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Mentors at Work

NJIT offers a slate of flexible programs for professionals

Continuing education accommodates everyone, from an employed techie who wants to study online to a small or diverse business seeking work with a state agency


NJIT’s Gale Spak: online learning helps techies keep up with new things in their fields.In her job as a quality engineer with a roofing company, Nashay McKoy works on a lot of new projects, some unfamiliar to her. She thought it would help to go back to college for more in-depth knowledge. Since she intends to go on working full time, McKoy decided to go for a graduate certificate rather than an MS.

McKoy graduated from the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) in 2007 with a BSChE. She wanted to get her certificate in project management at NJIT, too, because she could do the program entirely online.

“I don’t have to go to the campus in Newark,” she says. “I’ll work during the day and then go home and put a couple of hours into my classes.”

Studying via the Internet doesn’t necessarily mean studying alone. “In one of my undergrad classes we’d ‘meet’ once a week through Skype to cover the topics and discuss the homework.”

Continuing education for pros
McKoy is typical of many professionals who want to go on with their education while working. NJIT’s continuing education department is designed to accommodate people like this.

“Most of our master’s degrees are geared toward working professionals who already have a job,” says Gale Spak, associate VP for continuing and distance education. “The master’s degrees we offer are at night. This school just hops at night!”

And when coming to the campus to study isn’t feasible, NJIT offers distance education. “I can bring faculty to a corporation where a number of employees need to work on degrees,” Spak says. “Or, in some cases we can offer a master’s degree fully online.” NJIT has similar programs for professionals to continue their educations by earning graduate certificates, as McKoy is doing.

Jobs and industry demand
The benefit of the graduate certificate, Spak explains, is that it lets engineers and other professionals keep up with latest innovations in their fields. “Engineers can get out of date very quickly,” Spak warns. “The slate of certificates we offer changes every year to reflect where the jobs and industry demand are.

“If the students vote with their feet by not going for a certain certification, we take it off the list and replace it with something else the next year.”

The certificate is completed in a year or less, and the courses can be credited toward a later MS. McKoy plans to use the credits she earns toward a future MS in engineering management.

“We are finding a success rate with people who start with graduate certificates,” says Spak.

Study anywhere, anytime
The continuing education department also offers other interesting opportunities in professional training. “I can put together courses from different academic areas to create a specialized program,” Spak explains. After all, isn’t today’s world all about teamwork and multi-disciplinary activities?

Time is the usual roadblock in continuing education, so online learning provides welcome flexibility. A working student can, of course, take classes at NJIT from anywhere in the world. “The on-line courses are exactly the same as the classes taken on campus,” Spak says.

More affordable tuition
Cost can be another major hurdle. Recognizing financial issues, NJIT is offering new online tuition rates.

Public schools like NJIT have traditionally set lower rates for in-state students. But virtual learning blurs state and even national lines, and the school is now offering reduced tuition for students who live outside New Jersey and take their grad classes 100 percent online. “These students now have a tuition category that’s closer to in-state tuition,” Spak says.

Grants for people with disabilities
NJIT also offers grant programs to help professionals return to school. One grant, through the Kessler Foundation, provides IT training for people with disabilities.

“Too often people with physical disabilities are not able to achieve good income levels,” Spak explains. “Through this grant we are able to train them to help them get jobs in IT.”

Part of the program is the business advisory council, made up of corporate leaders who help the trainees find jobs. “And some who take this training decide to go on with their education,” Spak adds with satisfaction.

Onsite & other nontraditional
NJIT training at company sites in New Jersey has helped more than 70,000 professionals just since 1990, when the school started keeping records of these activities. Training is available in areas like information architecture, Unix admin and Six Sigma. “A lot of the training we do is free to the company if it applies for grants from the state,” Spak says.

NJIT is also involved with the Workforce Innovation for Regional Economic Development (WIRED) Initiative in America grant. A region in northern New Jersey was one of those selected for workforce training and education. The idea behind WIRED, of course, is to provide training and educational opportunities for the unemployed and underemployed.

The TA’s supplier diversity program
Working with the Transit Authority (TA) of New Jersey and the New York and New Jersey Port Authority, NJIT has developed a supplier program that combines training, online learning and diversity. A virtual academy will help train small and diverse suppliers who want to bid on TA work. Initially, seven courses will be offered through the TA for a small fee. “This is all knowledge for people who need to learn,” Spak says. “We provide a lot of different ways to learn it.”

For more on NJIT programs for pros see adultlearner.njit.edu and online.njit.edu, or call (800) 624-9850.

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