Students - young or old - will soon be able to earn an entirely new type of degree from Georgia colleges.
The University System of Georgia's Board of Regents announced the creation of a brand new college credential they call the 'nexus degree' - and expect them to be available as early as Fall 2018.
So what are these new degrees?
"Nexus" means a connection or series of connections, and the idea behind the degree is that it will emphasize the connections between normal college learning, hands-on experience and deep industry knowledge taught by managers or professionals in specific job fields.
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The program will require 18 credit hours of coursework, with six of those hours in field or internship experience and the rest in upper-division level classes.
For a full-time student, that's about a year of schoolwork, though it could take longer depending on the the requirements of each program.
USG Chancellor Steve Wrigley said the new degree is necessary to get people in high-demand industries like cybersecurity and financial technology that are facing a critical shortage of skilled workers.
"The credential enables campuses to nimbly address workforce needs in their community and offer an adaptive degree structure, while helping people expand their knowledge base over time and different careers,” Chancellor Steve Wrigley said. “It is offering modern skills in the essential fields of today’s industry.”
The actual curriculum for the degree is still being developed, but the USG says the coursework will be designed by collaborating with experts actually working in those high-demand industries.
Wrigley told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution colleges will "work directly with industry leaders who can tell us, ‘We want people who can do exactly this,’ and then teaching exactly that, at times using industry managers as instructors.”
“The primary building block of Georgia’s pro-business climate is our highly-skilled workforce,” Georgia Department of Economic Development Commissioner Pat Wilson said in a news release.
“As we emerge as a leader in the cybersecurity and financial technology industry sectors, the nexus degree will serve as the perfect supplement to ensuring that we equip the workforce of tomorrow with the education and skills they need to qualify for these high-demand career fields.”
The nexus degree can stand on its own as a separate degree from an associates, bachelor's master's, doctorate or certificate. But the USG said it will encourage schools to be "creative" in how they use the program to expand on what they already offer, such as by incorporating the nexus requirements into an already-existing associate's program.
It could also be a good opportunity for people who are already working, but may want to experiment with a career change or who want to advance to higher positions.
The news comes as Atlanta tussles with 19 other cities to convince the e-commerce supergiant Amazon to build its massive new headquarters in the area. If done, it's expected to result in a $5 billion investment as many 50,000 high-paying jobs, including many in industries like cybersecurity and technology.