Higher education didn’t seem possible for these two Amazon employees, until they signed up for the Career Choice program.

Steve Ahrens, control systems lead, Amazon

Meet One of the First Amazon Career Choice Graduates | Amazon News

Steve Ahrens started at Amazon almost 16 years ago in Fernley, Nevada, and was one of the first Amazon employees to participate in Career Choice. “My dad always taught me, anytime you can get free training, take it. Any knowledge that you get from school or training, that goes with you wherever you are,” said Ahrens.

In 2012, Ahrens was working as a control systems technician when he heard about Amazon’s new Career Choice program through a warehouse meeting. “Amazon is going to pay 95% of my tuition? This was a no-brainer for me,” he said.

The new wage increases for employees will begin in October, along with access to more career advancement and development programs.

Ahrens used Career Choice to participate in an Industrial System Technologies program at Amazon and was promoted to service technician II after graduating, where he continued in that position for two years. Then, an entry-level control system technician position opened up, and Ahrens secured the job. “I was able to get into the control field using the lessons and information I learned from the Industrial System Technologies program,” he said. Today, Ahrens works as a control systems lead, where he manages a team of service technicians.

A decade later, Ahrens is rejoining the enhanced Career Choice program. “Now, because Amazon changed the program to support bachelor’s degrees, and there’s no lifetime limit on how long you can participate, I re-enrolled to start pursuing my degree in business management and accounting. I joined because a degree makes it a lot easier to advance in your career.”

Julio Martinez, data center ops tech, Amazon

Meet One of the First Amazon Career Choice Graduates | Amazon News

Before joining Amazon, Julio Martinez said that he had “planned to transfer to Portland State but wasn’t able to financially.” Many others who aspire to achieve higher education go through a similar financial problem. According to a recent study by edtech provider Cengage, 68% of students say education costs are a struggle for them or their family members, with tuition being cited as the biggest issue. Martinez joined Amazon three years ago and has been receiving tuition assistance each year by participating in Career Choice. Ultimately, he became the first person in his family to attain his bachelor’s degree.

At a young age, Martinez liked to fix things. “I became interested in fixing electronics, phones, and computers because of my dad. He gave me a broken cellphone, and I looked up online guides, ordered the appropriate parts, replaced the screen, the battery, and that’s how I got my first cellphone.” This moment inspired him to continue a path in IT.

Upon working at AWS data centers, Martinez caught wind of a new enhancement from Amazon regarding tuition assistance for bachelor’s degrees. “I immediately became interested because I would be the first person to get a bachelor’s degree in my family," he said. Amazon’s Career Choice program supported Martinez’s last semester of college at Western Governors University.

“Thanks to Amazon and their partnership with Western Governors University, I was able to fulfill a goal of mine, which was to obtain a bachelor’s degree. It allowed me to attend school without the additional stress of the cost. I was also able to do it at my own pace, where I completed about 17 courses in five months. The Amazon Career Choice Program covered everything.”

Martinez plans to use his bachelor’s degree for cloud computing. "I feel prepared for the next steps in my career because of the degree and certifications that come with it. My manager has been sending me job postings and is working internally on how I might be able to transfer to the cloud team. If it weren’t for Amazon Career Choice, I wouldn’t have as much opportunity as I do now.”

Amazon Career Choice partners with Beyond 12 and Kaplan will provide employees career coaching, college advising, and specialized career services.

Amazon's Career Choice program

Amazon is always innovating—especially when it comes to our employees. In 2012, we made a big commitment to our team when launching the Career Choice program, an education benefit designed to help hourly employees grow their skills. In the years since, we’ve listened to employees and made changes to the program to include what matters most to them. Since the program’s start 10 years ago, more than 90,000 Amazon employees have joined Career Choice.

Amazon’s Career Choice program includes:

  • Career Choice Pathways. If you need skills to move into another career path, we will support you. We have classes for mechanical and skilled trades, healthcare, informational technology, transportation, and business services.
  • Pre-paid fees. Amazon pays for employees’ tuition for associate and bachelor’s degrees, high school diplomas, GEDs, ESL proficiency certifications, books, classes, and other fees. All educational resources are supplied by Amazon. 
  • Continued support. We will continue to support your learning endeavors with annual funds for education as long as you remain with the company.
  • Career Choice Coaching program. One-on-one virtual coaching sessions personalized to advance your career goals.

Learn more about the Amazon Career Choice program.