Four new Associate degree programs in burgeoning fields are now being offered at Essex County College, with students already enrolled in the courses. “These are definitely high demand fields,” said Dr. Jill Stein, Dean of STEM & Health Sciences.
Essex is now offering Associate in Applied Science (A.A.S) degrees in Health Information Technology, Cybersecurity & Network Technology, and Software Development Technology. Offered through the College’s Nail-It Project, these three degree programs had been previously offered as Academic Certificates, said project Director Barbara Hughes. Those certificates will continue to be offered. The Health Information Technology degree is a dual admissions program with NJIT.
An Associate in Science (A.S.) degree in Environmental Science is also now being offered through the College’s Division of Biology & Chemistry. Dr. Scott Mittman, who teaches Environmental Science and is coordinating the program, said Essex previously offered the program as an A.A.S. He said the new designation will allow students a smoother transfer to four year schools, with all Essex credits being accepted.
Ms. Hughes said the U.S. Department of Labor had awarded the College a $2.75 million grant through the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training program. That funding allowed the College to first develop the certificates in 2014 in advance of these new degree programs. “We’re now putting it all together with the degree programs,” she said.
Students currently enrolled in one of the certificate programs are taking the same specialty courses as those required for the degrees. “Now when they complete the degree program they will have earned the A.A.S. plus two certificates,” said Ms. Hughes. In addition, students enrolled in these courses can now also qualify for financial aid.
While Cybersecurity is the most popular of the programs, Ms. Hughes said that all the offerings are in high demand fields.
The Environmental Science program began 10 years ago as an A.A.S. Dr. Mittman said that students currently enrolled in the A.A.S. program will be encouraged to switch to the A.S. offering, although they can continue in their present track if they so choose. He expects Environmental Science enrollment to nearly double to 40 students within two years.
Area four year schools to which Environmental Science majors can transfer are Rutgers-Newark, Montclair State University, New Jersey City University and Kean University.
Dr. Mittman noted that the major includes classes in geology and plant science in addition to statistics. “Environmental Science is an interdisciplinary field,” he said. “It’s at the crossroads of different fields and one must make sense of all the data involved.”
All of the new majors were recently approved by the New Jersey Presidents’ Council and Academic Issues Committee for the state Office of the Secretary of Higher Education.