Q: I am interested in a new field. I have an undergraduate degree in history but I have recently developed an interest in Web design. My work experience has been in office management and now community relations for a large nonprofit. Do you recommend that I return to school and earn another undergraduate degree in Web design? I would need to continue working and return to school part-time at nights and it would take me quite a long time. Are there alternatives?
A: Returning to college and earning a second undergraduate degree is a significant financial commitment unless you have a very generous employer that offers a liberal tuition aid program. Further, your tuition reimbursement program must be willing to support your new career interests in Web design. which would be unusual. Most tuition aid programs only support courses or programs that are related to your job.
An alternative would be to pursue a Web design certificate, a shorter program targeted to those who have already earned an undergraduate degree but who may want to pursue a career in the field. Some of these programs are six or maybe 10 courses in length and less expensive than a second undergraduate degree. It would be unusual for your employer to assist you financially with such a program unless they hope to train you for such a position. In short, the financial investment may be yours.
Some, or all, of these courses may be available online. Before enrolling in such a program, ensure that the program is accredited. It would also be wise to contact the advising office of the college or university to make sure that the program offered would meet your needs and you are able to meet the program and financial requirements.
There are several options available in Massachusetts. One program that is highly regarded is the Certificate Program in Website Design and Development at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. Bunker Hill Community Hill Community College also offers a Web Development Certificate Program. Finally, there is the Harvard Extension School’s Web Technologies Certificate. Harvard’s program is a bit more extensive because it is a graduate certificate program, so 23 courses are required.
The job outlook for Web designers is promising. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 27 percent growth in this job category.Patricia Hunt Sinacole is president of First Beacon Group in Hopkinton.