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STEM grant offers students IT exam voucher

Graduating seniors in the information technology field can jazz up their resumes, increase their job prospects and save a few bucks thanks to a free IT exam voucher program.

The program allows University of West Florida seniors who will graduate from select IT and computer engineering degree tracks this semester to take one of 10 software certification exams for free.

Exams normally cost $200-300 apiece. UWF is providing them to students for free with a portion of the $3.75 million science, technology, engineering and math grant the university received from the Florida Board of Governors earlier this year.

“If you want to maximize your employability, these credentials will give you a leg up,” said Rodger Krull, director of Continuing Education. “It’s important to employers. They are looking for people who have certain knowledge and credentials.”

Each of the exams evaluates the test taker’s skill with a particular type of software or discipline of computer programming.

For instance, the CompTIA A+ certification tests the user’s ability to perform maintenance on computers, laptops and mobile devices. The Cisco Certified Network Assistant certification tests the ability to install, configure, operate and troubleshoot computer networks.

Although it is possible to find employment in the IT field without certifications, most high-paying positions and top tech companies like Microsoft, Dell and Intel require that applicants have one or more certifications.

George Ellenberg, vice provost for Academic Affairs, said that a degree and a certification can be a powerful one-two punch for job seekers.

“As an ‘add-on’ to the high-quality bachelor’s degrees that students in the targeted areas receive from UWF, the certifications should make our graduates even more competitive as they seek employment in high-tech fields,” Ellenberg said via email.

Any senior graduating in spring of 2013 with a degree in computer science, computer engineering, management information systems, information technology or networking and communication technologies is eligible to apply for certification and practice exams.

Practice exams can be taken multiple times from any computer and can be accessed from the Continuing Education website.

The program will provide only one certification exam voucher per student, and the test must be taken at one of five designated testing sites in Pensacola, Niceville and Mobile, Ala.
The initiative is considered a pilot program, and Krull said there had not yet been a decision whether the program would be extended into future semesters. He said the results of the program this semester would help gauge whether it would continue.

“We’re looking at response rate, available funding and the number of students in that population,” he said.

Krull said there are about 45 students at UWF who meet the criteria to receive a voucher this semester, 12 of whom have applied. He said that it would be a good investment for all eligible students interested in entering the IT field to take an exam.

“It’s a broad, necessary field,” he said. “Almost every company bigger than a mom and pop store needs an IT backbone. It’s a very needed skill.”

The deadline to request a voucher is April 17, and the deadline to take a certification exam is May 3.

Voucher applications, system requirements for practice exams and the full list of available exams and test sites can be found at

Kevin Robinson
Staff Writer

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