Career change - starting education

Hi all,
I am a very confused 38 year old. I am trying to switch careers. Any opinions and ‘reality-checks’ would be greatly appreciated. At this point I probably cannot afford to go to school full-time - I should stay working for obvious reasons.

I’m trying to decide how to approach possible certification programs (I was looking at Academy X and City Colleges).

I am interested in both web design and development.

Issues I’m thinking about:
1)I am hesitant to start coursework in web design as I do not have much artisitic ability. My strength and interest is more layout oriented and typography.
2) Regarding web development, I know I should have a basic understanding of php, database functionality and maybe java but my interests are mostly what I wrote about above

My past experience is very limited, although I love, love, love to tinker with what I’m doing now. Right now, I have started up a new blog on Wordpress to learn some css and other skills (trying to customize Thesis as much as possible).
I have also coded a very basic website.
Other strengths: Very motivated, quick learner and excellent work ethic.

A friend (who knows my limited background) feels that I should just jump right in and that the best way to learn is to ‘just do it’. I don’t want to just grab a copy of dreamweaver and start calling myself a web-designer though.

From your perspective, you can go two ways but the place you’ll be working at will vary.

  1. Follow your friend’s advice: Only place you’ll get hire is a small private company. You must be REALLY good or you could be laid off very quickly. Also, the rate maybe substantially be lower than someone with IT degree.

  2. Pursue Computer Science degree: Yes, it’s a long long road to get that piece of paper that may teach you nothing about being “web developer”. However, after you earn the degree and read couple of IT web development books, you’ll soon a job at big corp like Verizon/IBM/etc… Job stability will be a lot better and starting salary will be around $55k~65k.

So to sum up, #1 is a short track and #2 is a long track. Also, another #3 is that you go w/ #2 path and find an internship. However, the pay will be mediocre. G’luck!

I may be off here, but it could be prudent to anticipate relocation. Take me, for example… I’m here in po-duck Indiana where there’s almost already ZERO jobs but double-that for IT employment and multiply that times 5 for web-specific stuff. Having a degree always helps your reputation, but when it comes to web design and especially, web development, you better just “know your code” because you’ll always come back around to this every time you get work to do.

Thanks for the feedback. You both brought up some good ideas. I currently work for a large company and found out that I might be able to train with our IT department. Could be a good step in between just diving in and going back to school. This way I keep my salary and benefits. Currently being discussed.

I may jump in with a very small job (working with someone who knows that I’m just learning). It’s not a ‘mission critical’ site and not for his business; he’s giving me the opportunity to learn on the job.

Ultimately, I think the Computer Science degree would be the best bet.

Wolf: I know I should look into relocation but I love where I am, as does my wife. At least for now - but who knows, that could change…

Anyway, thanks for the responses.