Amazon partnership paves career path for alumnus

When the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted Joseph Bourdon’s first year of college, he began working at an Amazon warehouse in his hometown of Carlisle, Pennsylvania, to do something different.

Bourdon still wanted to continue his education but didn’t want to leave his position at Amazon to go back to school.

He chose to get his degree online through Penn State World Campus, and his tuition was fully funded through the Amazon Career Choice initiative. Bourdon is the company’s first employee to earn a bachelor’s degree online through World Campus using the Amazon tuition benefit.

“A lot of people aren’t necessarily accustomed to the fact that you can get a college degree online,” Bourdon said. “I honestly recommend it to anyone because it allows flexibility, and you still get a solid and reputable education.”

Today, Bourdon is a process engineer at Amazon, now in Seattle, Washington. He credits his Penn State education for helping him advance his career at Amazon.

Developing a career

Bourdon started at Amazon in a warehouse picking boxes to fulfill orders. After learning about Amazon’s employee tuition reimbursement program, Amazon Career Choice, he decided to take advantage of the opportunity.

He initially wanted to study supply chain operations but decided to pursue an education in technology and cybersecurity. Bourdon enrolled in the Bachelor of Science in Security and Risk Analysis offered online through Penn State World Campus by the University’s College of Information Sciences and Technology. Bourdon also earned a National Security Agency IST certificate.

Bourdon praised how Amazon supported his academic journey. For instance, he said, supervisors were great in scheduling so he could maintain a regular routine while enrolled in courses.

Bourdon said he applied concepts he learned in his courses and his education led to promotions where he gained management experience.

“World Campus has been great for me in terms of my education, and their partnership with Amazon has been super important,” Bourdon said. “You gain some real-world experience that you can take into different roles.”

Through his course work, Bourdon learned programming and used it in projects at work, which helped land him a promotion in his current job. Now a process engineer, Bourdon helps build tools used for solving issues and troubleshooting fixes for Amazon sellers, customers, and employee associates. He said his Penn State degree taught him the analytical mindset and critical thinking skills to understand how systems work.

“It’s very important to the role I’m in because you are breaking down all of these processes and all these different paths that sellers could take,” he said.

Penn State degrees offered online

Penn State World Campus offers a Penn State education online, with a comprehensive selection of more than 175 degree and certificate programs in disciplines like IT, business, health care, the liberal arts, and more. To date, more than 37,000 students have graduated with a degree they have earned through World Campus.

Through the Amazon Career Choice partnership, seven students have received a credential online through Penn State World Campus. Bourdon and five other students received an undergraduate certificate. One student received an associate degree.

About Amazon Career Choice

Amazon and Penn State World Campus partner together to provide employees an opportunity to earn a college degree and industry certifications while continuing their careers.

Eligible employees can use the Amazon Career Choice benefit toward one of 38 bachelor’s degree programs or seven associate degree programs offered online through Penn State World Campus. Students must apply for admission and be accepted.

Career Choice allows employees to participate every year they work at Amazon and gives them eligibility after only 90 days of employment.

In the U.S., the company is investing $1.2 billion to upskill more than 300,000 Amazon employees by 2025 to help move them into higher-paying, in-demand jobs. Since launching in 2012, Career Choice has helped provide education for more than 50,000 employees.

Learn more about the Amazon Career Choice initiative on the Penn State World Campus website.