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Mapping a Better Path to a Bachelor’s Degree: Maser Consulting’s Brian Britton Surveys Options and Selects RCSJ

2/12/2021

A year into his studies as a Surveying Engineering Technologies major at Rowan College of South Jersey (RCSJ), Brian Britton still sometimes cannot believe he is finally on his way to earning a degree.

“College wasn’t an option when I was younger,” he reflects. “My parents and I didn’t talk about it, but I always knew I’d love to do it one day.”

Britton considers himself lucky to have found his calling early in life. A drafting course taken as a teenager at Southern Regional High School in Manahawkin, New Jersey captured his attention. After graduating from high school, Britton enrolled at Brick Computer Science Institute. A brief 18 months later, the technical school helped him to secure a job at a prestigious engineering firm and his career in land surveying began. Britton knew it would be advantageous to earn his bachelor’s degree, but circumstances always seemed to prevent it.

 “I could go on and work in this industry (without a degree) for the rest of my life, but you do hit sort of a ceiling when it comes to perhaps salary or even a position,” he explained. “At some companies, in order to make it to a shareholder level, you need to have a degree.”

As he enjoyed the next 20 years of professional success, collecting industry accolades and climbing the career ladder, his desire to earn a degree never faded. By 2019, the now-married father of four was a Senior Project Surveyor and an Associate at Maser Consulting, but he still felt limited. Without a bachelor’s degree, Britton could not receive licensing from the New Jersey State Board of Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors; without his license, there were some levels of professional success that he would never reach.

“There are other states like New York where I could take the licensure test based on my experience, but . . . maybe I didn’t know if I would pass because I didn’t have the education to back up my real-world experience,” he admits.

When Britton saw RCSJ’s advertisement for a Surveying Engineering Technologies degree pathway offered in cooperation with Rowan University — which would streamline his transfer to the University upon earning his associate degree — he realized that his long-coveted bachelor’s degree was within reach. The program was backed by the New Jersey Society of Professional Land Surveyors and it was perfect for him; but there was one hiccup — the 2019 fall semester started in a week’s time. Britton feared he might have to wait until the following spring, but a visit with RCSJ’s Student Services team put an end to his concerns.

“I was able to make it to the campus, meet with the advisors, sign up for everything I needed to, pay for the classes, and I did it all within a week,” Britton recounts. “I was guided in a really good path by the advisors at Rowan College as well as the dean of STEM. I was really grateful, and I felt lucky that I was able to get into the program that quickly.”

Britton received a second pleasant surprise when RCSJ’s Dean of STEM, Dr. Christina Nase, recommended he save time and money with a Prior Learning Assessment — his extensive professional experience in land surveying could be converted into academic credits through a portfolio assessment. Guided by the College’s Dean of Academic Compliance, Dr. Danielle Zimecki-Fennimore, Britton prepared portfolios for Introduction to Surveying, CADD I and CADD II. Each portfolio contained relevant work experience, technical education, certifications, industry awards and accomplishments to demonstrate that Britton had already mastered the course content.

“Working with students, like Brian, on portfolio assessments has brought a different perspective to what individual students need,” said Zimecki-Fennimore. “More non-traditional students are returning to college and bringing a wealth of work experience.  As an institution, we are using prior learning assessments to help students find alternative ways to earn credit for what they already know.  It is a great experience for everyone.”

All three of Britton’s portfolios were approved, he completed the assessment tests, paid the related testing fee, and he was three giant steps — along with nine academic credits — closer to his degree. For the full-time professional, father and student, the head start towards his degree was more than worth the time and effort put into the process.

 “I highly recommend it,” Britton said. “I was able to pay $125 for each class — for me, with the three classes it was $375 — it was a couple of hours out of my life for each of the assessments, but when I look back at how much time I would have spent studying, attending class, and taking tests, I’m just really thankful and grateful I had this opportunity. It will help me achieve my goal of earning my associate degree in two years, attending at night.”

Now, with his freshman year of studies under his belt, Britton has found there are many benefits to entering the college classroom as an experienced professional. His foundational skills in areas like mathematics are being reinforced while he is building a network of current and future colleagues, benefitting from their expertise and sharing his own. Britton never misses an opportunity to indulge in some “shop talk” with his professors and pick their brains or serve as a mentor to the younger students in his classes as they begin to look for jobs of their own.

“I’m always preaching to the younger folks to join this profession . . . you can provide for your family and just feel good about what you do every day,” he affirmed. “As land surveyors, we are a bit of mathematician, historian and artist. It’s kind of three different things molded into one.”

Britton looks forward to seeing his career path continue to unfold, both proud of his past accomplishments and eager to see what the future will hold once he has the degree to back up his experience.

“It was always a thought in my mind — a dream — that one day I’d be able to go to college and earn a degree. The fact that I’m doing it now,” Britton paused before continuing; “I kind of pinch myself sometimes. I have a goal that I’m working towards and RCSJ is making it possible.”

Find out how your experience can translate into academic credits at RCSJ.edu/PriorLearning or learn more about the Surveying Engineering Technology and other STEM programs at RCSJ.edu/STEM.

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