OT: Careers....undecided....help?


Diabloii.Net Member
OT: Careers....undecided....help?

Im having a little trouble uncovering the truth in some aspects of a career. Lately ive been attending ceminars on information technology. Im interested in careers in either computer programing or graphic designing. Im having trouble discovering the truth behind these careers though.
All of the presentations I attended seemed to glorify the career they were doing and kind of gave me a false-sense of what it is all about. I am not to sure on what exactly computer programing is and really only know a little. I know that graphic design is developing images and what not but I also know there is a ton of work-related skills you need to go along with that.
Most of the information I find on the websites just give you a speel to get you to sign the dotted line to go take that class. I want to know the truth about what these courses teach and where you can take this in life. Im also finding it kind of hard to discover what courses are required to take a graphic design course or computer programing course and where I can find a place to take them.
Im lacking the hands-on experience I need to decide if its something I like or want to do. I also am not sure on where these two can lead to. I would hate to end up making video games or programing for a high school. I want to take a more corporate outlook on these.
So what im looking for is information on the two , what classes are required to take either of the courses , some information from some of you that might do this and can go in debth for me , or even just a redirectment to some websites.
I also am trying to find a program that will let you play around with designing pictures or graphics that is free. I heard adobe photoshop is really good and that is what most people use in this line of work but I cant seem to find the actual program (read: Not An Update!!). Also I would like something free!

Thanks for any help. :scratch:


Diabloii.Net Member
If I'm remember correctly, your are in the US. Everything I'm saying here is from that perspective. If you live somewhere else, you may want to get some advice from people from those areas.

The good new is that both computer programming and graphic design are pretty flexible when it comes to careers, so if you want to be out in the corporate world, that shouldn't be a problem. For both, you will be best served by getting a college degree, though. (10 years ago you didn't really need it if you had the skills, but that is changing as compitition for professional jobs increases.)

You may want to look for a program that combines the two, which will give you more flexibility. A lot of schools will also let you adjust a degree program a little, or you could set them up as a major/minor.

Now, a little about what I know about graphic design. (I'm currently in school studying graphic design.) The main goal of graphic design is to visually solve a problem. You need to take into a account the message, audience, and medium where it will be presented. You need to understand how to use fonts, and incorporate images to make sure that people who look at what you have created first see the most important information. You end up taking pre-written text and making it work in a understandable and interesting while making it look good.

I'll likely go into web design, but other options I'm considering are advertising, infomation graphics, and publication design. Advertising is pretty self explainitory, information graphics is organizing information (such as corporate annual reports) in a pleasing and understandable way, and publication design in magazine layout and such. You can end up spending hours moving things around by a pixel or two until it is perfect. You need to patient, and pay attention to detail, and be able to handle it when the client looks at what you have done and tell you they want something different. (And figure out how to give them what they want when what they want isn't really the best from a graphic design standpoint. :grin:)

The Adobe suite is pretty much standard in the industry. The main programs in the Adobe Creative Suite are Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign. InDesign is the main program of graphic designers, but the others are critial as well. Quark is still used by some, but they were a bit slow jumping on the OS X bandwagon, and it gave Adobe a chance to become the standard with InDesign, and Quark really hasn't recovered from that. The fact that InDesign works so well with Photoshop and Illustrator doesn't hurt either.

You aren't going to be able to pick up any of these programs for free. However, look into student discounts. The $1200 Adoble Professional Creative Suite is only about $400 dollars with the student discount. Still expensive, not not nearly as expensive, and a good investment if that is where you want to go with your career. (However, I wouldn't buy it until next spring when CS3 is scheduled to come out.)

There is an open source Photoshop like program called The Gimp. I know it runs under linux (and OS X with some work) but I don't know about Windows. However, as I mentioned before, InDesign/Quark is the real key to graphic design.


Diabloii.Net Member
There is an open source Photoshop like program called The Gimp. I know it runs under linux (and OS X with some work) but I don't know about Windows.
There is indeed a windows version (also for free). A flatmate of mine started teaching himself the basics, so it should be doable. But that is of course not the basis for a professional career.



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For both careers, you're pretty much looking at a computer science degree (in north america, usually a bachelor's degree is enough for a foot in the door at many companies).

If you want to learn a little programming (to see if it's something that interests you), I recommend that you do some web-based tutorials on a certain programming language (Java, C, C Sharp, HTML, Javascript, PHP, etc. - the list is endless). Each language has some advantages and disadvantages. Don't let anyone tell you that a certain one is 'the best for everything' - some are best for certain things, but there's not one 'right' language that does everything the best (for example, Java is very popular because it's extremely powerful, flexible and diverse, however, it's also quite slow compared to some other languages, so when you need high-performance other languages often work better).

Also, many languages have their own little 'niche' market. 'Niches' can be good because once you get experience and skill, you won't have as much competition for employment, and it's easier to establish a professional reputation. They're also bad because the employment opportunities may be limitted, and you may find it difficult to move on to a different market or industry. For example, I've been working in the same niche market for almost 8 years, and I have a pretty solid reputation and reasonable job security. However, many of the skills I've learned and used during the last 8 years are so industry-specific, that I don't have as many job opportunities outside of my industry.

It sounds like you're not experienced at all, so I recommend that you start with something simple, like HTML (google 'HTML tutorial' or something like that, and you'll find some links to get you started) - and then move onto something more complex, like Javascript, or web-based Java. HTML is a little bit odd, because in many ways it's a very, very, very limitted language. This means it's pretty easy to learn, but it also means that you can't do a lot of cool things with it (and you won't find many job opportunites that focus entirely on HTML, but almost anything web-based will require HTML as a foundation).

Once you move onto something like Java or Javascript (they're quite different from each other, despite the similarity in names) you'll be getting more into 'real' programming, and you'll be capable of building more powerful tools and applications (and your additional skills will create more job opportunites).

Also, you can always try to take an introductory course to a programming language, if there are any offered in your area.

Definitely, you should 'get a feel' for programming before you decide to make a career of it. If you don't like programming - and many people don't - the odds are that you'll be a lousy programmer and will have difficulty finding work. For example, if you hate math, would you aspire to be an accountant? And do you think you'd be as good as someone who actually enjoyed accounting? Probably not.


Diabloii.Net Member
This is an area that I am fairly interested in myself and would love to spend more time a) reading cats post and b) finding useful information for you but alas! I have a report for school to finish first so at the moment I will leave you with this.

Adobe Photoshop CS Trial http://www.adobe.com/downloads/
Scroll down until you see Adobe Photoshop CS in the list, then click on "Try". You will have to sign up but it's worth it to get to try out a $1000 program. It most likely comes with a tutorial on how to get started, if not, a quick google will net you 100's of tutorials on how to draw things from smoke to electrical wires. This one can produce instant results.

I'd also like to suggest an interesting little program called Pov-Ray. http://www.povray.org/
This one uses Ray Tracing to draw pictures, and basically what you have to do is actually program the picture using lines of code so it sort of combines the fun of both programming and graphics. If you get good at it you can create some phenomenal pictures! This ones freeware and OS friendly so you can use it on Macs, or Linus, or Windows. A quick google search will turn up 100's of tutorials on how to learn this one too. This one will require some reading to learn.

As for the programming side, C++ is a really powerful language. You will need a compiler however, and I recommend Bloodshed myself. http://www.bloodshed.net/
It is also free to the best of my knowledge, and you will be able to find 1000's and 1000's of tutorial and help sites for this. It's not for someone who's going to "dabble" though. Just successfully setting this up so it will compile a "Hello World" program can be more of a challenge the actually writing the program.

My suggestion is get Photoshop and play with it, you will be surprised at how quickly you can make something cool if you follow a tutorial. Also, go to the Pov-Ray and BloodShed webpages and start reading the information there. If your immediate impression is "holy crap this is going to be way too much work to make one stupid thing" then I don't think the programming side is for you, however if your immediate impression is "wow, this is really interesting", and you can't stop reading because you just wanna learn more... well then, keep reading!

As a side not, the baby boomers are starting to get old and retire, the Gen x's are also starting to get on in age, while the Gen Y's (you) are all learning about technology, programing, and science. Have you considered Trades? There will always be a need for someone to build and wire the buildings all the geeks will be programming in but not many people are learning how to do it.

As a unrelated note, do you know how to work Bittorrent?

*flees back to his report*


Edit: Listen to what sir poopy said, HTML is a great start language. And here is a Pov-Ray tutorial that I stumbled across that you might like to look at.

Edit again: WYSIWYG = What You See Is What You Get.


Diabloii.Net Member
Wow thanks alot.
As for spending the 400$ for the adobe software, ehh that woudn't be a problem but I would want to wait untill I actually start doing it or decide it is what is right for me. I will mess around with thegimp program to see if I can get a feel for what it is like. I also heard from some others that starting off doing html programing is a good way to get the basics. Thanks for the programs to hp ill start reading up and see what I think and let ya know!

EDIT: I downloaded the povray program and opened it up. Wow. I would absolutely love to learn how to do this stuff. Im afraid though. It seems to me that a tutorial wont be able to teach me that. I think that would require something human lol. Ill try reading some more though becuase it defiantly sparked for me. I think ill play around with some html first so all those numbers will make a little more sense to me. Im a complete noob in all this so.. even reading some of the tutorial had me :shocked:. I thank you though for getting me started.


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I got my BS in computer science, specifically programming, so I can recommend a few great schools to go to. As far as the industry, I can't really help much as I switched carrers (Accounting), but my BS in CS is still a big help. PM me if you want more info on schools.


Diabloii.Net Member
There is indeed a windows version (also for free). A flatmate of mine started teaching himself the basics, so it should be doable. But that is of course not the basis for a professional career.
2 cents about gimp:
My avatar was actually made in Gimp. It was my first creation in both linux and in gimp.
As for the windows version... I downloaded it to try on my own and was very unhappy. It crashed very (by very I mean every time I tried to use a mid level function) frquently and was altogether unstable. It's not my computer as I have Photoshop running nice and smoothly on it.
If you do use Gimp and it works let me know. I still want it. :badteeth:

Edit: HTML is not a language. It's a syntax that people use for writing online. It is very useful though. Think about it as if your writing english, you just have to put in special symbals whenever you want to format the text.

Edit2: Playing with HTML won't really help you in learning a programming language. It's very very different. The best analogy I can give is learning how to play Super Smash Bros in order to get a head start in WoW. All it will accomplish is giving you a mindset that you are able to play video games.



Diabloii.Net Member
Actually, you can define functions and conditions in HTML, although they're hardly-ever used. IMO, that does make it a language - but I do agree that in almost every case it's not really programming.


... and regarding edit2: Indeed, that's why I recommended to start with HTML then try something like javascript or java.


Diabloii.Net Member
I stand corrected. lol
Now I'm curious and I'll have to find out how to do that instead of doing my school work. :hide: Thanks sir poop.

Good luck learning all this stuff!


Diabloii.Net Member
Pov-Ray might be a little ambitious as a starting language. I posted the link because some of the pictures you can create with it are absolutely phenomenal! This was more like something to inspire you sort of as a means to and end you might say. (readers should note that each of those words are linked to a different picture....)

Your thread has inspired me to try to remember some of the things I used to know. If time permits it I'm going to try and program something! I would do it now if I wasn't totally pwnt by the rum, but I am, so I'm going to play some CSS.



Diabloii.Net Member
I think everyone has pretty much summed it up for you here.
May as well throw in a nice little info package for you as well- the more info, the better! :laugh:

Graphic Design is a field of art that uses image & text to communicate ideas. Sometimes the work will be done traditionally, with pencils or paint, and sometimes it will be done digitally using imaging programs. You will need to be skilled with both PC & Mac, Digital Imaging software & Traditional Media, Cameras, etc.

You'll find that alot of work involves photography, so it may be wise to start taking snapshots now. Most designers have a collection of photos (aka: 'Stock Photos'), which they use in their work. Not just normal photography either- alot of the photos are textures for digital manipulation.

They say Artists draw for themselves, Designers draw for the world... and this is very true. As a designer, you very rarely draw for your own enjoyment; your designing for clients & companies. You'll find that smaller companies, who don't hire designers often, will love your work no matter what. However, when you work for huge companies you'll have increadible standards in place- it's up to you to make them go "WOW!".

Don't let this put you off though- Graphic Design is one of the best careers. This industry is one of the only ones that allows you to work for "ANY" company in the world.. and I do mean any. Just take a look around the house. Everything with a picture, photo, text, or style has been designed by a Graphic Designer- for some practice, you might wanna try redesigning some of those products & see how you compare. These people are your competition.

The main areas in GD are..
Illustration- Concept art, Book covers, Cd covers, etc
Advertising- Posters, Flyers, Promotional design, Banners.
Corperate Design- Business Cards, Letter heads, Logo design, corperate identity, Layout design
Web Design- This ones pretty straight forward.
Packaging- Product design (coca cola bottles, x-box packaging etc)​

Most people head straight into Illustration.. and why wouldn't you? It's one of the most enjoyable & exciting pathways. You could be producing concept art for Diablo 3, designing CD covers for you favourite bands or illustrating book covers. Unfortuntely, everyone wants to work in this area so work is alot harder to find.

The best areas to go with are Advertising & Corperate Design; these pay the most & are full of opportunities. If you really want to make the big $$, then i'd suggest go with these. Packaging is really big as well- and you can see why- but it's not very interesting lol. Web design is good fun, but the demand is much smaller than most other areas.

Well, the best place to study is the institute that offers the most hands on experience. University is very bad for art because most of the work is theory, whereas an institute like Australia's "Tafe" presents real workplace experience . Experience & skill are cruital to this industry- it doesn't matter how many pieces of paper you have, how many courses you've done, or how many hours you've spent on your resume... if you can't draw, you won't make it in the industry. Portfolio & presentation are everything.

Improving your skills is simple. Design, design & design some more! By surrounding yourself with the most oustanding designs, you'll set the standard to beat. I'm always on the lookout for new artwork- I save it to my PC and look at it everyday. Take note of the techniques they used for their designs too. How did they use colour, shape, texture, form, symbols, typography (text), image to present their idea? What is it that makes you want to buy their product. Does the image lead your eye through? Does it catch your attention? How could it be improved?

As photography plays a large role in design, you might want to get it alot of practice with your camera.

You will use Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, GoLive, Quark Express, Macromedia Dreamweaver & Flash, Corel Painter & other digital imaging software. You may also need to have experience in 3D Applications- 3D Studio Max, Maya etc.

You might want to start using these programs asap- the more exp the better.
Note: InDesign & Quark Express are layout programs. Most work will be put together in one of these- especially if you work on magazines/newspapers etc.

The only way to obtain most of these legally is to buy them. Many institutes will present you will copies of the software (on the side), but most companies don't have a problem with it. Take Adobe- my institute supplies many copies to students. Nothing ever happens though.. why? Because Adobe know that when we finish our course, we will buy our own copies of their software.

I'm pretty sure you can also download student/trial copies of the programs.
Unfortuntely, I don't have any links avaliable at the moment.

Income depends entirely on the designer. Alot of the work is commission based; you might get $500 for a design, or $5,000 for a design... sometimes more. My mate designed a board game the other day- took 2 days to complete & paid $1000 cash. It's a very 'money-friendly' career.

The better your work, the more money you get. The more money you get for each job, the less jobs you have to do a wk/month.


In my opinion, Graphic Design is a better career than Computer Programming. The work seems to be more exciting (for most ppl), the opportunities are greater, you can work for any company in the world, and the vast number of areas would allow you to fit into many different careers (if you end up disliking GD).

As far as courses go- you don't really need any prerequisits to study. General drawing skills are a must- I was the only person in my classes who could actually draw... some managed to pick up some quick skills & scrape through. Others failed miserably...

It will definately set you up for life. If you have anymore questions, fire away!


Diabloii.Net Member
I can shed a little light, as I'm a professional graphic designer. First of all, if you're interested in computers and programming and IT... design is not for you. It is an art field, and to progress anywhere in it, you need to be an artist. If you're really good with computers but not very creative, you will be stuck doing production work for the rest of your life; i.e. using simple design programs to clean up other people's designs. High level graphic designers make 100+ dollars per hour, while the computery production people make like 15/hr.

There is a sub-field of graphic design, web design, and this is where most computery-type people go to make full use of their skills. They do coding, scripts, animation, etc. It still requires a good eye for high end clients.

Most design software is intended for artsy people who aren't that great with computers. You can literally learn InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop in a single day if you're somewhat fluent in basic computer skills. InDesign in particular (a multipage layout program) is created to be idiot proof.


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Well after reading all this im left with quite a bit to digest. I downloaded the Pov-Ray and at first it blew my mind. After spending all day in school running to the library and reading up on it. I like it. I like the coding part of it. Its really cool to get to throw togethor numbers in order and produce some digital image. The problem with this is im absolutely horrible at art. I rather crunch number lines and program then be given the task to draw a shaded cup. If it was all digital work with numbers I could maybe learn to do it. Being that it is required to be good in arts and photography I dont think it is something that I can do. I am going to keep pov-ray and learn how to use it well becuase it is a awsome thing to be able to do for friends , family , and yourself. I spent all day learning on it so I could rush home and digitaly master the art of drawing (with math! :nerd:). So besides the fun and games I also took a short peek at html programing. I didn't get to see what it was really* like. I thought maybe after doing a little html work I could try and learn something harder. The problem is I have no one to teach me this stuff except for you guys and eu's. I am great at picking things up when it is presented to me. I also noticed that within the pov-ray text's alot of stuff was related to java , c , c++ programing. This makes me happy. I will work around with the image programing a little more then move on to html. So I leave you with this,
-What is the next easiest "programing" after html
-Are there any good online places that can help me learn this material. Or any one that can try and be my programing guro!
I thank you all for helping me dig up what im after though.
Oh and by the way I downloaded the gimp program and I didn't really like it. I coudn't do much with it since im not one with the arts. I found myself looking at it in the perspective as a fancy paint. So thanks again and keep it coming!


Diabloii.Net Member
-What is the next easiest "programing" after html
*waits for laughter to die down* No, I'm not joking.
For one thing, it's very easy and can be self taught, for another, it teaches certain princlipes and programing basics (GIGO) without fear of distroying the computer you're on (caught in an infinite loop, oops but at least you can hit a key!)

Otherwise, you may actually want to pick a language to specailaize in. The nitche market is more workable than you might think (Goltar was hired over the 51 others in his graduating Areospace Masters program b/c he knew FORTRAN, the rocket knowledge was a plus, but the lanuage was a must)

Alternatively, I think you'll find that getting a degree in an area of science is going to force a certain amount of computer work (if the program doesn't do what you need it to you often have to write your own) so you come out knowing not only the computer lanuage you need, but the science that you'll be running on it too. Knowing if the numbers your program is spitting out are accurate (or at least in the ball park) can be invaluable. And that translates to hiring and pay; when my mom worked HR for a software co, "Computer programers" were a dime a dozen, one with knowledge of the field was hard to find, but worth it.



Diabloii.Net Member
I would like to specialize in one or maybe a few languages. Specific is the way I like things. Keeps it easy. If I can program in specifics like java and c++ then I dont have to worry about finding work I dont know how to do. After html is there something that builds on it or maybe is a little easier then some of the more complicated things. Also messing around with povray I created a very basic image that had me soooo happy lol. Im glad I have plently of time to learn this stuff but I just dont know how to go about doing it. I guess now im just left trying to find languages and which ones do what and see what sticks out that isn't rocket science. For now back to drawing! :grin:
EDIT: One problem im having with povray is that when I use spheres or boxes every thing is fine but if I change the basic shape to anything else itll say that instead of numerical value there is a (blank) so I start moving things and it just keeps generating more and more problems. This limits me to just 2 shapes. :sad2:


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Not sure what the universities in your area offer, but I took a middle path between the technical Computer Science and the theory art/graphic design.
I ended up a web master for medium sized division (5000) of a large company (140k if i recall).

I basically took 2 years of the core college classes (history, english, math, science) and got an associates degree in liberal arts i think. Then i decided graphic design was what i wanted, so i declared Art Major and got a full load of the art classes (drawing, art history, etc). I had been tinkering with photoshop at home for years and made many websites for myself/friends family. I always had the most fun creating the graphics and layout for the sites. Having never drawn on paper i didn't do so well that first semester. I believe a C in the actual art classes and A's in the classroom based classes if i recall. I looked at the rest of the curriculum and buried 3-4 semesters away were the classes i was interested in (graphic design, computer based something). In my way were the art heavy courses outside of my experience and outside of my passion.

I went over to the CS department and talked with the professors. It sounded good and i knew my technical/computer skills could handle the courses (i love math and computers), but the degree would push me too far towards programming and didn't have anything specific to the web. I didn't want to be a programmer, so i looked on...

The answer for me was to go down the street to the business college/department of my university. They offered a business administration degree with a focus in information system. The curriculum was just right. A little programmers (java, VB), a little database design, a systems analysis, and a little web development (.net, coldfusion). Then marketing, accounting, finance to create the business degree. Java and VB are very easy to learn to program if thats what you are after.

I'm about to finish my first year on the job and found the classes gave me the foundation to be good in each area. My required internship gave me excellent experience and indeed taught me more in 6 months than i learned in college. My passion to learn more about all facets of web development has built my skills up and now I'm looking at grad school paid by my employer and I'm eying Database Administration as my end game career. I will probably get an MBA with a focus in some IT elective area, because i also have leadership positions on my mind.

Here is my school, degree: http://www.biz.colostate.edu/depts/CIS/ugrad.htm


Diabloii.Net Member
Brace yourself this may hurt you eyes..

Graphic design is great. I really wish it wasn't based on art though. It would be kind of hard not to though lol. I like the html stuff so far. I actually cant get information in my head fast enough. I wrote down all the basic tags and basic information so in school I can study my real passion lol. I really like the programing but so far I find myself reading something 20 times to get a basic understanding of it. As for the graphics I was absolutely horrible at it lol. It just seemed fun to do but out of my reach. So it leaves me with programing. Now programing... I dont understand still what exactly it is. I know your giving comands to produce an end result but what exactly are you programing. I know like the html is for webpages. So does each language program something different? The course I was looking around at was called just data programing for computers (I think). Its required skills were java programing and two other types of programing. Im not sure which types I want to know and learn. Before I can decide what to learn I have to learn what the actual coding is programing and the differences.

Also I have a question on the HTML stuff. I was in notepad typing up some basic things to see how it lays out. I created a free account at angel fire so I could play around to see how it looks. Im still confused how to get the HTML coding onto the website. The location of my html was the path to the webpage. (www.angelfire.com/planet/youngdbl) I saved the notepad to my documents and named it mypage.htm. Now when I bring it up at the very top it says www.angelfire.com/planet/youngdbl and shows my document I worked on , but when I punch into the address bar the web url it isn't there. Im still trying to learn all this so any help is still appreciated. After I play around with this html im going to see which other languages are acossiated(sp?) with what line of corporate work.

I also have a question on programing in the business world. When you learn to do programing the work you end up doing is what? I saw a ceminar on web design and was kind of lured away from it. I dont like designing web pages. I would like to program or code software. I have no idea what it takes or anything but websites < software is how it sounds and looks to me so far. What kind of jobs are accosiated with programing? I kind of gave up on the povray. I tried to get stuff flowing and try making the most basic of pictures but just coudn't seem to get anything besides a few shapes on a black background and twist them around a bit. Then I look at the pictures some have created and have absolutely no idea about it any more. This is after a couple hours of reading through. I read the basics a ton of times and still was stuck at making a basic shape do something.
Thanks and im keeping my :listen: so keep it coming!


Diabloii.Net Member
Make sure you do save as and change the file extension to .html.

edit: No idea how to use anglfire. If you want to just check out the webpage you can open directly from your computer without actually putting it online.