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Engineering Online Graduates Earned Master’s Degrees by Working Together

As co-workers, Jonathan Holtvedt and Lauren McCauley partnered up to complete their master’s degrees online in just two years.

Earning your degree online doesn’t mean earning your degree on your own, according to Jonathan Holtvedt and Lauren McCauley.

Over the past two years, both pursued their Master of Civil Engineering degrees through NC State’s Engineering Online program. But Holtvedt and McCauley aren’t just study partners. They’re also colleagues at Balfour Beatty, a construction company in Raleigh, North Carolina.

While pursuing an online degree on top of a full-time career can be challenging, McCauley says her partnership with Holtvedt made things easier. They took several courses together and could conveniently meet during lunch or after work to tackle group projects.

This December, the duo attended their graduation ceremony side by side.

“It was really great to have someone who was pursuing the same goal because we could talk about what we were experiencing, and he would keep me motivated,” McCauley says.

Holtvedt agrees that their partnership improved his online learning experience. “We spoke often about courses and work,” he says. “It was fun being able to tie our work experiences and education together.”

By now, working and learning together comes second nature. Holtvedt and McCauley’s partnership extends well beyond their online graduate courses.

“Lauren and I had undergraduate classes together at NC State and have worked on the same project at Balfour Beatty,” says Holtvedt. “It was great having a friend going through similar experiences with work and school.”

Both went on to work at Balfour Beatty after completing their undergraduate degrees at NC State. McCauley is currently an assistant project manager, while Holtvedt is an assistant superintendent. They’ve been with the company for over two and a half years.

When it came time to explore their options for graduate degrees, each sought a highly ranked program that would allow them to continue working full time — and NC State’s Engineering Online program stood out.

McCauley is happy with her choice. Even before her degree was in hand, she saw her studies making an impact at Balfour Beatty. Her online lectures offered new perspectives, which she would discuss with her manager and incorporate into her day-to-day work.

“The information I learned while earning my degree broadened my perspective on the work that I do. Every class taught me a new angle or a different set of information to consider within the construction field,” she says. “It really gave the classes depth.”

Holtvedt agrees, saying “I would recommend distance education classes to anyone who has wanted to further their education and career, but does not have time to pursue a full-time, in-class degree.”