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Educating Working Professionals Since 1955

Students in class circa 1955

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s Rensselaer at Work division was founded over 67 years ago to provide graduate and executive education to engineers and business leaders.

Picture this: It was 1955 and the commercial airline industry was just starting to really “take off”.

The idea of flying across the country or to a foreign land was in its infancy. Likewise, the role of flight in the military was growing by leaps and bounds. The demand for aircraft and their components was increasing by triple digits. United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) – a conglomerate of Pratt & Whitney Engines, Hamilton Standard Propellers, Chance Vought Aircraft, and Sikorsky Helicopters – was actively doing its best to attract engineers to its primary operations in and around Connecticut. In fact, its advertisements at the time consistently included a notice that it needed “experienced engineers in many categories.”

The same growth was seen in other major hubs in aviation development, California becoming one of the most active. Major employers there were offering engineers continued education while working – as a benefit to attract new talent. UAC knew it needed to offer better and reached out to major universities in the Northeast region to build masters programs for developing its talent pool.

Of the universities they contacted, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute replied favorably and quickly committed to offering programs designed with working professionals in mind. Sure enough, Rensselaer established a facility in Hartford, Connecticut, – less than five miles from UAC’s main facilities – and opened with courses and programs that fall of 1955.

Since then, Rensselaer has proudly helped over 25,000 engineers and business leaders achieve their graduate and professional education objectives. UAC later morphed into the United Technologies Corporation, and eventually became Raytheon Technologies as we know it today. It can be said that the Rensselaer at Work and Raytheon “grew up” together over these many years.

Just as Raytheon companies continued to develop some of the most innovative products in aviation, Rensselaer continued to innovate the delivery and experience of education for working professionals – not only with Raytheon, but with a host of global employers throughout New England, and across the nation in general.

And then the internet happened.

From the ’50s to the late ’90s, graduate school was a local choice. Professionals had to fit graduate study around their other work and life schedules, making time to be on campus after work and on weekends. Most students chose their graduate school program by proximity as the only means of access.

Then the internet brought the notion of study in online models from an array of institutions, no matter where you were or what time zone you were in. This brought a whole variety of different choices. One could fully meet the demand of life and professional commitments without ever setting foot on “campus” and still get a degree. As with every other industry, the internet leveled the playing field and brought many new and unexpected opportunities.

The early offerings of online graduate programs attempted to reproduce the on-campus experience, with mixed results. As other sectors have found, trying to meet market needs with the same deliverable in a different format does not always lead to the best results.

For Rensselaer, a central tenet of learning at work is delivering the full excellence of the Institute in every program, to every student. Given the many delivery models practiced over the years, Rensselaer seeks to fulfill the current and future needs of working learners and their employers while promoting change and making significant impact on the world as we know it. As the landscape of industry changes, Rensselaer continues to innovate its learning experiences with great cause.

All breakthroughs begin with a ‘break from.’

A key to Rensselaer’s pioneering approach is a commitment to providing what the market needs, where, and when the market needs it. Employers are consistent with their requests: They need employees who not only know a leading-edge approach in their field, but also have the experience and the context of best practice. The combination of a strong knowledge base and the experience that comes from practical application – is what sets professional learning programs apart.

And that is where Rensselaer comes in. With its huge research capacity and experience, Rensselaer can take what is learned today and deliver it rapidly to working professionals and employers anywhere they might reside.

Rensselaer at Work continues its 67-year tradition of serving working professionals by designing programs that use an active and engaged project-based approach—one that closely mirrors the work of a professional in the field at every level. The “drive” for Rensselaer at Work students is to increase one’s knowledge, have the experience with innovative thinking, and the utilization of a new skills base, all while connecting to the best in talent of those learning with them.

Proud to have played a substantial role in the growth and development of employer-partners and working professionals over the better part of six decades, Rensselaer at Work continues its standard of excellence in education. Our students work for companies with a practical need to make a difference fast. It is a massive challenge and brings the Institute full circle to its origins in 1955, as it opened its doors as a pioneer in creating meaningful education specifically designed to educate the most promising, working professional.

And to that end, we ask, Why not change the world?

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