Jul 13, 2024  
2020-2021 NOVA Catalog 
2020-2021 NOVA Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

General Information


History of the College

Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) was established in 1964 as Northern Virginia Technical College to serve the counties of Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William and the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church, Manassas, and Manassas Park.

The College opened for classes in the fall of 1965 in a single building in Bailey’s Crossroads. Enrollment was 761 students who were served by a faculty and staff of 46. Robert L. McKee was the first president. Dr. Richard J. Ernst became the second president of the College in September 1968 and served for thirty years. Dr. Belle S. Wheelan became the third president of the College in July 1998 and served for three years. Dr. Robert G. Templin, Jr., became the fourth president of the College in August 2002 and served for thirteen years.  Dr. Scott R. Ralls became the fifth president of the College in September 2015 and served for four years. Dr. Melvyn Schiavelli became interim president in 2019, and Dr. Anne Kress became president of the College in 2020.

The College was renamed Northern Virginia Community College in 1966 when the Statewide General Assembly changed the name of the technical college system to the Virginia Community College System (VCCS). College transfer curricula were added to the existing career/technical curricula for a more comprehensive program.

In 1966, the College bought 78 acres in Annandale, which became the first of six permanent campus sites. The first building was constructed there and opened in 1967. That same year, 100-acre sites were purchased for campuses in Sterling, Manassas, and Woodbridge. In 1969, a campus site was purchased for Alexandria. The campus site for the Medical Education Campus was purchased in 2000.

Classes were first offered in Loudoun, Manassas, and Woodbridge in the fall of 1972. Classes moved from Bailey’s Crossroads to the Alexandria Campus in 1973. The Extended Learning Institute (ELI) began offering home study courses in January 1975 and has developed into a leader in online education, renaming itself NOVA Online in 2018. In the fall of 2003, the Medical Education Campus opened in Springfield, Virginia, to meet both student and employer demand for health professions education. The College opened a new educational center in 2006 in Reston.

The College’s enrollment and programs grew rapidly. By 1970, enrollment exceeded 10,000 students. By 1973, NOVA became the largest institution of higher education in Virginia with 17,260 students. During the 2015-2016 academic year, the College served more than 75,800 students in credit courses and another 22,400 in noncredit courses.

The College

Northern Virginia Community College is an open access, comprehensive community college offering two-year associate degrees, one-year certificates, and career studies certificates as well as continuing education and community services programs. As one of the 23 colleges comprising the Virginia Community College System, NOVA is governed by the Virginia State Board for Community Colleges.

NOVA strives to meet the educational and training needs of people with differing abilities, education, experiences, and individual goals through a variety of curricula and co-curricular programs and community services. Many curricula are available on all campuses although some highly specialized programs are offered on only one or two campuses. Each campus offers a comprehensive array of student services.

NOVA provides a strong counseling program to assist students in making sound decisions regarding career, educational, and personal goals. Counselors work with students to guide them to the curriculum that best suits their needs and interests. The College also provides services in pre-college and freshman orientation, career counseling, financial aid, testing, veterans affairs, and student life.

The College operates on the semester system with 16-week Fall and Spring Semesters and a 10-week Summer Session. Many courses are offered in shorter sessions, often including 12-week, 10-week, 8-week, and 6-week sessions, to meet the needs of students, business, and industry.

Virginia Community College System

Northern Virginia Community College is one of 23 two-year colleges that make up the Virginia Community College System (VCCS). The VCCS was established in 1966 with a mission that complements the missions of the secondary schools and the senior colleges and universities in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The VCCS mission states: “The mission of the Virginia Community College System is to provide comprehensive higher-education and workforce-training programs and services of superior quality that are financially and geographically accessible and that meet individual, business, and community needs of the Commonwealth.”


The governing board for all 23 colleges in the Virginia Community College System is the State Board for Community Colleges. The governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia appoints the members to this board. Each community college establishes its own local board. The Northern Virginia Community College Board provides local leadership and approves items to be recommended to the State Board for consideration. Members of the College Board are appointed by the nine political jurisdictions served by the College. The local board is composed of three members from Fairfax County and one member from each of the other jurisdictions.

Members of the community serve on curriculum advisory boards for career and technical curricula offered at the College. Board members are selected from career fields that are directly related to the career objectives of programs at NOVA. These boards provide the guidance necessary for planning new programs and insuring that courses and programs continue to provide instruction in the skills suited for the job market in Northern Virginia. A website listing all boards and their members is currently under construction.

The maintenance and operating budget for the College is provided through appropriations made by the Virginia General Assembly. The nine political jurisdictions of Northern Virginia provide local funding for the purchase of sites and site development. The General Assembly approves capital outlay funding for building construction and initial equipment.

Accreditation and Recognition

Northern Virginia Community College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to award the associate degree. Contact the Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, Georgia, 30033-4097, or call 404-679-4500 for questions about the accreditation of Northern Virginia Community College. For other information about the College, please contact NOVA’s Administrative Offices, 4001 Wakefield Chapel Road, Annandale, Virginia 22003-3796 or call 703-323-3000.

Curricula of the College are approved by the College Board and by the State Board for Community Colleges. Its two-year associate degree programs are also approved by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV). Certain curricula of the College are accredited or otherwise recognized by specialized accrediting organizations. They include

Program Accrediting/Approval Agency
Air Conditioning and Refrigeration HVAC Excellence
Automotive Technology (Alexandria Campus) ASE Education Foundation
Automotive Technology (Manassas Campus) ASE Education Foundation
Culinary Arts American Culinary Federation Education Foundation
Dental Hygiene American Dental Association’s Commission on Dental Accreditation
Dental Assisting Commission on Dental Accreditation
Diagnostic Medical Sonography Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs
Early Childhood Development National Association for the Education of Young Children
Emergency Medical Services Commission on the Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs and Committee on Accreditation of Educational Programs for Emergency Medical Services Professions
Health Information Management Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education
Medical Lab Technology National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences

Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN)

VA Board of Nursing

Occupational Therapy Assistant Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education
Paralegal Studies American Bar Association
Physical Therapy Assistant Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education
Respiratory Therapy Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care
Veterinary Technology - On-Campus American Veterinary Medical Association - Committee on Veterinary Technician Education and Activities
Veterinary Technology - On-Line American Veterinary Medical Association - Committee on Veterinary Technician Education and Activities

See the individual program descriptions for additional details.

Statement of Values

Our Commitment

We, at Northern Virginia Community College, are committed to our students, to our community, and to each other. We are committed to excellence in education and take pride in our educational mission as a significant extension of the democratic tradition, and we remain true to the ideals and principles of that cherished tradition. The foundation of our institution is the unique diversity of educational experiences we provide for the community, shaped by our dedication to teaching and learning and to the values that we share.

Our Shared Values

Opportunity with Excellence

We are committed to providing open access and promoting equality for all who seek to improve their lives.

We are committed to offering a wide variety of programs and services within the means of all residents and with each having its standards of excellence.

We encourage our students to take advantage of opportunities and to fulfill their potential in aesthetic and cultural enrichment, technical knowledge, personal growth, understanding of the basic academic disciplines, and recreational and avocational pursuits.


We believe that the residents of Northern Virginia, both individual and corporate, should help shape the programs, courses, and services of the College.

We are committed to listening to the community and inviting its participation in shaping the programs and services of the College.

We believe our worth as a community college is measured by the quality and timeliness of our response and service to the community.

Comprehensive Educational Programs

We see learning as an end in itself, as the most practical means to a full life, and as essential to improving the quality of life of the individual.

We value our comprehensive programs-liberal arts and sciences, career and technical education, continuing education, developmental education, specialized educational services, and student services-and hold all to be of equal distinction and prominence.

We believe each aspect of our comprehensive educational program has high value to those served; therefore, we advocate the offering of these comprehensive services alongside each other and in a unified educational setting.

We are foremost an institution focused upon teaching-we are dedicated to teaching through varied approaches and to upholding innovation with free, open discussion of ideas and values.

Caring Environment

We believe in the worth, dignity, and human potential of each individual who participates in the programs and services of the College.

We recognize our responsibility to build and maintain a College environment that encourages all individuals to realize their potential and to provide the diverse learning support and growth opportunities each person needs to be successful.

We are committed to maintaining a caring environment for all those associated with the College-students, faculty, staff, and the community in general.

Public Trust and Responsibility

We are committed to individual and organizational performance that builds and maintains public trust and confidence.

We hold ourselves accountable for attaining management, operational, and fiscal practices that are efficient and effective.

We are committed to high ethical standards, equal opportunity, and effective involvement in and support for local community activities and economic development.

NOVA Mission and Vision

Our Mission

With commitment to the principles of access, opportunity, student success, and excellence, the mission of Northern Virginia Community College is to deliver world-class, in-person and online postsecondary teaching, learning, and workforce development to ensure our region and the Commonwealth of Virginia have an educated population and a globally competitive workforce.

Our Vision

To be a learning-centered organization that promotes student success.

NOVA General Education Competencies

The College has established goals for each degree program to enhance student learning experiences beyond the major area of study. The following are the College’s general education goals:

Civic Engagement

The ability to contribute to the civic life and well-being of local, national, and global communities as both a social responsibility and a life-long learning process. Degree graduates will demonstrate the knowledge and civic values necessary to become informed and contributing participants in a democratic society.

Critical Thinking

The ability to use information, ideas and arguments from relevant perspectives to make sense of complex issues and solve problems. Degree graduates will locate, evaluate, interpret, and combine information to reach well-reasoned conclusions or solutions. 

Professional Readiness

The ability to work well with others and display situationally and culturally appropriate demeanor and behavior. Degree graduates will demonstrate skills important for successful transition into the workplace and pursuit of further education. 

Quantitative Literacy

The ability to perform accurate calculations, interpret quantitative information, apply and analyze relevant numerical data, and use results to support conclusions. Degree graduates will calculate, interpret, and use numerical and quantitative information in a variety of settings.

Scientific Literacy

The ability to apply the scientific method and related concepts and principles to make informed decisions and engage with issues related to the natural, physical, and social world. Degree graduates will recognize and know how to use the scientific method, and to evaluate empirical information. 

Written Communication

the ability to develop, convey, and exchange ideas in writing, as appropriate to a given context and audience. Degree graduates will express themselves effectively in a variety of written forms.

Graduation Rates

Many students attending Northern Virginia Community College do not plan to graduate with an associate degree or certificate, but enroll for the purpose of improving job skills, taking credits for transfer to another college, or for some specialized need or personal satisfaction. Determining graduation rates, given students’ varied objectives is difficult; however, prospective or enrolled students who would like to know more about the enrollments and completion rates for a particular curriculum may obtain much of this information on the College’s Office of Institutional Research website at

Graduation Rates

Many students attending Northern Virginia Community College do not plan to graduate with an associate degree or certificate, but enroll for the purpose of improving job skills, taking credits for transfer to another college, or for some specialized need or personal satisfaction. Determining graduation rates, given students’ varied objectives is difficult; however, prospective or enrolled students who would like to know more about the enrollments and completion rates for a particular curriculum may obtain much of this information on the College’s Office of Institutional Research website at https://www.nvcc.edu/oiess/oir/achievement.html#panel5.



College Transfer Education

The College transfer program includes courses typical of the first two years of a baccalaureate program in arts and sciences or pre-professional programs. NOVA transfer courses closely parallel courses at four-year institutions, meeting standards acceptable to baccalaureate degree programs. Since requirements vary among four-year schools, those planning to transfer should check the requirements of the transfer institution before planning a course of study at NOVA.

For more information on college transfer, refer to NOVA’s transfer website at http://www.nvcc.edu/transfer/index.html.

Career and Technical Education

The career and technical education programs are designed to meet the increasing demand for technicians, office workers, paraprofessionals, and skilled craftspersons for employment in industry, business, the professions, and government. These programs, which normally require two years or less of education beyond high school, may include preparation for agricultural, business, engineering, health and medical, industrial, service, and other technical and career fields. The curricula are planned primarily to meet the needs for workers in the region being served by the College, but the State Board for Community Colleges may designate certain community colleges as centers to serve larger areas of the state in offering expensive and highly specialized career and technical education programs.

General Education

General education is that portion of the collegiate experience that addresses the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values characteristic of educated persons. It is unbounded by disciplines, and honors the connections among bodies of knowledge.

NOVA degree graduates will demonstrate competency in the following general education areas: communication, critical thinking, cultural and social understanding, information literacy, personal development, quantitative reasoning, and scientific reasoning.

Developmental Studies

Developmental courses are offered to prepare students to succeed in the College transfer and career/technical programs. These English and mathematics courses are designed to develop the basic skills and understanding needed for success in other courses and curricula.

English as a Second Language (ESL) Programs

NOVA ESL programs support students in accessing American higher education, entry or advancement in the workforce, or language improvement. NOVA ESL students may be residents of Northern Virginia, students with F-1 status, or other visitors to the United States. NOVA offers courses through College ESL and the American Culture & Language Institute (ACLI). In both ESL programs, students acquire fluency, enhance their ability to express nuanced ideas, and gain greater control of linguistic complexities.

College ESL builds the literacy and critical thinking skills necessary for success in American higher education. College ESL consists of four levels of instruction from low-intermediate ESL through advanced ESL. Students in the top two levels of instruction are often concurrently enrolled in college-level courses in a variety of disciplines.

The ACLI is housed in NOVA Workforce. ACLI offers ESL classes to residents of Northern Virginia and other visitors in its Part-Time ESL and Career Readiness Programs, and to students with F-1 status in its Intensive English Program. ACLI courses range from introductory to high-intermediate-level ESL. They prepare individuals for entry into College ESL and academic studies or for advancement in the workforce. ACLI courses are fee-based.

Students take a placement test to assess their English proficiency prior to enrolling in ESL courses at NOVA. Students who score below 225 on the ACCUPLACER and students in F-1 status who place at College ESL Levels 2 and 3 are referred to the ACLI. Students who score 225 or higher on the ACCUPLACER may place into College ESL or directly into ENG 111  . In-state and out-of-state guidelines apply to the College ESL Program, and financial aid is available for those who qualify.

NOVA Workforce


NOVA Workforce partners with industry leaders to develop education and training programs for a diverse group of learners and companies. The close business partnerships enable NOVA Workforce to keep a pulse on new and emerging technologies, sectors, and business practices. Programs include hundreds of classes for high-demand jobs, corporate training, and on-site professional testing. As part of the program development, NOVA Workforce includes industry experts on advisory boards that guide the design and development of each program. Programs are offered in sectors such as Information Technology, Cybersecurity, Healthcare, Medical, Business, ESL, and Education. NOVA Workforce offers recognized credentials from the EC-Council, CompTIA, Cisco, NHA, NCCER, NAVTA, and more.

Financial assistance is available for select programs. FastForward subsidizes the cost of certain pre-approved, high-demand programs. Students pay one-third of the cost of the program with the expectation that they will seek and obtain the related credential identified for their program. The funds are available to Virginia residents who meet Virginia domicile requirements.

Students who participate in FastForward programs are financially responsible for the first third of the course cost. If students are unable to pay the first third, they may qualify for Workforce Financial Assistance (FANTIC). Funding for both FastForward and FANTIC programs is limited.


Apprenticeships combine learning, industry-recognized credentials, and structured on-the-job training and mentorship to successfully fill a company’s talent needs. NOVA Workforce partners with regional employers to provide curriculum and instruction as part of the company’s apprenticeship program. Apprenticeship programs are approved through the Apprenticeship Division of the Virginia State Department of Labor and Industry. Formal apprenticeship programs require related technical instruction, and NOVA offers many courses for this program requirement.

Business and Community Engagement

Business and community partnerships are data-driven and focused on delivering short and long-term results. NOVA Workforce conducts labor market research projects, using real-time analytics and economic modeling, to illustrate Northern Virginia’s economic landscape, including market conditions and growth areas, skill shortages, and talent demands. Research also includes employer focus groups, surveys, and education data, which layer real-time information onto economic and demographic data to provide clear insight into workforce demands.

NOVA Workforce merges labor market information with communications campaigns to inform students, teachers, and parents of in-demand careers and job projections to address skills gaps before they happen. Through various media, we reach out to high schools, parents, veterans, college students, career-changers, and incumbent workers.

Through career services, the college enables employers to connect directly with today’s students and the workforce of tomorrow. Each year, the College works with thousands of employers to support these efforts. A digital database is available to recruit students and a variety of professional development opportunities are hosted on each campus throughout the year.

Continuing Education

Through the Workforce Development Division, continuing education programs are offered to enable individuals the opportunity to continue their learning experiences. Continuing education programs are generally noncredit courses offered during the day and evening hours. The College awards Continuing Education Units (CEU) upon completion of most noncredit courses.

Community Education Services

The College provides specialized services to help meet the cultural and educational needs of the residents of the Northern Virginia area. These services include nonclassroom and noncredit cultural events, workshops, meetings, lectures, conferences, seminars, short courses, and special community projects that are designed to provide cultural and educational opportunities for the residents of the region. The College works cooperatively with other local and state agencies and with businesses interested in developing such services.

Adult Career Pathways

NOVA’s Adult Career Pathways Program is for unemployed or underemployed workers, low-wage workers, work-eligible immigrants comfortable with reading and writing English, and young career starters with a high school diploma or GED. The program connects participants with NOVA career counselors who assist them in developing an education or training plan to earn a certification or credential. ACP counselors introduce students to programs and opportunities available to them and help students navigate the procedures necessary to attend NOVA classes and apply for financial assistance. For further information and upcoming College Access Workshop dates, please contact acp@nvcc.edu or 703-425-5245.

Learning and Technology Resources

Learning and technology resources provided at each campus include library services, and may include information and instructional technology support services, audiovisual services, placement testing, and learning laboratory facilities. The materials, systems, and services are designed to support the programs of the College and to create an environment conducive to learning. While the primary emphasis is directed towards supporting instructional programs at each campus, appropriate services are provided to citizens as a part of the College commitment to serve the educational needs of the community.


Students, faculty, staff, and members of the local community may access the combined College collection of more than 400,000 units of print and nonprint materials that is available at all of the campuses or remotely via the College’s online public access catalog. Books, periodicals, and media are loaned among the campuses by intercampus mail couriers.

Open stacks and immediate access to materials are common to all campuses. Books, periodicals, online databases, and media are selected primarily for support of the campus instructional programs, for personal intellectual growth, and the development of a cultural environment. Extensive access to online materials adds breadth and depth to the resources. All patrons may use networked workstations on campus to search a variety of online resources and the Internet. Access to electronic resources and campus library information is available at www.nvcc. edu/library. Students, faculty, and staff may also access subscription databases remotely through a proxy server.

Staff members provide reference assistance and instruction in the use of resources both on-site and virtually to distance users. Through a reciprocal agreement, NOVA students, faculty, and staff have access to the library collections at George Mason University.

Learning Laboratories and Testing Services

Systems for individual use of self-instructional materials are common to all campuses. Individualized instruction is offered through a variety of instructional systems. Testing services for placement purposes, for classes, and in support of NOVA Online are available in the Testing Centers. Trained staff members provide access, instruction, and tutorial assistance in foundation subjects. Both specialized and generalized learning laboratories are designed to support and complement the instructional programs on the individual campuses.

Instructional Technology Services

Instructional Technology Services supports classroom instruction, community services, the library, and the learning laboratories. The staff assists faculty in the technological aspects of instructional design, including photography, computer graphics, web page design and video production, and provide support for the use of distance education systems and software.

Information Technology Support Services

Information Technology Support Services provides College personnel with information technology services, which include computer installation, hardware and software troubleshooting, telephone services, network connections, and technology training.

Assistive Technology Services

The Office of Disability Services provides College personnel professional development opportunities in the use of assistive technology tools used to serve students with disabilities. Some of those tools include software programs to help enhance academic skills in reading and writing, text-to-speech programs, dictation software programs, as well as hardware such as alternate keyboards, text magnifiers, and start pens. Disability Services also provides support in the conversion of alternate format for texts and course materials when needed to support the specific needs of students with disabilities.

Video Services

Television production, video streaming and video conferencing services are provided by the Video Services Unit. Virginia Distance Education Network video conferencing links among the campuses and other colleges are provided and supported by College Video Services and supported by campus IT staff. The television facility is located on the Annandale Campus and provides a complete television production, editing and transmission facility. The television facility provides a direct link to local cable TV systems for College programming and also has connections to George Mason University to provide satellite uplink services.

Laptop Expectations

To attend NOVA, students are expected to have a laptop (or a desktop with webcam and microphone) that meets the minimum requirements for their major and internet access at home or through a mobile device hot spot. (NOTE: Chromebooks and iPads are useful but insufficient to replace a laptop. They will not run all the software typically needed at NOVA). Students can find the required specifications for their computers in the Student Computer Specifications document.


NVCC Educational Foundation

Founded in 1979, the NOVA Educational Foundation is dedicated to supporting Northern Virginia Community College’s goal of providing all students with a high-quality, life-changing education.  By connecting donors to NOVA programs, the Foundation secures funding, increases visibility and strengthens partnerships among the College, Individual donors, businesses and state and local communities. The Foundation is a tax-exempt 501(c) 3 organization, governed by a Board of Directors.

The impact of gifts to the NOVA Foundation is far greater than the specific dollar amount. The Foundation provides scholarships, emergency student aid and program grants to support the more than 100,000 students who attend NOVA.  Gifts become text books, laptops, internships and research grants while also helping keep students in school through emergency aid for food, transportation, or medical needs.

 The Foundation generates important private donations to support NOVA as a pathway institution, offering students the skills and education to secure employment or transfer to a four-year college to pursue their career goals. At NOVA, every student succeeds, every program achieves, and every community prospers. Make a gift. Make a difference.

The Foundation is located at 4001 Wakefield Chapel Road, Annandale, VA 22004 and can be reached at giving@nvcc.edu.

Alumni Federation

Established in June 1983, the Northern Virginia Community College Alumni Federation comprises graduates and former nongraduate students who achieved 30 credits or more at NOVA.

The federation seeks to advance the growth and development of the College; to promote the personal, educational, and professional development of alumni; to promote meaningful relationships between alumni and current students; and to establish, encourage, and maintain a mutually beneficial relationship among the College, its alumni, and the Northern Virginia community.

Federation policy is formulated by a Board of Governors, elected annually by the membership; Federation management and operation is under the supervision of the assistant director of the Educational Foundation. Active committees include Publications, Scholarships, Awards, Programs, Nominations-Elections-Bylaws, and Alumni Senate. Those who have an interest in the Alumni Federation should contact alumni@nvcc.edu.