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More Detroiters Are Earning Degrees Online Than Ever Before

Two things are constant in their ability to hold true these days. One, recessions are merciless on the job market and no one knows that more clearly than folks in Detroit. And two, more education is never, ever a bad thing--despite that possibility of the nagging monthly student loan payment.

Now that times have turned around for the Motor City and the country as a whole, Detroiters are not only headed back into the workforce in droves, but they're heading back to the classrooms as well--even if they are only virtual classrooms in some circumstances.

Bills have to be paid and real-world experience is critical in searching for a career in any field. But if an individual wants to combine these two duties, as well as continue their education by completing an advanced degree online, certain sacrifices need to be made. Zef Ivanaj works for Chrysler Group, LLC and is currently working full time. But when presented with an offer from his employer to earn a Master of Science Degree in Mechanical Engineering from Purdue University online while working his 40-hour-a-week schedule, Zef pounced upon the opportunity and here he explains why it was an offer he couldn't refuse.

Zev Ivanaj (credit: Michael Ferro)
Zev Ivanaj (credit: Michael Ferro)

Q: After you completed your bachelor's degree, did you go straight to signing up to complete your advanced degree online?

A: "After earning my bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering at Michigan State University, I spent close to a year unemployed. Although I maintained a good-standing GPA and had a variety of internship experiences, the state of the economy surrounding Detroit was such that I could not gain formal employment. For nearly a year, I gained income by creating websites for local businesses owned by friends and family, along with any other work I could find such as construction.

"By night, I was an aspiring entrepreneur working with investors to design and manufacture tools for use within the medical industry. The experiences I gained during the economic downturn inspired my desire to obtain a master's degree in mechanical engineering. This advanced degree would expand my knowledge base and was necessary in order to become more marketable and desirable to potential employers. In the early stages of the economic recovery, I accepted an offer from the Chrysler Group, LLC for a leadership development program. A condition of my employment was to obtain a master's degree from a local university which would by paid for in full. This unique opportunity helped to make my plans for an advanced degree feasible."

Q: In the end, what was the major motivating factor for you to go back to complete an advanced online degree?

A: "Chrysler's Leadership Program encouraged program members to attend a local university so that they could work and go to school simultaneously. After researching both local and online degree programs, I chose Purdue University's online program based on its reputation as one of the best engineering schools in the country, thus making me more marketable for future positions that require a higher level of education."

Q: Working full time and going to school online is no easy task. How do you find time to devote to your studies and carry out a 40-hour work week?

A: "While enrolled in Purdue's Master's program, taking graduate-level courses and working full time have taken up a majority of my time, making time management my biggest challenge. After some growing pains, I have accepted that my personal life had to be put on hold until I graduate from my current Master's program.

"Nevertheless, finding a balance between school and work has been difficult due to the fact that they are totally independent of one another. I cannot say that I have found the secret to balancing work and school, but the overall experience has strengthened my work ethic and time-management efficiency. As I grow within my profession, I plan to continue to achieve maximum productivity and become a more valuable asset to my company."

Zef Ivanaj works for Chrysler Group, LLC. He obtained his bachelor of science in mechanical engineering from Michigan State University. He is currently enrolled in Purdue's online master of science in mechanical engineering program.

Michael Ferro is freelance writer and a graduate of Michigan State University where he majored in Creative Writing and received the Jim Cash Creative Writing Award. Born and bred in Detroit, he currently resides in Ypsilanti Township. Additional writing can be found at

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