Megan Coghlan, a process assistant at Amazon, never formally finished high school. Home-schooled her entire life, Coghlan was working at Amazon when she decided to enroll in a GED program to help her gain the skills and confidence she needed to succeed. After earning her GED, she decided to continue her studies. Today, she’s at Alamo Community College in San Antonio, Texas, where she’s pursuing a bachelor’s degree in accounting—without taking on any student debt.
It’s all made possible through an Amazon employee benefit called Career Choice. Launched in 2012, Career Choice is an education and training benefit that helps eligible hourly employees grow their skills for career success at Amazon or elsewhere. It’s part of Amazon’s commitment to invest more than $1.2 billion in skills training programs for employees by 2025.
Career Choice doesn’t only include high school diplomas or college degrees. From industry certifications to English language classes, the program has virtual and on-campus offerings for all kinds of learners on their individual journeys.
Read on to learn more details about Career Choice and meet other participants.
Career Choice overview and pathways
There are four parts to Career Choice to support employee’s different learning needs:
- College: Pre-paid tuition for associate degrees, bachelor’s degrees, and certificate programs
- Pathways: Industry certifications for in-demand roles in tech, healthcare, transportation, mechanical and industrial systems, and business & administration
- Foundations: English and local language learning, high school completion, and GED programs
- Coaching: Career Choice partners with Kaplan to help employees achieve career goals no matter where they are in their journey through career coaching, college advising, and specialized career services
Students are able to attend their classes at one of more than 400 education partners around the world, including community colleges, local and national colleges, HBCUs, and other skills training providers.
Further, Amazon has a rigorous selection process for partner educators that ensures these schools offer additional services to help students through their education and career. These include career coaching, resume writing, and job placement support.
Virtual or on-campus options are available depending on the students’ preferences and the specific program. Amazon takes special care to make it convenient to access in-person learning if that’s a priority to the participant.
The flexibility to work and go to school is also built into the program, no matter which learning program the participant chooses. Amazon provides a variety of work schedules to meet every participant’s personal situation.
“It helped me a lot working with [Amazon] HR to arrange flexible scheduling so that I could accelerate my coursework and complete my degree faster,” said Pissi Adam, a support operations specialist at Amazon who earned his bachelor’s degree in information technology management at Western Governor’s University through Career Choice.
Adam previously held an associate degree from a New York community college. A self-described lifelong learner, he wanted to further his education in order to progress in his career, but many programs didn’t offer the flexibility he needed as a working professional. Western Governor University, a Career Choice national partner, offered a unique, competency-based online program that fit his exact needs.
Many Career Choice participants (more than half, in fact) say they’d like to utilize the program to advance within Amazon, but not all do, nor are they required to. Some participants choose paths not offered at Amazon, such as various healthcare roles. The goal of Career Choice is to provide eligible hourly employees with the tools for success, no matter where they plan to work in the future.
A detailed look at each Career Choice pathway
Employees can enroll in programs for associate degrees, bachelor’s degrees, and certificates and pursue a degree in any field of study that interests them. For many, getting a degree is the springboard they need to break into a new industry or receive a promotion.
Samuel Exume started at Amazon as a fulfillment center associate in November 2021.
“I’ve always wanted to go back to college after moving to the United States from Haiti,” said Exume. “Career Choice allowed me to start working on my dream to become a computer engineer.”
Currently studying computer science at Hillsborough Community College in Tampa, Florida, Exume has already been promoted to an IT tech support associate thanks to his new skills and plans to continue growing in his department after he finishes his degree.
Career Choice’s four national online education partners are Southern New Hampshire University, Western Governors University, National University, and Colorado State University Global. In all, there are more than 400 education partners globally to choose from, and participants can access a full online catalog based on their location.
Pathways is a program that gives employees the opportunity to pursue industry certifications and licenses—such as commercial driver licenses or HVAC certifications—and other certifications that allow participants to obtain in-demand jobs.
These include both technical and non-technical pathways in high-demand industries like IT and business and administration systems. In the U.S., the most popular fields of study among Career Choice participants are transportation, technology, and health care.
Our newest vertical, Foundations, launched in 2022 and includes foundational skills like English language learning, high school completion, and GED programs. Since launching, more than 300 employees have already graduated with their GED through Career Choice.
The English language proficiency programs are also popular: over 10,000 employees in the U.S. have participated to date. Guerda Garner, a fulfillment center associate at Amazon, moved to the U.S. from Haiti in 2003 and recently completed English language classes to improve her English skills. She credits the program for helping grow her confidence and plans to continue using Career Choice to earn her high school diploma.
Beyond English proficiency in the U.S., local language programs are offered in five of the 14 countries where Career Choice is available, such as French Canadian in Canada and Spanish in Spain.
Other benefits and support offerings for Career Choice participants
Going to school and working at the same time can be a tough balancing act. To assist with this new stage in students’ lives, Amazon provides benefits including:
- Mental health support: Five free counseling sessions per issue per year via Amazon’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP), 24/7 mental health support through Twill, and community-based family and peer support via National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).
- Financial counseling: Free sessions via Amazon’s EAP to help with debt management, budget creation, savings plans, and overall financial wellness while seeking further education.
- Affinity and mentoring groups: 13 affinity groups, a vast mentoring network offering 1:1 mentoring and mentoring circles, and unofficial employee resource groups where employees can connect with peers or leaders to support them during their time at Amazon.
- Flexible scheduling: Amazon’s temporary school scheduling policy allows employees to request adjustments to their shift schedule as school-related needs arise.
How eligibility and prepaid tuition works
In the U.S. Career Choice is open to the vast majority of Amazon hourly full-time and part-time employees after 90 days of employment, and there’s no limit to the number of years they can participate as long as they remain eligible. Amazon will pre-pay tuition and reimburse books and fees up to an annual amount, allowing many participants to earn their degrees and achieve their goals without the financial burden.
“With the help of Career Choice, I was able to accomplish my goal without the worry of being left in debt,” said Sayeda Singh, a fulfillment center associate who completed her bachelor’s in business administration from Southern New Hampshire University.
There, she was inducted into the National Honor Society of Leadership and Success and is currently a volunteer Career Choice advocate who helps other associates learn about and sign up for the program.
Haileigh Johnson was previously working two jobs in order to pay for tuition at Arizona State University. Thanks to Career Choice, she graduated debt-free with a bachelor’s degree in organizational leadership, which helped her earn a promotion from associate to area manager at Amazon.
She had this to say about Career Choice: “I would tell other employees to go for it! Career Choice offers a great opportunity to develop yourself.”
Ready to learn more and browse schools near you? Visit the Career Choice site to learn more.
- Who is eligible for Career Choice?The vast majority of Amazon’s hourly employees—over 700,000 globally—are eligible for Career Choice, though eligibility varies by country. In the U.S. hourly employees are eligible after 90 days of employment (eligibility varies by country). The benefit is funded at 50% for hourly part-time employees.
- What schools participate in Career Choice?Career Choice’s partner network includes more than 400 education partners globally, including trade schools, community colleges, HBCUs, and local and national colleges and universities. Participants can take classes from a local education provider in our partner network at a college or university in their area.
- What kinds of students participate in Career Choice?Career Choice participants are a diverse group, and Amazon works to ensure underrepresented communities have access to programs like Career Choice. Over 40% of Career Choice participants identify as BIPOC. Participants come from varying academic and professional backgrounds, but are all interested in furthering their education, developing new skills or learning a new trade.
- Do employees work full-time during Career Choice participation?Employees can work full-time or part-time while attending classes. Amazon provides flexible scheduling so students can go to both their school and job.
- What education offerings does Career Choice have?Career Choice offers prepaid tuition for associate and bachelor’s degrees, industry certifications in industries like tech and transportation, English language learning, high school completion and GED programs, and career coaching.
- I want to read more stories from Career Choice participants. Where can I learn more?Take it from these employees—Career Choice allowed them to learn new skills and work towards their career goals.
- Meet two of the first Amazon Career Choice graduates
- Meet an army veteran who advanced his career through Amazon’s Career Choice program
- How Amazon’s Career Choice program helped a mom of 5 take the next step in her career
- Meet 5 Amazon employees who found success through our Career Choice program