RALEIGH — For students graduating with a degree in Applied Science from Wake Technical Community College, it wasn’t always easy to convert those credits into a four-year bachelor’s degree.

Not anymore.

Wake Technical Community College has signed agreements with four universities — including UNC Charlotte, NC A&T, NC Central, and Boston’s Northeastern University — that will now allow its graduates to “transfer seamlessly” into those respective Information Technology (IT) programs.

In addition, the bachelor’s degree programs can be completed online, allowing Wake Tech graduates to begin working as they further their education.

“There’s been a lot of recent debate in the technology sector about the value of skills versus degrees,” said Wake Tech president Dr. Scott Ralls told WRAL TechWire.

“Through our work at Wake Tech, we’re saying ‘why should students have to choose?’  In-demand technology skills are important for attaining jobs, and advanced degrees are often required to progress in a career, and our work in programs and partnerships at Wake Tech will allow IT students to accomplish both.”

Wake Tech is North Carolina’s largest technical college based in Raleigh, with some 3,000 students enrolled in its various IT programs.

Without these kinds of agreements, Ralls added, students would have to start their higher education from scratch.

“We’re trying to build ladders for students and people throughout the community where they can start, but keep moving forward.”

Another bonus: As part of its partnership with Northeastern University, Wake Tech students are participating in a program piloting remote internships.

Using a technology platform supplied by Northeastern under a National Science Foundation Grant, six students from Wake Tech participated in the program this summer. The program will be expanded in the fall.

Other achievements

That’s not all that’s happening with Wake Tech IT programs.

The National Security Agency (NSA) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently named the institution as a National Center for Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense .

It now becomes one of only nine colleges and universities in North Carolina with this designation of recognition for meeting rigorous program requirements and for having a robust cybersecurity education program.

Separately, Wake Tech recently participated with a select group of North Carolina universities in a pilot sponsored by the Business Roundtable and the Business Higher Education Foundation to develop a new national credential for entry-level data science and analytics workers. .

Working with companies like Infosys, Fidelity, Credit Suisse, Red Hat, SAS, Ralls said Wake Tech is tailoring its programs to meet those standards and fill the talent pipeline.

On another front: Wake Tech’s Simulation and Game Development program is making significant steps forward in photogrammetry, thanks to a recent National Science Foundation Advanced Technological Education grant.

Photogrammetry is the art and science of extracting 3D information from photographs, resulting in the advanced computer graphics now popular in gaming and films. New courses and a new lab at Wake Tech’s Southern Wake Campus now enable students to gain these high-demand skills.

Wake Tech has a partnership with William Peace University that allows graduates to transfer credits to its baccalaureate program in Simulation and Game Design.

“An additional focus for our immediate future is expanding our non-degree, advanced IT training opportunities, and enabling individuals with certifications to attain course credit in our IT degree programs as appropriate,” said Dr. Keith Babuszczak, Wake Tech IT Programs Provost and RTP Campus Chief Campus Officer.

Wake Tech is offering free IT training for displaced workers