Is DeVry for me?
January 13, 2008 3:46 PM   Subscribe

Given my situation, could DeVry be a good idea?

I've been in college for about 7 years now without a degree - I've been hopping around, starting as a film major, then as a Liberal Arts/Philosophy major, then as a Contemporary Music major. I'm sick of being in school - particularly for degrees that won't neccesarily result in a real job. I'm getting married soon, I'm ready to settle down, etc. I would like to be done with school, and have at least a relatively stable job/career within about two years, but due to a number of factors, my locale will be very much up in the air for the next couple of years. As a result, I find myself looking at accelerated online programs. I've always enjoyed/had a knack for web and graphic design, though it's never been much more than a hobby. But I can see myself honestly enjoying working in that field for a living. I've been reading about DeVry's Web/Graphic Design program... and found lots of good things and lots of bad things that people have to say about that school. My real question is: If I do well in a program like that, and have a fair amount of talent, will I be able to find a decent job upon graduation?
posted by clcapps to Education (25 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I went to a school that I thought had a good name...Le Cordon Bleu...the problem is, you are still graduating from a school that advertises on TV at 3am. People look at it just the same as any degree mill program and hire you at entry level rather than the professional level the school "promises". What ended up getting me my professional level job was the 6 years I spent in the USN prior to going to school :/ I am not saying that the school didn't teach me anything, but it wasn't the "door opener" that I had hoped for.
posted by legotech at 3:55 PM on January 13, 2008

How far off are you from getting any other kind of degree? Having a degree in about ANY subject from a more credible college is likely to open more doors. With a college degree in music and a hobbyist's knack for graphic design, you'll be able to get the same jobs that DeVRY is grooming you for.
posted by hermitosis at 4:02 PM on January 13, 2008

As far as the career goes, I'd work backwards. Talk to some people in the industry, ask them what the job entails and what would qualify you for a position. Then go back and consider whether DeVry or some other online program would help you get there. You've already tried several degree programs on for size, it would be a shame to start something else and then find out it leads to a career you'd hate, or wouldn't lead to a career at all.

Good luck.
posted by christinetheslp at 4:03 PM on January 13, 2008

If you're looking for academic-based web/graphic design programs, DeVry isn't the place to be looking at. There are many other similar programs that are generally looked upon more favorably, such as the Art Institute and Full Sail.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:14 PM on January 13, 2008

I'm sick of being in school - particularly for degrees that won't neccesarily result in a real job.

Few qualifications will automatically get you a "real job," whatever that is. But there are lots of jobs that are accessible to people with any bachelor's degree. Having an associate's degree from DeVry will not get you any of those. It will really only be useful for getting you your first graphic design job—after that your experience will probably be more important. But you might be able to get one without having organized training.
posted by grouse at 4:18 PM on January 13, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for all your responses.
I'd much rather be enrolled at a traditional university, but I really need something I can do entirely online, because I'll be moving around a LOT in the next couple years. I did just take a look at the Art Institute's online program, which does look very interesting...

I suppose my question shouldn't have been "Is DeVry a good idea?", but rather "What would be a good idea, given that I need something that is 1)relatively fast-paced, 2) available exclusively online, and 3)has a good chance in helping me get a decent job."
posted by clcapps at 4:24 PM on January 13, 2008

I don't know how a graphic design degree from DeVry would work on the job market, but I do know that for-profit schools such as DeVry tend not to have their students' best interests in mind. That is, they want to make money off of you, not to bolster their academic reputation. I'm a teacher, and from the guidance counselors at my school I've heard bad stories about hidden fees, etc. Be wary.
posted by HeroZero at 4:26 PM on January 13, 2008

(I should maybe clarify that I teach at a public city high school.)
posted by HeroZero at 4:27 PM on January 13, 2008

I know it's not online, but have you thought of internships? It really depends on what you mean by moving around a lot, ie for 3 months in each area an internship is doable, but not if you're moving every other week. An internship would put you in contact with real life people who will help you get a job, would be free (if you're lucky a stipend), and can last a short period. I vaguely remember something about Google doing online internships, so maybe someone else has more information about other companies that do something similar.
posted by fermezporte at 4:31 PM on January 13, 2008

DeVry is a proprietary (for-profit) school. It does not have a good reputation with employers. Finish your degree at a state college or university. Go meet with an advisor and bring copies of your transcripts and see if you can figure out what major would be the shortest route for you to get a degree. Most schools will require you to complete at least 30 units at the institution before they will give you their degree. You don't need a degree to work in graphic design--you just need a good portfolio.

Just get a degree, it will be worth it. You might also look at an alternative teaching certificate program once you finish your degree. Alternative certificate programs are usually accelerated routes to getting a teaching credential for non-education majors. Teaching isn't the road to wealth (!), but it is a fairly decent paycheck (depending on where you are) and it gives you blocks of time off.

Stay away from any of those fly by night/online programs. They are happy to take your money but it isn't money well spent for you. If the school isn't accredited, your degree will be worthless and the credits will not be transferrable. Many state schools and universities are offering more and more distance learning/online options, but it is at a school with a good reputation with a degree that will be worth something at an affordable cost.

Good luck!
posted by 45moore45 at 4:34 PM on January 13, 2008 [3 favorites]

You really need to say what you think a "decent job" is.
posted by grouse at 4:35 PM on January 13, 2008

Also, you might want to start your search for online programs at state universities where you may count as a state resident.
posted by grouse at 4:37 PM on January 13, 2008

I'm sick of being in school - particularly for degrees that won't neccesarily result in a real job.

It's a common misconception that you get a degree to get a ticket to a job in your chosen field. The majority of people don't end up working in the field they went to school for. Rather, a degree proves to your prospective employer that you can put up with all manner of BS and stick to it long enough to accomplish something big. You'll help yourself much more in the long term if you finish up (one of) the degree(s) you've started.

To answer your question, web and graphic design jobs tend to care more about your portfolio than your qualifications. So if you think you can put together some kickass stuff while going to DeVry, then it'll help. But putting together some kickass stuff on the side will finishing up a 4 year degree will help even more.
posted by TungstenChef at 4:52 PM on January 13, 2008

"What would be a good idea, given that I need something that is 1)relatively fast-paced, 2) available exclusively online, and 3)has a good chance in helping me get a decent job."

If you learn fast and well on your own, I'd say skip DeVry completely. With web/graphic design, getting a job is completely dependent on your portfolio and skills. So what you should do is pick up a copy of Photoshop and/or Illustrator and a How To book (software and book don't have to be latest versions) and just start learning and doing. Read tutorials and how-to's from graphic design websites and forums. Practice and expand your skills.

At the same time, set up a blog and apply what you're learning to design a good looking website. Do logos, websites, and collateral for imaginary companies and products. Do fake redesigns of big, well-known websites. Blog about what you're learning, what you like, etc. Do illustrations, diagrams, cartoons -- whatever it is you're best at and you want to be doing for the eventual job. A bonus would be if you start doing good work, approach friends, relatives, and former co-workers or employers and ask them if you can set up/design their website or blog for a reasonable rate.

The idea is to build up a portfolio of work that a potential employer can review. And if you blog about current topics in web/graphic design, that shows you are interested in what's going on and you're keeping up with trends. Your portfolio and blog will be your greatest asset towards getting a job, not what class you took online. Regarding the bonus tip, if you can demonstrate that you're already a working freelance graphic designer, well that makes it even easier for a firm to hire you.
posted by junesix at 4:56 PM on January 13, 2008 [3 favorites]

The Creative Circus in Atlanta says it's the place that makes weird kids employable. If you want to be a graphic designer, you might look into it. I know some people who go or went there, and it's a pretty cool place.
posted by Medieval Maven at 5:09 PM on January 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

I've worked in the graphic design field off and on for a while now. I never had any formal training, I just built up a portfolio from spec work and freelance jobs. Going to school for graphic design really isn't much better than going to school for film, or any other art for that matter. Unless you graduate from a school like Pratt no one is going to care. I'd spend whatever money you were putting away for school and buy a Mac and some software. There are plenty of free tutorials that can teach you all the popular styles going around these days. Build up a portfolio and just go for it. Any design shop worth their salt is going to judge you based on your work not your pedigree. Good luck.
posted by ISeemToBeAVerb at 5:14 PM on January 13, 2008

The couple of times I have had to hire someone, resumes from candidates with degrees from Devry and its ilk are unceremoniously trashed.

My attitude is, "If this person has such bad judgment as to attend a crappy school like that, how can they have good enough judgment to work for me?"
posted by jayder at 5:51 PM on January 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

I might be wrong but here's my take:

Graphic design, unlike traditional majors like poli sci or English, requires that you actually be able show your skills, like in a portfolio. You can hide bad critical thinking skills behind the Yale name, because it's unlikely that someone would hire an art major from Yale who didn't have any knowledge or experience in graphic design for that kind of position. Go to DeVry if you're positive of the kind of job you want and know you can get the skills employers demand there.

If you like what DeVry has to offer and you think it can teach you what you need to know to do a top notch job as a graphic designer, go ahead. Your portfolio will count more than the name of the school you went to in this one field. People usually go to brand name schools to give a signal to an employer and the people hiring graphic designers don't expect you to have attended Harvard or Yale for that degree. In fact, I'm fairly certain they don't even have that department.

Go somewhere where you can get the skills you need. If that's DeVry, go ahead. But I would talk to the dept at DeVry and ask for the names and numbers of alumni who have studied graphic design at the school.

It might not hurt to call up your dream employer/someone who has a job you think is great and ask him/her what they think of your attending DeVry.
posted by onepapertiger at 5:53 PM on January 13, 2008

I know it's not online, but have you thought of internships?

This is the way to go, you need to be working with people. It's the fastest and best way to learn.
posted by mattoxic at 6:08 PM on January 13, 2008

If you're looking at online, look at something that isn't for-profit education or something that has a reputation as an excellent institution in online, distance, and continuing education. I'm a huge fan of the University of Maryland University College and, to a lesser extent, Regent University.

NB about Regent: They were once known as CBN University and were established by Pat Robertson, but they do the distance thing well.
posted by wildeepdotorg at 7:13 PM on January 13, 2008

In my experience--

Jobs in graphic design are easy to get, and you do not need any diploma at all.
But you do need two things:

1. You show up when a bunch of new work is just starting and there's no one to do it, or some one left suddenly, and there's no one to do the work they were doing,
2. You have a totally perfect portfolio.

For 1., just do a lot of networking or door-knocking.

For 2, you need a mentor--someone who will look at your portfolio and tell you what stinks most about each item in it. And when you fix them, will tell you what still stinks most about each item. After a few rounds of this, when your remaining self-esteem can fit comfortably under a fingernail, you should have a portfolio suitable for step 1. above.
posted by hexatron at 8:25 PM on January 13, 2008

Have you looked at what your local community college has to offer? I've taken a few community college classes (not in your field) and have consistently been impressed by my instructors. If you're a serious student, you'll stand out, and probably get as much individual attention and guidance as you need.

And adding my voice to the chorus: Devry is a resume ruiner.
posted by freshwater_pr0n at 9:54 PM on January 13, 2008

The art institute online, at least 5 years ago, wasn't very good. I speak from experience.

Full sail, on the other hand, looks fantastic. I say this after working for a company that helps students apply to campus and online schools.
posted by jragon at 11:16 PM on January 13, 2008

Also, The University of Illinois at Springfield has an extensive on-line program; it was profiled recently in an NPR series . (Full disclosure: my father works there). If you need online programs, I would think you'd be better off going to one associated with an accredited university---and your previous credits might transfer.
posted by leahwrenn at 5:44 AM on January 14, 2008

My real question is: If I do well in a program like that, and have a fair amount of talent, will I be able to find a decent job upon graduation?

If you do well in things like this, you don't need a silly degree from a uni that advertises at the time of night when mothers nagging theoretically kicks in the hardest. Just go for it.
posted by dabitch at 8:28 PM on June 13, 2008

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