Join 3,572 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Too bad money isn't confetti, or I'd throw it at school.
April 12, 2012 2:52 PM   Subscribe

Pay less for online classes or more for sitting in a classroom? Get clicky for career-switching details...

I'm in my late 20s and plan on using very little of my English lit degree. Recently, I've been exploring three different career options in: advertising, programming, and family therapy -- in that order.

I used to be a serial major-changer and maxed out my undergrad credits taking courses in psychology, sociology, English lit, geology, and philosophy. In my free time, I did research for professors (for free!) in all kinds of hard- and soft sciences. Also, I dabbled in web design / scripting for a good decade.

After working for 4 major universities doing research and wondering whether I should do a phd, I have decided that I never want to be an academic.

I'm originally from California, where community college classes cost under $40 a unit. I now live in Minneapolis, where classes cost $150 / unit. I may be able to use a California address to get the CA resident rate. (I also plan on moving back to CA within two years.) Finances are tight, but it's possible for me to pay to take classes at a local community college in Minneapolis, if I take one class per semester.

Should I start taking any available online classes offered at a CA community college? Obvious pro: pay less money. Con: I prefer in-person interactions with instructors and classmates.

Or should I pay ~3.5x more to enroll in classes at my local community college in Minneapolis?

I would be elated if anyone has stories about how they switched careers. And I'd be doubly elated if someone can tell me about working in advertising, programming, or family therapy as a career-switcher.
posted by mild deer to Work & Money (10 answers total)
 
I do better with in-person instruction and I absolutely despised taking online courses. It's very possible you'll qualify for either financial aid or a scholarship -- I'd look at your options there before settling on a learning style you don't do as well with.
posted by DoubleLune at 3:02 PM on April 12, 2012


I think a lot of this depends on your goals and the style of classes you're planning to take.

Goals: what do you want to accomplish? Do you want to learn more about these fields and figure out which one is right for you, or do you want to get some pre-reqs out of the way? If it's the latter, definitely take the cheaper online course.

Style: Are the classes experiential or interactive in any way? Are they discussion-heavy or or more lecture-and-exam style? If they're more lecture-and-exam, you won't miss as much with an online course, but if they're more interactive, then in-person is probably better.

In grad school, I actually TA'ed an online course that I'd taken in person. It was a discussion-oriented, case-based class and I really felt like the students in the online course missed out, although they did seem to find it worthwhile, based on the evals.
posted by lunasol at 3:36 PM on April 12, 2012


It will totally depend on how motivated you are to do the coursework w/o the pressure from having to attend class. You'll miss out on some of the group discussion and even some out of class discussions/study sessions you might have with another student. I've worked in advertising and did an undergraduate advertising degree program. Both real life jobs and the classes I was in were very team and group focussed. Taking those classes might be hard to do remotely. However, you might want to focus on more general classes to satisfy whatever degree you're seeking from a university. And even if you pony up with the dough for MN community college, you want to make sure it is transferrable. But if you're trying to augment your degree in English to work in advertising (English was a common liberal arts degree of many I worked with in agencies) and want to just take ad classes then I guess transferability won't matter.

Regarding taking California classes when you're not living there, beware a physical address isn't the only threshold. Do you still have a valid CA driver license/ID? Are you still registered to vote? CA requires you to meet both an intent of residency (stuff like voting, car registration, licenses) and physical residency (proven with a lease, electricity bill, pay stubs from a CA employer etc). Putting down a California address really won't help. And if they catch you falsifying your residency could be a problem if they find out. It is up to you if you want fib on your residency paperwork, but it is more than using a CA mailing address on the application. You can find the residency requirements for in-state tuition by going to the college's website (the requirements are the same for every community college as well as the CSU and UC schools).

Due to budget cuts, my local community college district isn't having ANY summer 2012 online classes and there's only a handful of in person classes (only those that are contractually required) and they say the fall 2012 class schedule will be cut significantly from what it was in the past. This could be posturing between the legislature and the colleges, but you might find that the classes. And the last bit of terrible news, they tuition for fall 2012 will be $46/unit up from todays $36/unit. The unit costs I believe are set by the state, but what classes are available for you to take will be dependent on what school you're applying to.
posted by birdherder at 4:12 PM on April 12, 2012


Why are you taking more classes? I can't see how another degree really helps with advertising or programming. Given that you are already a college grad I think teaching yourself to program (its been covered on the green many times) while you maintain whatever job you have now is a faster route to a career in software development. Ad dollars are moving online and you have an English Lit degree, which implies that you can write, plus you have some web dev experience. I would think you can get a web advertising related job with your skill set.

Family Counseling may require some sort of certificate to go with your college degree, so if you go that route I can see classes being necessary. For the other two routes I think you should stop wasting time planning to do something by taking classes, and just do it. You are already capable.
posted by COD at 4:24 PM on April 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


Great questions and comments so far!

I'll definitely be putting in a FAFSA application to see what my finaid options are.

Goals: what do you want to accomplish? Do you want to learn more about these fields and figure out which one is right for you, or do you want to get some pre-reqs out of the way? If it's the latter, definitely take the cheaper online course.

A bit of both. I want to get some pre-reqs if I later decide to apply to specific MA programs.

Style: Are the classes experiential or interactive in any way? Are they discussion-heavy or or more lecture-and-exam style? If they're more lecture-and-exam, you won't miss as much with an online course, but if they're more interactive, then in-person is probably better.

I suppose it depends on the instructor, but I learn fairly well with both methods.

In grad school, I actually TA'ed an online course that I'd taken in person. It was a discussion-oriented, case-based class and I really felt like the students in the online course missed out, although they did seem to find it worthwhile, based on the evals.

This is the kind of stuff I like hearing about. In general, it seems like online materials are great for supplementing classroom interaction, but not so great at replacing it.

I've worked in advertising and did an undergraduate advertising degree program. Both real life jobs and the classes I was in were very team and group focussed.

Were there group projects? If so, can you describe what types of group projects or interactions you had that were mirrored in the actual advertising work?

But if you're trying to augment your degree in English to work in advertising (English was a common liberal arts degree of many I worked with in agencies) and want to just take ad classes then I guess transferability won't matter. and Why are you taking more classes? I can't see how another degree really helps with advertising or programming.

I've read a few job descriptions for advertising positions. In addition to 1-2 years' experience in advertising, these companies prefer candidates who have Communications / Marketing / Business / Advertising degrees, or a degree in a related field. When I think related field, I imagine a good candidate has a background in finance or media studies, rather than English literature.

Regarding taking California classes when you're not living there, beware a physical address isn't the only threshold.

Oh, thanks for pointing out the possible problems that come with falsifying residency. Other than that, yep: I still have a CADL, still registered to vote in CA. But my car is no longer registered in CA.
posted by mild deer at 4:57 PM on April 12, 2012


I recently got my career-switching master's partly online and partly in-person in human-computer interaction, which is kind of like the venn diagram intersection of programming and advertising. The online classes were nicer because getting to class was a tiring, inconvenient schlep for me. But if you're looking to start networking in any way shape or form, which you're going to have to do at some point, it's much better for your teachers and classmates to see your face and get to know you as a person and not as a name and picture.

Also, as a fellow graduate of the Vague Humanities, you're right that employers aren't interested in that kind of BA until after you get hired and they find out you have a big, strong knowledge base. Before you get hired it just scares them.

Also, 100% of my classmates were career-switchers, if that makes you feel less alone.
posted by bleep at 5:09 PM on April 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Were there group projects? If so, can you describe what types of group projects or interactions you had that were mirrored in the actual advertising work?

An example for classwork is the instructor would break the class into groups and ask each group to come up with concepts for a particular product or service. In bigger projects, each person on the time might be assigned different parts of a larger project that acts as a final project (art directing, copywriting, media planning are assigned and as a group the final campaign is presented). A solo class that comes to mind in the mass comm/ad program I was in was visual communication which you pretty much worked on your own the whole quarter. However, I really enjoyed my prof's lectures and the discussions of different things. He loved old movies and we'd look at the opening titles to a bunch of movies, as an example. Yes, links to YouTube would also work, but there was something about staring the experience in person. I think a lot of the "can it work online" will come down to how comfortable the instructor feels with the medium and how he/she can make the in-class experience work.

At least in looking at the online classes offered by my CC, they didn't' have any advertising specific course available and the marketing course were pretty intro -- the kind you can easily do remotely. I think a big part of it is the school won't offer the kind of course that needs that collaboration without having solved the problem first.

In real life the same types of things happen (copywriters and art directors often work in teams and a few teams might be tasked to come up with concepts to show the client). Account service is always getting updates from the various teams and then relaying it to the client. Sure, a lot of stuff can and does happen over email/IM/skype etc but there's a lot of old school face to face communication going on. And as bleep says the networking component is important in advertising and those relationships are formed in person.

As you explore your next career, I think you might want to do some research on what part of advertising you want to be in (creative, account service, media, analytics, research, etc). You might be able to find a Principle of Advertising book at your library you can read to get a better feeling for the different types of careers in the industry. It doesn't have to be the latest and greatest edition to get a feel for it.
posted by birdherder at 6:02 PM on April 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've taken online classes. If you need the discipline and structure or need/want the networking and interaction, you're going to be disappointed. For me, it was great, because I want to listen to the lecture and take notes, do the readings and assignments, and get everything over with as quickly and neatly as possible. There tends to be a lot less group work and bullshitting back and forth, which I love, but it also means it's on you to do all the assignments and keep up with the readings and discussions and so forth.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 7:41 PM on April 12, 2012


I know you don't want to hear this bc you are enamoured with being in school but you definitely do not need a second degree for advertising or programming. They will prefer candidates with related degrees all else being equal sure but that is why you make sure all else is not equal. Get some work in either field you decide on under your belt (which you may have done already with professors) and leverage that to get an entry level job at a small programming or advertising shop. Then work your way up from there..typically jumping companies every three years or so as you max out the opportunities at one place and use as stepping stone to the next. This is exactly what i did to go from a BA degree in psychology to a well respected IT consultant in the industry. No addl degree required. I am not just blowing smoke up your ass; u can do this without sinking more money into a second degree.
posted by TestamentToGrace at 5:42 AM on April 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


My career-swap was a master's by distance ed. Most courses were delivered in a computer-based format with web boards where we could ask questions of TAs and communicate with classmates.

I saved money this way, but I found the disipline required very challenging. If I were to do it again, it would be in person - hands down and absolutely. On reflection, I would have spent more money but saved myself a lot of grief had I done it in person.
posted by lulu68 at 5:13 PM on April 14, 2012


« Older I plan to make a trip this sum...   |  Gold engagement ring has broke... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.