Administrators and instructors at the Kansas Center for Career & Technical Education (KCCTE) recently revealed a new degree program for prospective students who already have some experience in the technology field. According to a news release from March 17, 2021 on the Pittsburg State University website, the degree, officially known as the associate of applied science in career & technical education, requires sixty credit hours to complete. It is offered completely online to serve the needs of students who may have already entered the workforce.
“What inspired the creation of this degree are three very separate things,” said Greg Belcher, founding director of the KCCTE. “The first was that we had administrator and faculty who teach at community and technical colleges requesting this degree for the faculty who teach in their CTE programs. Most of these faculty members have little formal post-secondary education, so this degree would be their first post-secondary academic credential. The second reason was that other universities in other states had implemented this degree and they are seeing a higher completion rate within their bachelor’s degree in CTE, since all the credits from the AAS degree count toward the bachelor’s degree. Basically, students saw a lot they need to do to get their bachelor’s degree. When they implemented the AAS degree, this allowed them an academic credential half-way towards their bachelor’s degree. The last thing that inspired the creation of this degree is that we are working with CTE teachers at technology centers in Oklahoma and an associate degree is required for their certification.”
The degree program is meant to be completed in eighteen to twenty-four months. Some of the courses required include a beginner’s workshop and a class on project-based learning, along with eighteen credit hours in CTE classes from a community college or technical school.
“There are multiple benefits,” Belcher said. “The first thing is that someone with a CTE background that holds an industry credential can get work experience hours toward the AAS degree. The second is that other states (like Oklahoma), have an associate degree as a part of their CTE certification requirements. The final benefit is that this degree is a great stepping-stone toward our bachelor’s degree in CTE, since all the credits within the AAS degree count within the bachelor’s degree.”
Students such as Lindsey Wuthnow, alumna in technology and engineering, are weighing the potential advantages and disadvantages of the program.
“Any course that requires anything to be hands on absolutely needs to be in person,” Wuthnow said. “It’s difficult to get the same experience from a technology/engineering course that is online. Sure, you can learn the content and material the same, but as far as hands-on experience, that will be a challenge. The nice thing about being online though is the flexibility. In (technical educators’) lives, flexibility is a must.”
Debbie Thomas, student in graphic design, provided the perspective of a technology student who currently does not emphasize in teaching.
“I think it would be beneficial to have a teaching emphasis for tech,” Thomas said, “But personally, I don’t think the addition of (the associates degree) would sway me. It would probably be really nice to have fully online (classes) for a lot of students who don’t live close enough to attend classes but who still want a degree from Pitt State.”
The AAS degree option will be available for incoming and current students beginning fall of 2021.