked with investigating fraud, embezzlement and other federal crimes as they relate to labor unions.

“I’m not going to give up my benefits by retiring early,” said Thibodaux. “I’ll be there until I’m 57.”

While Thibodaux isn’t giving up her day job anytime soon, she’s using this time to build up her hours towards licensure in Louisiana, and to create a side job that fills her passions. Working ten hours a week at night, she expects to complete the 3,000 hours required for her license by mid-2020.

To prepare for her next career, Thibodaux works at the Celebration Hope Center, a Christian-based therapy center outside of New Orleans. She initially took the job because it was the only employer she could find that would work with her evening schedule and limited hours. It’s since become such a good fit that she hopes to work there until that retirement 17 years away.

“God put me where he wanted me to be,” she said. “I believe in what they do.”

So far, she’s been exposed to multiple types of therapies and clients, teaches anger management and premarital groups, and provides individual counseling to couples, teens, and adults. Thibodaux is a certified “Saving Your Marriage Before it Starts” facilitator.

“I love school and could easily be a career student if money wasn’t an object.”

Tara Thibodaux, 2014 Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy

Transitioning from government work to counseling isn’t as big a stretch knowing that earlier in her career Thibodaux worked as a Juvenile Probation Officer for the State of Louisiana and as a U.S. Courts Federal Probation Officer.

Her sister-in-law, Meghan Thibodaux, initially sparked the idea for her to combine law enforcement and psychology when she decided to go to NCU for a Master’s in Education.

“I love school and could easily be a career student if money wasn’t an object,” Thibodaux said with a laugh. “I thought that I would love to get back into criminal justice, not as a probation officer, but as a counselor. With my degree from NCU, I would be in a position to set my own hours.”

Thibodaux was 26 years from retirement when she joined Megan at NCU. It wasn’t easy earning her master’s degree as she balanced school, a full-time job and a teenage daughter.

“I did my classwork slowly and finished all of it before I started my practicum, which took another two years,” she said. “My daughter was all on board before the practicum when I was gone day and night. I hoped that by doing that as a single parent, it showed her that she can accomplish anything.”

“The interest [Dr. Georgie Winter] took in me helped me flourish at NCU. It made a big difference.”

Tara Thibodaux

With her busy schedule, which also included a fair amount of work travel, Thibodaux appreciated the flexibility NCU offered. In addition to adding the marriage and family degree to her academic credentials, she also has a bachelor’s degree in psychology and another master’s degree in criminal justice, both from Loyola University in New Orleans.

While pursuing her online education at NCU, Thibodaux developed strong personal connections. During her practicum and internship, for example, she formed a strong bond with Dr. Georgie Winter.

“We were together virtually every Friday for three hours for two years,” said Thibodaux. “She took the time to get to know me, and she understood my work situation, and eventually my feelings of empty nest syndrome when my daughter left home. She would stay after the call just to chat. I still talk to her.”

In fact, the two finally had the opportunity to meet in person when Thibodaux visited California where Dr. Winter lives.

“She picked me up at the airport,” said Thibodaux. “The interest she took in me helped me flourish at NCU. It made a big difference.”