Graduate Earns IT Degree, Forges Direct Path to Career Advancement

Nearly eight years ago, Tyler O’Neal was working for a small, family-owned construction business when the recession hit. Always interested in computers, he decided to pursue a new career in technology.

In 2010, he started at Garmin International Inc. as a product support specialist. Not long after, he realized the power of education in climbing the ladder and earned his associate degree in IT with an emphasis in information systems technology from Johnson County Community College (JCCC). This led to his advancement to his current role as software engineer tool support developer.

O’Neal didn’t stop there. After speaking with his advisors at JCCC, he enrolled in the Bachelor of Science in Information Technology (BSIT) program at the KU Edwards Campus (KUEC). As a husband, father and full-time employee, O’Neal needed a flexible program to fit his schedule, and the JCCC/KUEC degree partnership program fit the bill. He enrolled at KUEC as a junior in summer 2015 and graduated in May 2017. With his BSIT in tow, he recently accepted a new position with RSA Archer in Overland Park and was accepted into KUEC’s Master of Science in Applied Statistics and Analytics program.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts IT job openings will grow faster than openings in most other occupations, and the Kansas Department of Labor has identified five IT-related careers among the top-10 fastest growing occupations in the state, promising high demand and high median salaries. Local companies, including behemoths Cerner and Garmin, have expressed interest in employees gaining IT knowledge, and KUEC is answering the call.

In spring 2017, more than 60 students were enrolled in KUEC’s ABET-accredited BSIT program, which is funded by the Johnson County Education Research Triangle (JCERT).

“The classes are great,” O’Neal said. “The breadth of knowledge you gain from the diverse curriculum opens up many paths to the next step in your career.”

[The Kansas City Star recently covered O’Neal’s story, along with other KUEC students, as nontraditional learners look for alternative paths to completing their degrees. Read the article: “These students are older — and determined to be wiser.”]