Tertiary qualifications vs. short courses vs. "self-teaching"

I am between careers.

I am trying to swap hospitality for web design and/or development.
I stocked up on Sitepoint books during the sale last December, plus I’m enrolled for online study at Curtin University: they offer 8 units on web design.
I have handcoded a couple of relatively simple websites for friends, or rather for their businesses, using my basic skills in HTML and CSS.
I have also just bought a ticket for Kevin Yank’s seminar on JavaScript next month.

My question:
Is it worth investing time and money (2 years and about AU$5’000) to get a partial tertiary qualification? Or should I just keep on reading, asking, searching, and learn independently?
I should specify that I like the ideas of accessibility, usability, clean code, etc.
I’ve had a look around Sydney for web design courses, but they all seem to focus on Adobe: Dreamweaver, Flash, and such things. I’d rather start with HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and probably a bit of MySQL and PHP (already got the books).
I’m thinking of looking for an entry-level position at a web agency to get something more concrete than browsing the Sitepoint website - also thinking about my CV…

What do you reckon?

(I am based in Sydney, Australia)

I would carry on doing what your doing, there’s no point spending money on a qualification if you can get that knowledge faster, easier and more up-to-date in book or online format. Many professionals follow that kind of route and we do well out of it, in regards to working for an agency, if they do require a qualification what you’ll find they’ll be looking for are degrees in computer science or a web related equivalent, not a general qualification. Pretty surprising (I know) to think that degrees are often seen as the lowest level of qualification (recognised) however it’s a pretty competitive industry. So my advice would be, carry on how your going, build up a good portfolio and that should you fine until you decide to take a higher level qualification (if you ever feel the need to). :slight_smile:

I’m in the US so I can’t say how things are there. But AFAIK most higher educations give you a core understanding of basics, often using outdated materials. And a degree of course. As AlexDawson said, if you are capable of attaining that knowledge and skill outside of a structured environment, build a good portfolio. Then maybe add a certificate or three to pad the CV with.

I have to say, I’m glad to hear your answers, they reflect the way I feel. I will go on this way, build a few more websites (for free), and look into certificates and courses. Any advice on this last point? Any good online courses you’d recommend, or “real person” courses (preferably in Sydney)?

I don’t recommend any courses to be honest, education for web design is seriously out of date and notoriously mocked in the web design industry as being irrelevant (against the likes of a degree) simply on the basis that the beaurocracy of education and how long it takes new knowledge to reach students. There’s loads of courses that claim they can give you a web design certificate like CIW… but no decent employer will take it seriously and all the people I know who’ve taken those courses have stated how outdated and a waste of time it really is, IMO it’s all a big waste of money, it’s either a degree or nothing these days. :slight_smile:

I think I’ll leave the degree for now. Maybe down the track… when kids will have grown up…
I wonder, though, if there is anybody with any idea about the situation in Australia (even though I doubt it would be any different from what described by AlexDawson and Mittineague).

I should note that some employers consider a degree as proof that an individual is “well rounded” and they consider that important. i.e. they not only want someone that is an “expert” in their field, but someone that also has some grounding and interest in other areas as well. I’m not exactly sure why it would be important, but make sure you have a few “hobbies and interests”. And belong to a “social group” or two, be it a bowling league or a gardening club, etc. this will convey the fact that you can get along with others.

I would have to plug a couple of tutorial resources that have helped me gain a deeper understanding of certain technologies. For a few bucks a month you will have access to MANY mini-courses that you can view at your own leisure.

I’m sure there are more (possibly even better) but these are the one’s I’ve personally used in the past.

Thanks for the links, rustybuddy.

Mittineague, I agree. Often a degree is also seen as proof of an individual’s capacity of thinking in a certain way (critical thinking), be organised and reliable, and - what you said - have a fairly good ground-level knowledge in different fields.

I’ve studied 2 web-focused courses through TAFE NSW and I’m currently doing a Interactive Digital Media course as well.

The two web focused courses were pretty ‘up to date’ so to speak. We learnt xHTML1.0, CSS2, PHP 5, Flash CS3 and ActionScript 3.0, no table designs, code had to validate etc so I definitely didn’t think it was outdated - in fact we were taught PHP 5 even though the TAFE provided web server didn’t even cater for PHP 5 (only PHP 4).

On the other hand, I’m undertaking a class for my Cert IV Interactive Digital Media course where I’ve had to create a very basic website in Dreamweaver Design View using tables and at first inline styling. The styling was eventually turned to an external style sheet but not once did we look at anything to do with css syntax or xhtml code.

In this same class all the interactive flash animation we are doing is coded with ActionScript 2.0 which makes me cringe considering I’m used to AS3.0. I look at it as an opportunity to learn AS2.0 in case I am given a job where it has been used - figured it would be good to have the knowledge of both.

Granted, the Interactive Digital Media is more about design then coding and a lot of students are struggling as it is without having to try and get their head around advanced ActionScript.

Basically I would recommend the first web course I did - Certificate IV Information Technology (Websites)(Design). It taught a little about a lot but provided a great stepping stone into what is needed. I came into this course not knowing much about web design, nor what was expected in terms of coding languages. But I’m happy with what I did learn… now I just need to find the motivation to carry on with it.

I should add that the teaching of this course would differ between campuses and there are classes which are not directly related to web design but more the process of having a business or freelancing e.g. Project Management, Analysis and Documentation.

TAFE courses are actually quite good and often up to date.
But I need a flexible way to learn new stuff (I’m at a point in life where I can’t just attend classroom courses - family to take care of, a part-time job in hospitality to pay the bills, etc.). For now I’ll stick with self-learning (through online and printed material) and gathering experience (through unpaid work); later on - you never know - I might go back to uni or Tafe to get a formal qualification.