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Graphic Design and Programming?

By Tobe-Soft ·
I find school hard, but I'm back in it doing my Software Engineering degree. Is it worth it? Here?s what I'm working with:
I have a BA in Graphic Design ? with concentration on Web dev. and illustration. (5 years experience)
I'm working as a Technical Writer for a compressor company ? manuals and illustration. (2+ Years)
I?m almost a junior at a good university in Software Engineering.
I know C++ and VB-whatever fluently (VB.Net, VB6, VBScript, VBA for Excel and Access) and I am learning Java.
I have my I-Net cert and working on my MCSD cert in VB.Net.

However, I?m still finding it intimidating. My wife tells me that I?m worth more (I get 13 dollars an hour) and I know it, but it?s hard to have confidence in where I fit in the industry.

Any advice at all from anyone would really help me out.

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Getting the right job...

by dfirefire In reply to Graphic Design and Progra ...

Never mind the wife, you'll never earn as much as she would like you to ;-)
Having the right stuff in your luggage is not everything. You have to find the job that pays you good money for what you deliver. Having a broad knowledge does not make it easier, because nowadays, IT is mainly for the specialists. Or at least, the big money is. The days where one got hired when he knew word processor from a calculator are over. My advice is: carefully pick a branch to specialize yourself in (one that is needed in the IT sector of course), dig into it and then find a firm that hires you to do what you've learned for.
Oh, and never forget: the more knowledge you acquire, the more you'll learn that you still have a lot to learn...

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Lifetime earnings

by DC Guy In reply to Graphic Design and Progra ...

Finishing your degree may or may not increase your salary. But what it will do is increase your total lifetime earnings. You will fare better during hard times (such as these) than you will without it. Sure, lots of people with degrees are unemployed, but a whole lot more people WITHOUT them are much worse off. If you want to take my reasoning to its extreme and go on for a master's degree, go ahead. I don't know anyone with a master's degree who has been unemployed for a long spell.

Thirteen bucks an hour isn't really a lot of money, dude. Are you able to support kids, accumulate the down payment for a house, and/or set something aside for your next spell of unemployment?

I don't even know you but I can tell you for sure that you're worth a lot more than that. Everyone else will believe it when you get your sheepskin.

It's a rite of passage, you just gotta do it.

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by gdgtgrl In reply to Graphic Design and Progra ...

I don't know your geographic location but it seems to me that as a technical writer you are being underpaid. Check out Perhaps this is because you are selling yourself short. Maybe you don't know how to properly market yourself and your skills - or are not leveraging all your skills. For instance, with the skills you already haven (graphic design, technical writing, and programming), I think you could be a good user interface designer (search Monster for descriptions).

Getting the degree in Software Engineering is definitely worth it as you as you get a new job - one that uses the skills you learn in the degree. Have you thought about what you want to do with the degree? What kind of position you want and where you want your career to go? I think that if you came up with a game plan you might have more confidence as to the value of your education. Go to and and do a search on C++, VB, and Java. There should be quite a few positions looking for these.

It may be a good idea to consider working in an job related to what you are learning in school now. It will reinforce your schooling and give you related experience for your resume. Even an internship would be worthwhile. Many internships pay more than $13/hour. These days in IT getting that first job after graduation is tougher, however, if you have some experience on your resume and that you can speak of, you will have an advantage over candidates with none. Plus, it may give you some idea of what you may want to do when you graduate.

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Find the better jobs

by vaplanman In reply to


You've got to be patient and wait for the jobs that will really challenge you. I have a Masters degree in urban planning with some really good IT skills. I graduated and took a job as an entry level planner. Fun but I soon became the Computer Guru of the office. I left there for a job as a GIS Manager (computerized mapping). When that agency decided to form their own IT Dept, I was given the job of heading the whole dept and all because I knew the GIS side of the house!

After a great experience learning management, budgeting, networking, troubleshooting, web development and a myriad of other tasks, I just recently landed a job with the state that will have me meeting with IT departments all over the state about GIS.

I find that generalists with a broad base of skills tend to be ridiculed for their lack of depth in any one area, but that has been my strength. The reply from dfirefire is right on when he says that IT people with expert knowledge tend to be hired quickly but it is the generalists that land the juicy jobs that require more than just one skill.
You are also setting yourself up to offer your unique blend of skills as a consultant.

Be patient. Your hard work will pay off.

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Thanks for all of the advice!

by Tobe-Soft In reply to Graphic Design and Progra ...

Thanks for your replies everyone and each gave excellent advice. And you?re right; I am selling myself too short. I?ve gotten comfortable here, not only because of the training and enjoyment I get for Technical Writing, but from the fact my boss lets me do just about whatever I want to do with system improvements with programming.

What changed lately is that a co-worker, besides my boss, gave me my first (undeserving) negative evaluation. It was the fire I needed to start seriously look for a new job. I?ve already have my three letters of recommendation from my co-workers and I?ve put my resume online on two sites ? more to come.

DC Guy made my father and me laugh. His reply came across as ??Dude, I don?t even know you, but I?m concerned about you. How can you afford to live? Do your kids go hungry...?? He?s right of course, which also makes it no laughing matter.

KenyaR, I will concentrate my future searches on user interface. Thanks.

Just out of interest, I live in the Virginia Beach, Virginia. How I?ve been subsidizing my income, I do side graphic jobs for churches, freelance web design, and until recently, vitamin brochures. And we have no kids yet.

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by gdgtgrl In reply to Thanks for all of the adv ...

According to, the median salary is $40K for an entry-level technical writer in Norfolk, VA. The median salary for an entry-level programmer in Norfolk is about $10K more. Because I am actually from that area (Chesapeake), I know that there isn't an overabundance of tech jobs there. You may not find jobs quickly using the online job boards. You may need to do some networking with other technical people to find out what's available in the area. Another thing you can try is the career placement office at your university as well as other students.

Make sure you include your freelance work and on-the-side programming stuff on your resume.

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Get all the training you can !!

by bschaettle In reply to Graphic Design and Progra ...

You're only "worth more" if you get the training and actually get a job where you're DOING more. $13/hr is about what you can expect with your current job, Technical Writing. Even if you were MD-PhD but were working as a Technical Writer you'd still only make $13/hr. Get the degree. Move up. Don't look back.

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Keep the Faith

by innocent_bystander In reply to Graphic Design and Progra ...

It will be worth it. I'm a freelance web developer, and I'm constantly having to massage what I get from graphic designers so I can actually use it on the web. I'd love to have the graphic design skills to make myself at least potentially independent of them.

I work from home for two or three relatively small companies that could not afford to pay web developers if they went through agencies. I'm willing to work for relative peanuts ($50 - $60 /hour) in order to work from home on my own schedule. It sounds like you are ideally situated to start acquiring business of that sort.

I don't know how you feel about MS, but after 20 years of coding, starting with COBOL, I find .NET to be a developer's paradise, and that applies to ASP.NET as well.

Go ahead and get the degree if you want, but I don't think you necessarily need it, sounds like you're already good to go. You probably know OOP, but if not, I'd concentrate on getting that down. I'd learn C# as well, it's not that difficult, it makes you more marketable, and you can benefit from more sample code.

Good luck.

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I know what you mean...

by Tobe-Soft In reply to Keep the Faith

...NET is very cool! My specialization is application development with VB6, VBScript, and VBA. Even though Microsoft doesn?t mind ruining your day with platform level changes every now and then, you can still master Microsoft?s development logic and really crank out some really impressive applications.

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More to the point

by innocent_bystander In reply to I know what you mean...

.NET lets you build libraries that you can use to leverage almost everything you write in any .NET language. This was never feasible in the Win32 world unless you confined yourself very narrowly. If you approach every programming problem with the intent of finding a way of solving a general class of problem and are willing to do the underlying work, you can quickly build libraries of useful functions. And always think interfaces.

ASP.NET gives you the power to use those libraries directly, so you can write Web Applications and desktop applications that use the same libraries on the backend.

My point is, you can become self-sufficient by building your own tools. The quickest way, I think, to get there is to concentrate on supporting Web sites and developing tools to support that end. In the natural course of events you will be developing back-end libraries that you can hang a desktop application front end on if you need to.

.NET turned me around completely. In the bad old days, mostly I coded in C++, and I was so sick of all the Win32 variations and re-writing the same stuff for them. Now that all that crap is hidden... I've learned more about what I consider to be real coding in the last 2 years than in the previous 20.

You sound like you have a lot going for you, and if you really jump into .NET you will be a monster.

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