Field Engineer, Clay Electric Cooperative (NRECA Member)
Tom started with Clay Electric Cooperative outside of Gainesville, Florida immediately upon graduating from the University of Central Florida (UCF) with a Bachelor’s Degree. After working his way up at his cooperative for several years, he hit a roadblock: he couldn’t be promoted further without a becoming a licensed Professional Engineer (PE).
He knew he needed to earn his Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering (BSEE) and pass the required PE exams to move ahead in his career with Clay Electric, but finding a degree program could be challenging. “As with most cooperatives, they’re located in pretty rural areas. Online education was really the only option I had.” Due to the cooperative’s membership with NRECA, Tom (and all cooperative employees) could take advantage of EPCE-sponsored online programs and receive a tuition discount. “I just happened to catch the email [about the EPCE-sponsored online BSEE program through Clemson University] about the same time I was looking to further my education and career.”
Clemson University requires certain pre-requisite courses to be completed prior to applying for, and being accepted into, the online BSEE program. Tom was able to transfer several credits from his degree he earned at UCF, and completed additional online classes approved to match the pre-requisite courses through Colorado Community Colleges Online (CCCOnline).
Upon acceptance, Tom admits it’s a fairly rigorous program. “It’s not a lighter class load, so it hasn’t been easy, but it will be worth it once I’m done.” Tom found himself to be a trailblazer when it came to the online lab portions of the program, and invested in all of the equipment required to complete the labs online. “It’s been an adventure, but to Clemson’s credit, they have done a great job working with me. Dr. John Gowdy [Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering] has really gone out of his way.”
Despite the time and cost involved, and in addition to balancing a full time job and a family, Tom’s career aspirations have been a driving force in completing the program. His next promotion, upon completion of the online BSEE degree and becoming a licensed PE, would be from a field engineer to a full-fledged engineer. “Eventually I’d like to be in charge of a department – division chief or something – but that’s a ways down the road!”