Can I Break into Information Architecture at 40?
March 3, 2009 1:26 PM   Subscribe

Is it realistic to become an information architect in NYC after the age of 40? I'm concerned about the bias that exists in the computer industry and the expensive cost of training for this career.

I followed my spouse to NYC several years ago so that he could take a great job. I had a B.A in Psychology and my plan was to work and go to grad school here. That didn't pan out so well - my not so great school was into replacing scholarships with student loans. When they cut my loan aid in half and pushed private loans instead (for a nice kickback to themselves I presume!) I had no choice but to drop out.

So now what? I have a gaping hole in my resume, a background of temp jobs (I am from an economically depressed, rural area) and truly scary student loan debt. I have decent computer skills and wondered if maybe a library science degree (Pratt or Queens College) or an online degree in Human Computer Interaction or Human Factors might be enough to enter this field.

I don't want to make another huge and expensive mistake and am concerned by a few things:

1) I'm not a hipster and apparently, this is a hip career here. I like the design and research component of the work and actually enjoy the idea of creating taxonomies and use cases.

2) My work history is flimsy - I've been out of work entirely for 2 years and before that I was an admin. temp. My salary history is laughable in NYC terms.

Any of these avenues would incur more debt. My other options are to attend a CUNY school and get a masters in Psychology or Sociology and try to break into market research. Or, I could pursue a Technical Communications degree at Northeastern University online and try to break into IA that way. Any ideas on how to break into an IA/Market Research career over 40 would be greatly appreciated!
posted by thenewyawkah to Work & Money (3 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
To be honest, the age bias is mostly applied to men, a sort of young-stud-ousting-the-silverback macho bullshit thing women really don't have to worry about in my experience. It's also more of a small-shop/startup thing - big organizations like mature and stable people.

Women coming to the party late, mostly because they took time off to start a family before a mid-life career switch, is pretty common at the places I've worked, big and small.
posted by Slap*Happy at 2:25 PM on March 3, 2009

I'm a taxonomist. I got my first job in the field at age 42, after completing my master's in library science. I think it helped that I look about 10 years younger than I really am, because my company does seem to hire on the young side.

I'm in Los Angeles, and others - but not every one - whom I know in my industry do fall into the young hipster category. I am anything but, and while this has been problematic on the social front (nobody at my current job to really buddy up with!) I think it's a field where the quality of work you do is more important than how old or how hip you are.

I don't know anybody working in this field who doesn't have either an MLIS, or a degree in HCI (which, given the option to do it over, I might opt for instead of the MLIS) - so, I'd say either of those will work.
posted by chez shoes at 2:31 PM on March 3, 2009

I don't know if age is a huge barrier, and if it is, I'd imagine it to be a bigger barrier on the agency side of things than internal. The biggest thing that sticks out for me is you don't mention any past web or design experience.

A degree is nice, but the kind of work you're talking about is more often about having the right approach and mindset than it is a set of tools or techniques, many of which can be learned on the job, given the right situation.

That said, most people who do this kind of work do have a grad degree of some sort, so it's definitely not a waste. I went to Pratt, and like everything it has its pros and cons. Feel free to shoot me a mefi mail if you want specifics.
posted by dyobmit at 2:44 PM on March 3, 2009

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