Brian Finnegan is aware of the glass ceiling that many IT professionals face when they don’t have the proper degree to back up their skills and experience.
Even when IT professionals have extensive on the job training or industry standard certifications, they find that they can only move so far up in the business world without a bachelor’s degrees, said Finnegan, an associate dean at Center City’s Peirce College.
That’s why Peirce launched a new IT program. It’s an effort to offer students a faster, more affordable and more useful path to a bachelor’s degree. Called the CBE (Competency Based Education) Information Technology Bachelor’s Degree program, it will launch in the fall with a cohort of roughly 30.
“We expect students to come with a lot of material already mastered, whether on the job or through their own independent passion of information technology,” Finnegan said. “I think it represents a new opportunity to not waste time or money to get the opportunity to demonstrate what you have already learned in the trenches.”
The program is the first of its kind in Philadelphia, the school said. It’s also one of the few programs we’ve seen that focuses on IT professionals without an undergraduate degree — a population that is largely ignored for those working on the sexier side of tech (read: startups). It feels like a natural partner with the Urban Technology Project’s Digital Service Fellowship, which trains high school graduates in IT and prepares them for the workforce.
The CBE program, which is offered completely online, allows students to primarily focus on what Peirce believes are the necessary skills when entering the IT workforce. These skills include data management, databases, programming and networking (the IT kind, not the hand-shaking kind). Peirce says this program will also equip students with essential professional skills that land outside of the IT realm such as ethics, professional communication and critical thinking skills. Having a combination of both these hard and soft skills are essential especially in the IT field — it creates a more humanistic experience in a profession that is so focused on hardware and devices.
Students pay a flat per-semester tuition rate at $3,000 (after fees). There is no limit to how many credits can be earned during a semester. This model allows students to work at their own pace. There is no waiting around to start another class once you finish.
“You just pay one fee and you can learn as much as possible,” said Peirce Vice President of Academic Advancement Rita Toliver-Roberts.
This isn’t the first time Peirce has experimented with offering students more flexibility. The Fall 2016 launch of the CBE program follows the implementation of Peirce Fit, an initiative that allows Peirce students to decide, on a day to day basis, whether or not they want to attend classes online or on campus.
In regards to other CBE degree programs, Peirce College is looking at healthcare and business degrees as potential candidates.