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I Just Wanna Make Pretty Shit

So I’ve been rolling yet another potential degree/career path around in my head for a while now. I figured that since I have yet to completely rule it out, maybe it’s time to give it a little bit of examination here at Late for Class.  Sound good?

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Sweet, let’s do this.

So waaaaay back during my first attempt at college all those many years ago, sometime between the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods while dinosaurs still roamed the Earth, I began dabbling in Graphic Design. I primarily did so in the capacity of creating simple posters and playbills for the Theatre department’s stage productions. Turned out I was relatively decent at it, and really enjoyed the process. I even won a little departmental award for one of my posters, and that was super exciting.

Around this time I also began teaching myself basic HTML and goofing around with building basic late 1990s era Geocities-style websites (with an intense focus on making them look as little like basic Geocities style websites as possible). While I wouldn’t say that I ever excelled at it, I did pretty okay for a 17-year-old kid with zero experience or education in this area, particularly during a time when the internet was still a relatively new phenomenon to the average person. Most importantly, I had a lot of fun with it.

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Afterwards, while I more or less dropped the web design ambitions, I did continue to play around with Graphic Design as a hobby. I created lots of things for various online communities that I participated in over the years and always received loads of praise for my creations. But now it’s been several years now since I’ve done it just for fun, as I haven’t had home access to any design programs more advanced than MS Paint.

Occasionally I’ve been able to put my under-developed talent in this area to work at some of my jobs, which has always resulted in comments from managers and colleagues such as, “You should be doing this for a living, why didn’t you go to school for this?” To which my default answer was usually, “If I ever get the chance to go back, I most likely will.”

And now here we are.

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The Pennsylvania State University offers a completely online Bachelor’s of Design in Digital Multimedia Design. If I were to go the Graphic Design route, I pretty strongly suspect that this would be the degree for me. It’s marketed as “Three colleges, one program.” Unlike a traditional Graphic Design program curriculum, this one interdisciplinary. Meaning in addition to Visuals Arts and Design, it also incorporates coursework from the Communications and Information Technology schools.

To quote the website:

“What You Can Do with a Penn State Education in Digital Multimedia Design? As a graduate of the program, you can use your skills to create, execute, and evaluate communication strategies — making you a valuable asset for businesses, corporations, government, and nonprofit organizations. Career options may include working as a digital designer in brand, motion, and user experience, or as a web developer, art director, public relations specialist, advertising manager, or media relations professional.”

So basically it’s Graphic Design, Public Relations/Advertising, and Web Design all rolled into one degree.

Which sounds fucking PERFECT for me.

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…At least in theory. As usual: Concerns! I has them!

  1. WTF is a “Bachelor of Design?” Yes, I know there are more types of bachelor’s degrees out there other than just BA or BS. But for real, though… Is it just me, or does this one just sound like make-believe bullshit? And will a prospective employer feel the same, and not take it seriously? (Though I would hope the fact that it’s from a great school like Penn State would counter some of that.)
  2. Is an interdisciplinary degree really such a good choice? I mean, on the surface it’s like “Sweet, I can be educated in lots of things that I enjoy and am good at, which will hopefully open more professional doors for me!” But in reality, will I just end up-with half-assed educations in three topics, but be a master of none of them?
  3. I fear that the degree name itself, Digital Multimedia Design, on my resume will lend itself to “Oh, she’s a graphic/web designer? Why the fuck is she applying for this public relations/copywriting/etc job?” types of situations.giphy18
  4. From what I understand, the world basically now has more graphic designers than it has good jobs to offer them. Obviously, that’s a big concern. Billie gotsa get PAID. Graphic and/or Web Design is the closest I could ever get to having a STEM career, and they say that’s where the money is. But if there’s so many candidates and not enough jobs for them all, then I might as well just major in Liberal Arts or Alligator Wrestling or Underwater Basketweaving.
  5. Speaking of paid: Penn State is significantly more expensive than Southern New Hampshire University, which is currently my top choice for their online Communications/Professional Writing degree program. Over an estimated 3-ish years (hopefully less), we’re talking $19,800 versus $33,600. However, with that pricetag I get a school with a much higher level of recognition and respect. But is it worth that additional $14,000 or so, particularly given my advanced age? Do I really want to still be paying on student loan debts from my bed at the nursing home?
  6. I can’t help but notice that the curriculum involves a lot of group projects and collaborative assignments. And there’s that whole problem with… Well. You know. I kinda don’t much like people, especially working with them, especially where my grades are concerned. Sooooo.

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So the Plan This Week Is…

Bachelor of Arts in Communications, with a Concentration in Professional Writing and a Minor in Social Media Marketing.

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No, really. I’m serious. Let me explain.

So of course, in typical Billie fashion, I’ve continued to turn the idea of the Creative Writing degree over and over in my head until it’s tumbled to death. And here’s the thing: I’m an okay writer with a decent-ish grasp of language mechanics and grammar, etc. I immensely enjoy words and crafting things with them in an engaging way.

When possible, I particularly love to make people laugh with my writing.  Turns out that not every platform is the appropriate place for dick jokes, though.

What I’m not great at is making up stories. I don’t really ever write them, and I’m not into poetry at all, to be quite honest. I was thinking that maybe once I was in a structured Creative Writing program, I would learn to be excellent at it. But then I look at sample writing prompts, and they do absolutely nothing for me…

  • Smoke, Fog, and Haze: Write about not being able to see ahead of you.
  • Sugar: Write something so sweet, it makes your teeth hurt.
  • Numbers: Write a poem or journal entry about numbers that have special meaning to you.
  • Dread: Write about doing something you don’t want to do.

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All that being said, I do enjoy the creative process of stringing words together, but in a different sort of way. Ways that directly observe the world around me, that inspire action or reaction, that convey thoughts and ideas, that bring real life to the page (or screen). Words used to persuade, to help, to inform. That’s the style of writing I’ve always enjoyed best. Travel recollections. Book reviews. Editorials. Opinion columns. So on and so forth.

Basically what I really want is a degree in blogging, frankly.

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“Okay, but Billie, you know there’s a division of Creative Writing for Non-Fiction, right? Some programs even let you do a concentration in it within your major!”

Yes yes, I know. And believe me, I have very much considered it, and haven’t entirely ruled it out, honestly.  University of Central Florida‘s Creative Writing program offers classes and workshops in Non-Fiction.  So if I do go with a Creative Writing degree, that is more-likely-than-not the direction I will go with it.

Another type of Writing major option is Technical Writing, but it’s just way too dry for me.  Technical Writers are the people who write instruction manuals and such.  Which I don’t want to do.  Because I would rather not spend all of this money on a degree only to wind up sitting in an office like…

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So all of these wandering thought-bunnies eventually brought me to another place…

When I was a travel agent, one of my favorite tasks was having to write up the copy for and work with our company’s Marketing department to produce a poster/flyer to advertise upcoming special events we were offering. Another favorite job of mine there was managing our office Facebook account, combining images with copy I would write to try to get people interested in our services, attractions, and destinations. And as much as I didn’t love direct sales (aka customer service), I did always enjoy the part of crafting an exciting and persuasive presentation via email to pitch a pricey vacation to an interested potential client.

Which got me to thinking about a friend of mine who works as a copywriter with the Universal Orlando Resort, in the in-house marketing department.  He loves it, and I’ve always been kind of envious of what he does, as it seems like an absolutely fantastic gig and something I would truly enjoy.  So.  Why not go for it, riiiiiiight?  Or at least put myself on an academic path that has more of a chance of leading me in that direction.

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The other reason I’m considering moving away from the Creative Writing degree and more towards this Professional Writing degree is simply Adulting.  As I conveyed previously, if I’m going to do this… you know, spend all this time and money, especially this late in my life… then it would be vastly preferable to get a degree that will actually have at least some potential to for improving my career prospects and financial position.

And frankly, this degree is just far more practical, with courses like:

  • ADV 263: Advertising Copy and Design
  • ENG 220: Business Communications
  • COM 230: Graphics and Layout in Print Media
  • COM 235: Intro to Journalism
  • COM 310: Social Media
  • COM 325: Editing for Media and Publication
  • COM 340: Writing for Public Relations
  • COM 445: Writing for New Media
  • COM 232: Desktop Publishing
  • COM 315: Communication in the Digital Age
  • COM 329: Editing for New Media Technologies

See?  Definitely less artsy-fartsy and more worky-jobby.  But still things I feel that I would enjoy learning about and honing my craft in.

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I initially wanted to do a minor in Graphic Design, something else I’ve always enjoyed and have often been told that I have a talent for, but I ran into a snag.  One of the courses required for the minor has a pre-requisite course, which is fine, I don’t mind taking additional Graphic Design classes.  However, that pre-req course is described as being “Mac-based.”  And I’m a PC user.  And I’m not about to run out and spend an enormous wad of cash on a Mac just for one class.  Sooooo… Sadly, I had to scrap that whole idea.

So after exploring my options some more, I came across the Social Media Marketing minor.  By adding this skill set to my degree, I’m effectively exploring my love of digital platforms and learning how to use them to make money, as well as expanding my career options that much further.  Plus, given my vast ineptitude with math, something dealing with the online world is the closest I’m ever going to get to a STEM career.

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Now all of this being said, I do have a couple of reservations about this degree path (of course I do… thanks, Anxiety!):

  1. It’s a Communications degree.  I haven’t been out of school long enough to forget all of the shit that gets talked about Comm majors.  No, seriously.  If you don’t know, then google “Communications Majors Stereotypes” sometime, and you’ll see what I mean.  And while I don’t much care what the average schmoe thinks of my Communications degree, I do have to consider how it will look to employers.
  2. I recognize that I’m probably overselling it, not just to ya’ll but also to myself, as while some of the course work looks really interesting, other bits of it seem super boring, especially the Marketing classes.  But I’m sure there’s no such thing as a program where you’re going to 110% love all of your classes, right?

After spending waaaaaaay too much time comparing schools and programs, the only one I’ve found that offers the blend of professional writing, advertising, and digital media that I’m looking for is Southern New Hampshire University.

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The good news is that they have a fantastic online degree program, and the classes are administered through Blackboard, which is the same software that TCL uses for their online courses so the transition would be pretty seamless.  However, choosing SNHU also means giving up on my goal of staying within my region so that I could take road trips to the school as needed. I would only ever see the SNHU campus twice: When I fly up in a couple years to check it out before I officially enroll (which most online students don’t ever do, but I feel very strongly that I need to see with my own eyes what I’m getting into and where I’m going to be accumulating a massive amount of debt before I make a commitment), and then again 2-3 years after that for graduation.

So that’s where things stand this week.  I’m sure I’ll be back in a week or two with a totally different agenda.  Stay tuned!

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