It feels good to check an item off your bucket list — and even better when you know the next goal on the list is well underway.
Thanks to Western Governors University, 19-year IT pro Emad Ahmed finds himself in just that position. His most recent bachelor’s degree is complete and the twin goal of a master’s degree is well within reach. The best part: He didn’t have to quit his job, move into a dorm or rearrange his life to do it.
Ahmed, an applications analyst in the health-care industry in Katy, Texas, earned a bachelor’s degree many years ago in navigation, but transitioned into information technology, where he has worked for nearly two decades. Rather than continuing his education, he has leaned on industry certifications as his primary source of career education.
“The obstacle was always time,” Ahmed said. “I have a family. I was never able to [find] enough time to actually go to school, go to classes, go to work. But when I looked at this program and saw that I would have the ability to do everything online, on my own time, that was very attractive to me.”
That’s how Ahmed got involved in the online bachelor’s degree in Information Technology—Network Management from WGU Texas, his state’s partnership with the national Western Governors University. A friend enrolled at WGU told Ahmed about the flexible model of the competency-based university and he knew it was the chance to fulfill his educational goals.
What’s more, the industry certifications he’d picked up over the years — including CompTIA A+, CompTIA Security+ and CompTIA Project+ — all transferred to his WGU degree program.
WGU recognizes industry certifications as an important component in the development of a well-rounded, highly educated IT professional poised to thrive in a competitive job market. WGU and CompTIA make natural partners.
In fact, a new, $2,000 scholarship is available for CompTIA certification holders enrolling in WGU. Those who have at least one CompTIA certification qualify for the scholarship opportunity and a $65 application fee waiver. The list of certifications WGU accepts for transfer credit includes nine from CompTIA, and transferring certifications means waiving course requirements and getting closer to earning that degree more quickly.
Flat Tuition Fee
It took Ahmed just about a year to earn his bachelor’s degree. With WGU’s flat-rate tuition of about $6,000 per year for most programs — regardless of how many courses a student completes — the shorter time to graduation also meant financial savings.
“It really minimized the time that it took for me to get my degree and just focus on the knowledge I needed to do better at work,” Ahmed said.
The program fit his life and his job so well, in fact, that immediately after graduating, he enrolled in the master’s degree in IT–Network Management. He’s on track to graduate around May 2015.
Ahmed said the lessons learned at WGU have helped make him a better IT professional, with curriculum that applies directly to his work.
“I was recently taking a couple of courses on disaster recovery, and that’s something I’m working on right now at work, so I was like, ‘Right on!’” he said. “I was able to finish a couple courses in my master’s degree really quickly because it matched what I was doing at work, and I learned a lot that I could apply at work.”
And WGU’s coursework even includes several industry certifications, meaning he graduates with even more credentials than he started with — at no extra cost.
Working independently doesn’t mean going it alone. Faculty mentors have been critical to Ahmed’s success and have made his experience at WGU a true learning experience.
“One of the things that helped me a lot was the mentor system and the ability of the mentors to interact with me on my computer,” he said. WGU is a technology-driven university, and not just because it’s online. Coursework uses the latest in technology to provide meaningful, relevant learning experiences. Course mentors also make use of technology that enables them to give more personalized, immediate help when students are struggling with subject matter. “It helped a lot. I didn’t have to wait until the next morning or until the next scheduled class. I was able to get the help I needed when I need it. Mentoring is a great tool at WGU.”
Doug Smeath is social media manager at Western Governors University.