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Technical Studies degree now offered 100% online with no textbook cost

A year after Tidewater Community College launched an associate degree designed specifically for skilled workers who need formal education to advance their careers, the program is becoming even more flexible for its students.

Starting this fall, TCC’s Associate of Applied Science in Technical Studies with a Specialization in Technical Supervision can be completed 100% online and students will pay nothing for textbooks.

That’s more good news for the degree that continues to garner industry support.

“We came to TCC because we saw the need for our employees and worked together to develop a program that would award credit for technical knowledge and work experience,” said George Faatz, director of growth & strategic planning at Virginia Natural Gas. “TCC heard us, acted on it and created a program that fits our needs and the needs of many in the Hampton Roads workforce.”

Students in the program can be awarded as many as 23 credits for relevant job-related training and prior professional experience, a plus for skilled workers who don’t have two years to dedicate solely to academics to earn an associate degree.

Since the program launched in partnership with Old Dominion University, companies including Busch Manufacturing, LLC, Oceaneering and Virginia Natural Gas have come on board.

Participating companies cover tuition and fees for their employees. As the program is now part of the college’s Z-Degree, students will use open educational resources instead of traditional textbooks. That translates to paying nothing for textbooks.

In addition to offering all classes online, students can also continue the face-to-face option if they prefer.

Moving forward

Mike Petrice, organizational development manager at Busch, joined two of his apprentices in pursuing the degree last year.

“Getting credits for past work was a huge morale booster and what gave me the motivation to keep going,” Petrice said. “I’ve been in manufacturing for 32 years and managing people for over 20 years. The material I’m learning in class often gives me that ‘Oh, now I know why we do it that way effect,’” he said.

Petrice received the maximum of 23 credits given his background, meaning he needs 37 more to earn his associate degree. He recommended the program to all the employees in Busch’s machine shop. “I thought I’d be the oldest student in the class at my age, 49,” he said. “But once I got there, I’m right in the middle. It’s a comfortable environment.” 

Coursework focuses on industrial supervision, technical writing, information literacy, quality assurance, team concepts and problem-solving and more.

Ken Magee, newly named manager of community affairs with Virginia Natural Gas, is anticipated to be the first student to earn the degree, completing coursework requirements this summer. He plans to transfer to Old Dominion University’s industrial technology program. Magee is one of four employees in the program from Virginia Natural Gas recently promoted to supervisory or management roles.

With the graying of the workforce in the industrial and manufacturing sectors, education and professional development are essential for the Hampton Roads economy.

“We are seeing plenty of retirements, creating opportunities for people to move up,” Faatz said. “This degree prepares employees for supervisory, management and ultimately, leadership roles.”

Guy St. John, apprentice program manager at Oceaneering, agreed. “We are responsible for bringing up new craftsmen, as well as supervisors and leaders. 

“The Technical Studies degree is a continuation of what these employees are learning in their trade and advances their knowledge in other areas, including supervision, communication and advanced technical skills.”

Want to learn more?

For more information on how your organization can get employees on track with the Technical Studies degree, email Karen Miller, program coordinator of the college’s Apprentice Institute, at

Prospective students can contact the new student support team @ for information.