January 29, 2017
There is no better time than now to consider a digital career. Depending on if you are more creative or technical, there are many kinds of digital careers to consider, and there are many ways to get into the business.
Types of Digital Careers (these are just some common types)
Back End Developer – someone who works on the back end (server side) of a website, using languages that were designed to run on a server (such as Python or Ruby) as well as managing databases where information is stored.
SEO Specialist – a Search Enginge Optinization (SEO) Specialist is someone who provides guidance to help web pages rank higher in search engines such as Google and Bing.
Web Copy Writing – a Web Copy Writer is someone who specialies in writing copy that is enhansed for web. They typically consider the useability of the copy, the SEO value, and the website audience when preparing copy.
Graphic Design – Graphic Design is a traditional discipline that can be learned at an art school
UX Design – UX Design (User eXperience Design) is often confused with UI Design (User Interface Design), they overlap however they are pretty different. This blog post does a good job explaining the differences.
There are a lot of great learning opportunities out there to get experience in a digital careers. Quite a few people have restarted their professional lives learning new things on the side, and launching a new digital career.
One route you can take is to educate yourself in your spare time. If you're interested in learning to code, then its a good idea to try an online service such as CodeCademy, CodeSchool, Udacity, Udemy and Corsera. I highly recommend CodeCademy because there are a lot of learning resources available for free! Udacity offers what they term “nanodegrees” specifically for Front End Development and Full Stack Development, and many others. If coding and programming is of interest to you, it's a good idea to check out the free CS50 Harvard course available on edX.
If you're looking to get a degree, you have some options. Your best bet is to find a good program in either computer science, communications, marketing or graphic design at a public institution (I would highly suggestthe SMAD program at JMU).
When it comes to coding, it is traditionally a computer science focused discipline, however people who work in web development often have all different sorts of backgrounds. Graphic design, UI, UX have a lot of artistic elements that can benefit from a fine arts education. I would suggest the free CS50 class provided by edX to get a taste for computer science. I'm hesitant to recommend any for-profit education system, however there are some non-traditional schools that specialize in digital: Full Sail, SCAD, RISDI, Cal Arts. You can get a bachelors degree from Full Sail that is specifically geared towards web development, but it's worth cautioning to keep in mind that there are intangible benefits of getting a well-rounded degree from an accredited higher institution. You may not always want to be a web developer but if your degree is specifically in that career path it could become more of a challenge to change later. And keep in mind that many web developers come a broad range of backgrounds and academic disciplines.
Where you might go is up to you. Whatever your path, perusing a digital career can be exciting and rewarding.