Certifications on the Way to the Degree Payoff Early for WGU Texas IT Student

Roberto Velasquez

B.S. in IT Network Design and Management
San Antonio, Texas

For WGU Texas student Roberto Velasquez and his wife, balancing work with school and family is a tag-team event. Roberto works full time during the day at Citibank in San Antonio. His wife stays home with their three children ages nine years old, six years old, and eleven months. When Roberto gets home, she goes to work while he watches the kids. She has two bachelor’s degrees, he has an associate’s degree, and he wants a bachelor’s degree by the end of next year. In between there’s the cooking, cleaning, house chores, and other adult responsibilities. It’s a busy household.

Roberto briefly attended two different for-profit institutions, but being away for several additional hours a week to attend school wasn’t going to work for him, and neither was the cost. . Then he saw an ad for WGU Texas. He didn’t act on it until he was talking to a coworker about earning a bachelor’s degree. “I mentioned it, and the guy I work with told me he was a WGU student and he loved it. He showed me the website. I did a lot of research. It looked like a good fit so I took his advice and applied,” says Roberto.

“WGU Texas is already paying off just a year into it,” says Roberto. “In addition to coming in at about $6,000 per year compared to the $20,000 a year I was paying, I get to sit for industry certification exams as part of my IT program (B.S. IT Network Design and Management).” Two terms into his program, Roberto has earned four industry certifications — including the CIW Web Foundations Associate, Comp ITA Security +, Comp ITA Project +, and Cisco CCENT certifications.

“Those certifications, along with my associate’s degree, were instrumental in me recently getting a significant promotion,” he says. He was recently promoted to a vice president position at Citibank. Roberto jokes that he has also passed his wife’s salary, a career milestone with plans for an advanced graduate degree in computer science.

“I’m also surpassing what my parents were able to accomplish, though they make a very good living,” says Roberto. “My mom is a bilingual nurse (LVN) and my dad did several professional training programs. I will be the first in my family with a bachelor’s degree. My parents support my goals.”

Looking to the future Roberto talks about his work and enjoying the increased responsibility. “I want my work to stay interesting like it is now,” he says, “and getting the degree, and eventually multiple degrees, will allow me the opportunity to keep advancing and trying new things.” Plans for the future include possible pathways into cyber-security for the government or working as a university professor.

It hasn’t been easy being a full-time dad, full-time bank VP, full-time husband and full-time student. “There are some advantages to sitting in a classroom where there are no distractions. I can’t hear babies crying or things breaking, like I can at home,” he laughs. “But that model didn’t work, and this does. So I just take ten minutes here, ten minutes there, and it adds up each day. All I need is my laptop. I read during lunch at work. I do pre-tests and assignments while the kids are napping. When I’m studying for a big exam, my wife takes the kids so I can have quiet and really concentrate. It’s all worth it. I’ve finished two terms and I have about two terms to go, and, I’ll earn several more certifications along the way to my degree.”

Roberto was referred to WGU Texas by an existing student and co-worker. Would he do the same if asked? “Oh heck yes,” he says. “My advice would simply be to do it, you have nothing to lose! I mean if this cost as much as the for-profits and you had to schedule lots of time away from family, you should really sit down and weigh the odds," he says. “But with this—the support you get from the student mentors and the course mentors, and everybody along the way pointing you to all the resources you need—and the affordable tuition, it’s all there….just go for it.”

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