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NC State Online Student To Blend Business with Renewable Energy

When the world changed in 2020, NC State Online student Nico Curtin didn’t let it stop him from moving forward. 

Curtin is originally from Oregon, where he attended the Oregon Institute of Technology for a degree in renewable energy engineering. About a year into the program, he realized that he wanted to take his career in a different direction, so he changed course and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in operations management. 

He soon faced a dilemma familiar to many recent graduates — he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do with his degree, and the operations job market prioritized experience he didn’t yet have. Curtin reassessed his options and decided to blend his interests by applying his knowledge toward a growing industry: renewable energy. NC State’s online Graduate Certificate in Renewable Energy Assessment and Development soon caught his eye. 

“After comparing different programs, what settled me on NC State was that I could get it done in a year, and I wouldn’t need to take out a loan. I also really liked the atmosphere that I felt with NC State’s graduate program; granted it was all virtual, but I genuinely felt like I’d be supported if I decided to apply,” he says.

So in fall 2020, Curtin enrolled. Since then, he has thoroughly enjoyed his experience. He appreciates how each semester’s courses complement each other, making it easy to apply what you’re learning across the program. 

“The course load has not been overbearing, so I felt I’ve been able to focus more on producing quality work for the given assignments rather than just getting them done. I’m also coming from a trimester program where I regularly took six to seven classes every 10-week term, so dealing with two classes a semester is a welcome relief.” 

A manageable workload helps Curtin balance school with his personal life and career as an inventory auditor for RGIS, an inventory service provider in New Mexico, where he’s based. 

“One of the main reasons I went to work at RGIS was that the early morning hours would leave the afternoons and evenings free, which is when I work on school. And usually, when I get back from work, I’m still in work mode, so I try to use that energy to get school work done. This strategy doesn’t work all the time, but thinking like this has helped me not procrastinate.” 

Curtin hopes that doors in the renewable energy industry will open for him once he completes the certificate. He’ll bring along what he learned from the program’s distinguished faculty, including Lecturer and Program Coordinator Lyra Rakusin, who he says has made a significant impact on his education. 

“I feel that her passion and expertise really makes the classes and lectures enjoyable. I think we also benefit from her experience, in that the broad array of assignments feels like something similar to what we might expect in the field. Learning this way has made me feel confident that I will be able to apply what I’ve learned successfully.”

His advice to others considering continuing their education? “Just do it.” 

“If you think you should be in a different or better career, find a program that makes sense for you and commit. I think to be successful in an online program, you have to be a little more proactive about learning the material and finding additional external resources to help shape your understanding of the topic. If you can do that, I think an online program is a great option because you can learn on your own time.” 

Are you interested in working in the renewable energy field but need to gain additional knowledge or education? Explore our online Graduate Certificate in Renewable Energy Assessment and Development