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and classroom beginning in October) with convenient evening hours for $849. Not quite ready to take the plunge? USC offers a free GMAT strategy workshop a few times a year. Kaplan: Kaplan offers GMAT On Demand courses, which give students the choice of prepping online at their own pace and costs $599. Kaplan’s Classroom Anywhere offers live online instruction, with set class schedules and interactive features. With numerous options available, you’ll likely find something to suit your schedule with this $949 course. And Kaplan’s inperson Classroom On Site GMAT options are offered at $1599 and the next course begins June 25.


Ready, Set … Test! USC, Kaplan Offer Flexible Choices for Post-Bachelors’ Entrance Tests By Katie Alice Walker


tandardized tests: You’ve been taking them since elementary school, and if you’re thinking of going to grad school, the toughest tests are just ahead.

The good news is that test prep options abound, locally and online. But if you are thinking of going to grad school, you’re likely already thinking about the cost of more education, so you’d be wise to carefully consider the costs and effectiveness of the test preparation courses you’re thinking about. A quick trip to any bookstore yields plenty of study guides for any admissions test. Depending on your learning style and level of self-discipline, though, test-prep courses are worth considering to achieve your best score. Whether it’s the GMAT, GRE or LSAT, read on and study up on what you can expect those test prep options to look like. There are a variety of test-prep options online, but there are really just two preparation powerhouses in Columbia if you’d like to actually sit in a classroom with an instructor: University of South Carolina’s University Test Prep and Kaplan. Lee Weiss, director of graduate programs for Kaplan Test Prep, offers a few recommendations before even taking the test-prep plunge.


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“Prepare for your test early in the application cycle,” Weiss says. “If you decide to go to law school or business school, you’ll know what your chances are and if you qualify for merit-based scholarships. Plan ahead — getting to grad school is a long cycle.” Once you’ve decided to take one of the necessary exams to apply to graduate schools and a test-prep course is in your future, the bad news is that most test prep courses don’t come cheap. But with options like online courses and Kaplan’s On-Demand curriculum, where you can choose when you’d like to start each lesson and work at your own pace, you can curb the expense somewhat. “Online classes are for those who are very motivated,” Weiss says. “Kaplan offers expert live instructors, but if you’re going to a gym our live classes are like personal training. Our on-demand courses are like working out on your own.” Weiss also mentions that Kaplan offers some tuition assistance as well as discounts through various academic clubs. And well-

prepared students who test well might earn eligibility for scholarships, grants, fellowships and assistantships, which can save tuition dollars in the long run. Sure, the courses are expensive and a significant time investment, but the goal is to get you on the path to a new degree program. “We’ve been offering test-prep instruction for 75 years,” Weiss says. “We make students happy and improve their scores.” Below is some helpful, test-specific information.

GMAT If you’re interested in earning your Masters of Business Administration, you’ll need to take the GMAT. USC University Test Prep: USC recently began a 24-hour online GMAT preparation course, which is convenient for students who prefer a non-classroom setting or can’t travel to USC’s main campus here in Columbia. Whether you’re taking the course online or in the classroom, both are offered two days a week (online beginning in July

For more information Visit and learn. or call 1-800-922-2577 for more information on USC’s University Test Prep offerings. Visit or call 1-800-KAP-TEST for more information on Kaplan and its test-prep courses.

Many advanced-degree programs in communications, history, music, education and computer science require a GRE score, and often a subject-specific test. USC University Test Prep: Again, USC offers an online course option as well as an in-classroom option with several options this fall. While most of USC’s courses are taught twice a week, University Test Prep also offers a Sunday course that meets just once a week for four hours, which is ideal for many who are applying to graduate school and already hold full-time jobs. The GRE test prep course is offered at USC for $749. Kaplan: GRE Test prep with Kaplan again means online course offerings and in-classroom options, ranging from $499 to $1299. But no matter which route you choose, Kaplan offers Adaptive Learning Technology for each of its prep courses, which allows students to get feedback and next steps for studying based on homework and quiz scores, and if you’re motivated to do well, Kaplan also offers one-on-one private tutoring for up to 35 hours. But at $4,599, this personal attention will cost you.

LSAT The LSAT is required to get into law school, and like many post-bachelors’ degree tests, the fewer times you take the test, the more appealing your law school application. USC: University Test Prep offers several options for LSAT preparation, including online courses, Sunday instruction and twice-weekly courses. Each option costs $849 and students can expect to spend 30 hours preparing in the course. USC offers a free LSAT strategy workshop a couple times each year for students planning to study on their own or curious about what University Test Prep’s course offerings will look like. Kaplan: LSAT test-prep options online and in-classroom range in cost from $649 to $1399. Kaplan also has flexible options, including summer intensive programs and free LSAT preview classes.

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IT-oLogy Identifies Top IT Jobs Right Now By Kristine Hartvigsen


inding a job in what folks still warily characterize as “this economy” can be a source of exasperation for many until they realize that “this economy” is also the emerging knowledge economy — and some of the best, most well-paying jobs to be had are in the diversified fields of information technology, or IT. “There are IT jobs in every industry, particularly banking and health care,” says Rachel Barnett, marketing and communications director at IT-oLogy, the nonprofit collaboration of public and private organizations committed to advancing the IT profession and expanding the IT talent pool to help foster economic development. The Columbia area, sometimes compared to Austin in its formative years, has developed into an IT hub, particularly for the insurance industry; a March 2012 study, “Insurance Technology and Services South Carolina,” found the industry supports nearly 15,000 jobs and contributes an estimated $6.7 billion annually to the Midlands economy. The Columbia area is headquarters to more than 20 insurance-based companies, making it the largest insurance technology cluster in the United States, according to a December 2012 report by the Bay Area Council Economic Institute. Because of their heavy reliance on information and database systems, Midlandsarea insurance companies represent myriad employment opportunities in the various IT concentrations. Meeting the workforce demand locally, according to IT-oLogy, absolutely requires outreach through educational institutions. “We have to get kids in K-12 interested

in IT, get them at an early age,” Barnett says. Her colleague, IT-oLogy campus relations manager Bethany Human concurs, adding that colleges and universities have seen significant growth in enrollment in the IT fields, and many schools are expanding their program offerings beyond basic computer programming. The hipness factor, also, is becoming increasingly attractive to aspiring young IT professionals. “IT is a lot cooler than it used to be,” Human says. “It’s no longer just the guy in the basement managing the mainframe. Being smart is cool. And being smart pays well.” So, what are the hottest IT jobs in Soda City right now? According to those in the know at IT-oLogy, they are (in no particular order):

IT Project Manager To stay competitive and maximize their efficiency, companies of all types must constantly upgrade their software applications. They need savvy IT project managers to oversee these projects and ensure that they operate properly, on time and within budget. The average salary for an IT project manager in the United States is $95,000 a year. Not bad work if you can get it, but you will need requisite education, experience

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Web Developer

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Depending on when they are brought in, web developers may be involved in the basic initial tasks of writing markup and coding for a new website, or they may find themselves working on expanding complex, multi-layered, edgily designed, databasedriven websites. There’s also increasing demand for creative website integration with social media applications. The demand for web developers only continues to grow. These professionals can earn from $30,000 to $60,000, depending on their level of experience and certifications, which may include WOW (World Organization of Webmasters) Certified Professional Webmaster or a Certificate of Webmaster Technology, among others.

Mobile Applications Developer

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With the meteoric rise in popularity of hand-held computing devices, from smart phones to iPads and the like, talented mobile applications developers can practically write their own career ticket. Mobile applications may be installed during the manufacturing process, but increasingly, consumers are downloading the latest apps on their mobile devices. Competition is fierce in this area of information technology. In fact, Columbia is home to a start-up company conceived to create a new mobile app a week all year round — 52 Apps — which is housed at the University of South Carolina Technology Incubator.

Data Analyst In today’s competitive global marketplace, companies must sort through and analyze more information than ever. Enter the data analyst, who is tasked with using refined software tools to examine, organize and present enormous amounts of information in ways executive decision-makers and strategists can use to make decisions. Data analysts tend to enjoy detail-oriented work involving lots of numbers. Training in accounting, math or statistics is helpful. They can make from $30,000 to $60,000, with room for advancement, given the proper experience and education.

QA Tester/Analyst Quality assurance (QA) testers run diagnostic and performance tests on various products and identify problems or areas needing modification or repair. Their input to higher managers is critical in decisions about whether to introduce a product to the market. Testers often are entry-level positions in the software industry and, due to the pace of new software development, are expected to continue to be in demand. Some companies use primarily temporary employees for QA testing positions as an easy way to scout for talent and eliminate those who are not up to the job. 1

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Software Application Developer Software development is a complex, often lengthy process that includes coming up with a concept, conducting research, planning, creating prototypes for testing, tweaking the software, and, eventually, moving it into production. This could be a perfect fit for those with dual right-brain and left-brain skills, as they need the creativity to envision and conceive ideas for software as well as the practical analytical skills necessary to bring the concept to fruition. All industries depend on software developers who can innovate and solve problems to maximize competitiveness. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 30 percent growth in employment of software developers and engineers from 2010 to 2020. Salaries can stretch into six figures annually for those with post-secondary education and who excel in the field.

Technical Writer At a minimum, technical writers must have a bachelor’s degree with up to five years of experience in the industry they choose to work in. Technical writers most commonly produce such things as operating or maintenance instruction manuals, online help documents, or even white papers and brochures to communicate complex and technical information to industry insiders as well as lay audiences. The 2010 median pay for technical writers was about $63,000 annually, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In 2010, CNN Money ranked technical writer as No. 88 in its Top 100 Best Jobs in America feature.

Security Analyst The massive security breach last year at the South Carolina Department of Revenue brought data security to the forefront of public and private concern. IT security analysts are challenged with protecting all sensitive information within a company and preventing access to confidential data by unauthorized parties. Their job duties include developing reports on the efficiency of security policies, as well as conducting training for employees about data integrity and safeguarding. In addition, the security analyst is responsible for ensuring that any new software or hardware in a company has proper security systems in place and for proactively mitigating any sources of security risk in existing or new systems. Salaries in this area range from about $70,000 to $150,000, depending on one’s level of experience, education, seniority and training. For more information, visit or

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USC Gets In the Online Education Game Online Degree Options Are Changing the Face of Higher Education By Len Lawson


raditionally, college students have had to compete in the workplace after completing a two-year or four-year degree earned while living on or commuting to a college campus. However, today’s college student does not just live on campus and come home on weekends or holidays. Today, many college students have full-time jobs and support families while completing their degrees. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2007 38 percent of the nation’s more than 18 million college students were 25 years of age or older. The center projects that during the next decade, the percentage of college students over the age of 25 will increase 20 percent, compared to 11 percent for students under age 25. “Everyone knows someone who wants to complete their degree,” says Susan Elkins, chancellor of USC’s recently launched Palmetto College. “Unfortunately, life can sometimes get in the way.” USC launched Palmetto College in April to offer nontraditional students a system to complete their bachelor’s degrees online. After completing their general education courses on campus, students can choose from seven different degree programs to complete their final 60 credit hours and obtain an accredited USC bachelor’s degree. Currently, Palmetto College offers degrees in business administration, criminal justice, elementary education, human services, liberal studies, organizational leadership and nursing. “What sets our program apart is that we are offering the same high-quality USC degrees online,” Elkins says. “It opens doors as a complete four-year program in high-demand fields.” The online degree programs are also offered at USC’s regional campuses, such as USC-Lancaster, USC-Salkehatchie, USC-Sumter and USC-Union. Elkins estimates there will soon be 500 students enrolled with Palmetto College at the USC-Columbia campus and 4,500 total at the regional campuses. Nontraditional students are increasingly turning to online education to supplement their needs and desires for a college degree. According to the 2012 Sloan Survey of Online Education, 6.7 million college students are learning online — and traditional colleges and universities are beginning to understand these needs

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and desires. With its move into offering online degree programs, USC is fully embracing a trend that other traditional schools — as well as technical colleges and for-profit schools, who have long dealt with nontraditional students — are also experimenting with. Midlands Tech offers numerous online courses. For-profit schools such as the University of Phoenix, Virginia College and Centura College do, too. ECPI University offers a hybrid format blending traditional, in-seat classes with online instruction. According to Jumelle Brooks, campus director of academic affairs at ECPI University in Columbia, 90 percent of ECPI’s students are instructed under the hybrid system. This system “reduces the barriers associated with receiving a college education,” Brooks says. “Students can submit their work from home and save gas at the same time.” The school uses tools such as Skype and FaceTime while offering one-on-one tutoring “to make sure students grasp the material.” ECPI offers accredited bachelor degree programs in business administration, computer science, criminal justice, health science, and nursing. They boast that students can earn their degrees in 2.5 years by taking traditional or hybrid courses during the day or in the evenings. While some may view these online degrees as inferior to a traditional college degree program, according to the 2012 Sloan Survey of Online Education, 77 percent of college administrators rated the learning outcomes in an online degree program as the same or superior to in-seat, traditional classes. Still, it’s important that students look for fully accredited programs — and compare costs and employment outcomes at different schools. Earning a bachelor’s degree isn’t just about a sense of accomplishment. “Research shows that those who get a bachelor’s degree earn $15,000 more per year than those who get an associate’s degree, and they earn $1 million more in a lifetime,” says Elkins.

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Guide to Career Advancement in Columbia, SC