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    BS-IT in Web Design & Development, BA in Graphics Design, or no degree?

    Hi all,

    I am looking to make web development, currently a passion of mine, into my full time career. I have several years of experience and have generated five sites for profit but have never worked for a company/firm in the industry, nor have I taken any formal classes. 100% self taught PHP, MySQL, HTML, CSS, Javascript coder.

    I have been looking into online degree programs and so far have only found BS-IT degrees in Web Design & Development, not BS-CS. A traditional brick & mortar four year degree is not in the cards right now. My question - should I go for an online (regionally accredited, not for profit) BS-IT degree or attempt to continue with self education and enter the job market with what I already know? Or perhaps go for a BA in Graphics Design so that I have a degree in a field related to Web Design & Development that could also serve as a fallback?

    Thanks!

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    A degree is always a good idea. It shows that you accomplished something and completed a course of study in your field. While that alone typically won't get you a job, the degree plus experience will certainly put you at the top of the stack.

    That said, where do your interests lay? Do you like diving into code, or do you like working with art and design?

    Both are important for web development. However, if you're more interested in programming, the BS-IT degree sounds like it will be closer to what you are aiming for. Graphic design by itself has little to do with web development directly. It tends to introduce you to graphic arts programs (photoshop, illustrator, indesign, flash, etc). It might be better taken as an elective in the BS-IT degree than as the entire focus of a degree.
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    Thanks for your reply!

    Quote Originally Posted by Force Flow View Post
    A degree is always a good idea. It shows that you accomplished something and completed a course of study in your field. While that alone typically won't get you a job, the degree plus experience will certainly put you at the top of the stack.
    My thoughts exactly. And, since posting this question, I actually found a few online CS degree programs (UMUC looks good, so far). Math is a very weak area for me and I am not sure if it would really be a deal breaker for a CS degree. My concern with the BS-IT is that potential employers may not find it very appealing for the simple fact it isn't a BS-CS.

    That said, where do your interests lay? Do you like diving into code, or do you like working with art and design?
    Code, hands down. My strong suit is back-end programming, mostly with PHP, and I absolutely love absorbing new languages and practices. Right now I'm teaching myself Object Oriented Programming, Subversioning, and MVC frameworks.

    Both are important for web development. However, if you're more interested in programming, the BS-IT degree sounds like it will be closer to what you are aiming for. Graphic design by itself has little to do with web development directly. It tends to introduce you to graphic arts programs (photoshop, illustrator, indesign, flash, etc). It might be better taken as an elective in the BS-IT degree than as the entire focus of a degree.
    I began to consider the BA in Graphics Design for several reasons. First, I am fairly strong in web programming but severely lacking in layout and presentation. If I decided to try the path of freelance Web Designer & Developer, having a stronger foothold in those areas would help attract new clients. Second, if things do not pan out as a developer, it would be something that I could fall back on. And lastly, I would be able to apply for a position as a developer with experience in all areas - years of programming and a degree in a design related area.

    Having said all of that, my GOAL is that of a programmer, preferably working with a small firm (<20 employees). I've been going back and forth trying to make up my mind for over a month, I was accepted to Southern New Hampshire University just because I applied but they seem to be a fairly reputable institution, regionally accredited and not for profit.

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    Quote Originally Posted by nightmicu View Post
    My thoughts exactly. And, since posting this question, I actually found a few online CS degree programs (UMUC looks good, so far). Math is a very weak area for me and I am not sure if it would really be a deal breaker for a CS degree. My concern with the BS-IT is that potential employers may not find it very appealing for the simple fact it isn't a BS-CS.
    Having said all of that, my GOAL is that of a programmer, preferably working with a small firm (<20 employees). I've been going back and forth trying to make up my mind for over a month, I was accepted to Southern New Hampshire University just because I applied but they seem to be a fairly reputable institution, regionally accredited and not for profit.
    The IT might be more useful if it includes a bit of networking and server management As a web developer, you will most likely encounter it. And if you intend to be part of a smaller organization, it helps to be a little generalized. The more things you can do, the more attractive you will be as a candidate, as it would be cheaper for an employer to hire one generalist rather than two (or more) specialists.

    The CS/IT degree discussion has been debated ad nauseam. The name of the degree isn't all that important--just that you have one and that the curriculum helps further your goals. Don't get hung up on the name.


    I began to consider the BA in Graphics Design for several reasons. First, I am fairly strong in web programming but severely lacking in layout and presentation. If I decided to try the path of freelance Web Designer & Developer, having a stronger foothold in those areas would help attract new clients. Second, if things do not pan out as a developer, it would be something that I could fall back on. And lastly, I would be able to apply for a position as a developer with experience in all areas - years of programming and a degree in a design related area.
    I still think a class or two in graphic arts might be more beneficial taken as an electives, rather than an entire curriculum of study. An entire degree in graphic design doesn't seem like it would further your goals.
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    I cannot thank you enough for your advice. I'm starting to get excited about going for the degree again, I started to have a lot of doubt when it occurred to me I was looking at BS-IT program.

    If it is not too much trouble, would you mind taking a look at the program I have been looking at? Unfortunately, the material listed on this page appears to be very dated, but I have been assured that the program itself is up to speed (hopefully this is true). If you PM me, I will try to get the course overview to you (does not appear to be on their site).

    Thanks again!

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    The course descriptions seem a little dated.

    Are they offering ASP or ASP.NET? ASP is obsolete.

    Coldfusion isn't used much these days either. Typically, I've seen job postings asking for help with converting an old coldfusion site to PHP or ASP.NET.

    I would confirm what exactly was being taught in each course. If you're learning outdated stuff and not current languages and techniques, it won't help you much in the job market, unfortunately.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Force Flow View Post
    The course descriptions seem a little dated.

    Are they offering ASP or ASP.NET? ASP is obsolete.

    Coldfusion isn't used much these days either. Typically, I've seen job postings asking for help with converting an old coldfusion site to PHP or ASP.NET.

    I would confirm what exactly was being taught in each course. If you're learning outdated stuff and not current languages and techniques, it won't help you much in the job market, unfortunately.
    Those were my concerns exactly. After quite some time going back and forth with the admissions rep, I finally received a phone call from an "expert," as the rep put it, to answer my questions. I am kicking myself for not recording the call, it came at a very inopportune time and I could not take notes, either. I believe he said that he was the former department head or possibly a former faculty member - I just remember "former" being in there somewhere.

    The admissions rep told me that the department head would be contacting me prior, and after the call seemed to think that is who called me. Either way, the gentleman that called told me that it did indeed look like the description of the course needed to be updated (you think?) and said that the course material is more current. He also told me that the school is more business than technology orientated and suggested that I look at the Software Engineering program instead. His reasoning for this was that I would "learn more programming languages" - which would be great if I was looking to become a software engineer rather than a web developer. Essentially, he seemed to think that I was too advanced for the Web Design & Development curriculum, although he did not seem to know very much about the program.

    The only other school I have looked at that is offering an online BS (I'm assuming it's also a BS-IT, they do not specify) is Full Sail University, www.fullsail.edu. They're for profit, lack regional accrediation, and do not appear to have the best track record. But their curriculum looks very current, if not a little geared toward Adobe products (they require you to buy a MacBook Pro and an Adobe suit - about $2.5k). Southern New Hampshire University has ranked highly and seems to be a good institution, I just cannot find anything at all specific to their Web Design & Development program. I was, however, able to find at least one positive review of their new Graphics Design BA.

    Guess I will try to get someone else to talk with at Southern New Hampshire University..

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    The issue with a non-accredited school is that the degree might not be fully recognized. But, regional accreditation takes years to actually acquire, so a brand new school might not have it yet simply for the reason that it's a new school (that's the optimistic view of the situation, anyway).

    Also keep in mind that the lack of accreditation doesn't mean the courses are useless--they could very well be helpful. Full Sail University at least *appears* to have reasonably up-to-date web development courses.

    I would balk at the requirement of a purchase that large. It sounds like they don't offer an academic discount (I'm guessing that the school might need to be accredited for that. But I couldn't tell you for sure, since I've never encountered that situation before).

    As for IT vs engineering vs CS vs web design vs web development--you will have to look at what the actual courses are. Each school labels their curriculums differently. Don't depend on the name to tell you what is covered in each course/curriculum.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Force Flow View Post
    As for IT vs engineering vs CS vs web design vs web development--you will have to look at what the actual courses are. Each school labels their curriculums differently. Don't depend on the name to tell you what is covered in each course/curriculum.
    Have I said thank you enough times? Nah. Thank you! The course overview they sent me was actually an HTML file, so I just removed my name and contact information and posted it on my domain. Take a look at it here - http://opheliadesign.com/snhu.htm. Their class listing is here - http://www.snhu.edu/5681.asp

    Many many thanks for looking over this with me.

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    just an opinion about fullsail. I took the fullsail web design/dev curriculum online. I got about 2/3 od the way through it, but had to take a break due to financial considerations. I loved a lot of things about it, and hated some stuff as well. Most of the curriculum was very good and coding to me now is second nature because of the courses, but again, it is online so you really need to push yourself to not only do the assignments but study on your own as well. With an online course, you can become complacent and lazy if you let yourself...but then of course your grades will suffer too. I havent gone in 8 months, but hope to return soon...one thing is, it is very expensive but things being what they are I was not able to go to a "real" school due to time constraints. They do have a physical campus in Winter Park, FL (orlando) and it is very beautiful. While I was attending, they did not teach PHP and taught xhtml 4.01, but seeing as html 5 is not set in stone yet I guess I'll give them a pass on that. Not too hard to teach yourself 5 once you have the basics down anyhow.

    The reason you need a MAC is that the school teaches flash, PS and AI...and you do get a student discount. If I remember right, I upgraded form CS 4 to CS5 for about $35. I think that if you already have a MAC then you dont need to but another or if you have CS5 on windows I dont think you need to buy one (could be wrong). There is some other classes like the server and networking course that required work on your laptop such as installing Downloading virtual box and installing debian and apache, but you could do that on a PC as well but the course assumes you have a MAC.

    I am very grateful I had the opportunity to attend fullsail and hope to return and complete my degree soon, not a bad school at all, but expensive. Hope this helps.

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    Thanks for chiming in on Full Sail, human151. They were the first school I looked at but I started to look elsewhere when I realized that they are not regionally accredited and read that their degree may not be as valuable as one from a more established, regionally accredited institution.

    The problem with Full Sail, and with Southern New Hampshire University, is that they have such a wide array of courses that it is hard to really get an idea for the quality of the school without having had some experience with them. For example, I have read horrible things about Full Sail's various programs but not specifically about Web Design & Development. The fact that there is a site dedicated to bashing them does stand out, though. On the other side of the coin, I have read a lot of great things about Southern New Hampshire University but cannot find anything about their Web Design & Development program. So, a school that has been beat up a lot (Full Sail) may have a steller Web Design & Development program while one that is highly ranked (SNHU) may have a lousy one. Either way, an employer may be swayed by what they can find on either school. It's frustrating..

    From what I understand, Full Sail forces you to buy their Launch Box, complete with a Mac Book, no matter what. I read somewhere about a student that had a fairly new Mac Book Pro (less than a year old) and they still required him to buy theirs. Bit sketchy, if you ask me. But SNHU and Full Sail are pretty comparable in terms of tuition, with SNHU not requiring any hardware or software for their Web Design & Dev program (that I can tell).

    I have asked to double check who contacted me regarding the program at SNHU and to have someone active in the program call me if the last person was a former faculty member or department head. They really need to update their website and possibly their curriculum.

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    Yeah, Im not really sure if you have to buy the mac or not, cant remember really, but their courses do assume that you have a MAC. Im sure a addmin rep of theirs could find a way to work around it if you were really serious and already had a MAC but Im not really sure.

    Yeah there are sites bashing fullsail...but what can I say, haters gonna hate. If you had a bad experience or didn't really learn what was taught, is that really the schools fault? Im not they're advocate or anything but for the most part I really did enjoy it and hope to return soon to finish. SOme courses were better than others or course. The way the courses are set up, you are not on your own so to speak. Each class has 15 students and you can see their profile and communicate with them via email or chat. You can email the instructor or chat with them during specific hours. During certain courses we had WIMBA sessions where the entire class would meet and with the instructor for a session, its like GOTO Meeting if you're not familiar with WIMBA.

    Regarding accreditation, this is just my opinion, does it really matter? Unless you went to Harvard or something do employers really care what school you went to? Or do they care that you can do the job? I have my opinion, but cant really know the answer. I mean, its not like were trying to work for Goldman Sachs...haha.

    anyways, best of luck to you with whatever you decide. I know its a tough decision.


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