Web design, a new career interest

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 non-profit.  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 who 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 which are job-related to your
current career interests.

An alternative would be to pursue a web design certificate, which
would be a shorter program targeted to those who have already earned an
undergraduate degree but who may want to pursue a career in web design. 
Some of these programs are six or maybe ten 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 and then retain you in a web
master role.  In short, the financial investment may be yours.

Some, or all, of these course may be available online.  Before
enrolling in such a program, ensure that the program is an accredited
program.  It would also be wise to contact the advising office of the
college or university to ensure that they program offered would meet
your needs and you are able to meet the program requirements as well as
the 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.  Visit
for more information.   Bunker Hill Community Hill Community College
also offers a Web Development Certificate Program –
Finally, another option is available through Harvard Extension School. 
For more information about the Web Technologies Certificate visit
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% growth in this job category.

Pattie Hunt Sinacole is a human resources expert and works for First Beacon Group in Hopkinton, an HR consulting firm. She contributes weekly to Boston.com Jobs and the Boston Sunday Globe Money & Careers section.