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Online Alumna Earns Master’s Degree While Starting a Career

Jennifer Powell graduated from NC State in spring 2017, earning her Master of Environmental Assessment Degree online from the College of Natural Resources.

Prior to enrolling in the master’s program, Powell always knew she wanted to go to graduate school, but she also wanted to start her career. Having a hard time deciding, Powell began looking at other options on how to do both.

“While considering different programs across the country, I decided to look at the Distance Education Master’s programs at NC State. I wanted to find a program that enhanced my undergraduate degree of Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology while also broadening my knowledge and skillset of environmental assessment,” Powell said.

After reviewing the College of Natural Resources and NC State Online and Distance Education’s Online Master of Environmental Assessment program, Powell had found the solution to her problem. She decided that NC State’s online Environmental Assessment program would allow her to achieve her goals of both starting a career and earning a master’s degree.

For her first two semesters, Powell said she limited her enrollment to one class to get a feel for the course load and time management.

“I found out that I had been accepted into the Environmental Assessment Program about the same time I was offered a permanent position as a Conservation Technician with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission,” Powell explained. “After I felt I had a handle on managing my work time versus school time, I started taking two classes per semester. It was a very, busy two-and-a-half years, but learning to discipline myself, prioritize school work and staying focused has helped me become a better professional,” Powell added.

Powell said the online master’s degree program has provided her with a different perspective on environmental issues.

“It has ultimately strengthened my knowledge and skillset, giving me a more competitive advantage in the professional world,” Powell said.

Powell said students in the program are exposed to different topics and real-life situations.

“I think one of the best attributes of the [online master’s] degree program was the ability to engage with other working professionals along with professors. I could learn about different environmental professions and gain a different perspective on environmental topics and issues,” Powell said. She adds that she was able to take electives that specialized in topics such as forestry and water quality.

Powell thought so highly of the online master’s program, she’s endorsed it for other professionals in the environmental field.

“I personally feel the core curriculum, along with the wide range of electives, will make you a better environmental professional. The knowledge, exposure and connections that you gain throughout this program will help you stand out in future job opportunities or advancement,” Powell explained.

Although Powell was not attending classes in a traditional setting, she said she was still able to engage, meet new people and listen to lectures as if she were on campus.

“NC State has done a great job setting up the [online] Environmental Assessment program,” Powell said.

Students interested in the online master’s program and who may have questions can email program director Linda Taylor at