Need advice on career change!

I know this has probably been asked before, but here goes.

I am a 40yr old currently working in graphic design/ multimedia doing the standard dreamweaver/flash/photoshop thing for the past 7 yrs - mostly contract. I have some skills and have also worked in 3d using rhino and lightwave. I have been told that my portfolio is pretty good. I hope this doesnt sound like I have a big ego, but I do want to give an accurate picture in order to get some good responses.

I DO NOT have a degree and so all of this has been pretty much self taught. As a result, I sometimes feel inadequate/missing something career-wise because I never pursued a degree (not for not wanting to but for reasons that are too lengthy to get into here). I would like to settle down in a design firm.

A have already started down the college road and have about 50hrs of core classes under my belt. I submitted a portfolio and was accepted into an architecture program, but found that I really like ID and would like to get into this field and I have been accepted into a program. I really have an interest in designing things that I can put my hands on and know I need at least a BS/BA in ID.

Please advise an older would-be designer. Is it worth it?

OK…so should I take the silence as a ‘forget about it’?

I really do need candid responses, especially if you are working in the field now as a designer or manager.

A bit more background. I don’t really have an interest in continuing to do what I am currently doing, it just seems to be where the demand is right now. I have considered narrowing what I do to tech/3d illustration (In fact my work has been published a couple of times in nat’l mags) but my marketing and self-promotion skills are not great and could use some improvement. (I hate pounding the pavement). I do try to carry myself in a professional manner, and most are surprised to find out I’m not degreed.

I would really love to get into the ID field. Its not about the money, although I don’t want to starve. The fall semester is here and I really need some feedback before I really dive in.

Is it worth it?

I don’t think anybody is ignoring you. It just takes a little while to get responses. I’m in a similar boat as you but already back in school so I can’t really give you an answer as to the worth yet. I am 34 and in my second year in ID at Pratt after doing graphic design for 6+ years without a degree. I will say that I’m enjoying myself in this new direction minus the reduced income. There is no time to freelance with the workload that we have.

Good luck.

Going your own way and doing what you want is always worth it. It must be tough to pull the trigger and go back to school, but it makes the most sense.

I interviewed several people like you, my impressions:

I was impressed with the concept of a person returning to school to pursue different discipline, and the people I interviewed supported this: their responses seemed more mature, i.e. weren’t lost for words on tough questions.

I assumed a multi-disciplined indvidual whould be able and want to apply all skill sets to a given problem. People I interviewed did not share my opinion, I was suspicious of the apparent attitude to abandon previous discipline to the extant of refusing any work in that area. Therefore, my advice would be to not abandon your previous discipline in any new discipline work.

My first ID job was with someone like you. This guy was in his 40’s and had only been there for a few years right out of ID school. He had been a construction project manager, and wanted a change. He was a good mentor, absolutely no ego, and shortly went on to found his own company, still a success.

I think your question could be considered a bit vague. Is WHAT worth it?

Changing careers at 40?

Getting a degree?

Going back to school to get a degree in a field similar to the field in which you are currently a practicing professional?

Going to school and pursuing a career in Industrial Design?


If ID is what you want to do, getting a degree is definitely the best path to take. With a good handle on the software programs you listed, you can concentrate on the design and theory side of things during your upcoming educational experience. I’d say you’re in a great position to succeed…

Thanks, I really do appreciate the replies so far. I think you are confirming my own thoughts, but fear of the unknown is a bear.

To answer the other questions that may have been a little vague:

Changing careers at 40?

Yes, life decisions at any age are critical, but at 40 it’s pretty much double that.

Getting a degree?

Yes, it’s something that I always wanted to do, but just didn’t have the opportunity. But I’ve done okay without it, and I still want to be somewhat pragmatic.

Going back to school to get a degree in a field similar to the field in which you are currently a practicing professional?

Maybe, it is design and so it is related to my current field. I’m not thinking of pursuing ID to further a career in graphic design, but I will keep the comments by pier in mind about looking for opportunities to incorporate these other disciplines.

Going to school and pursuing a career in Industrial Design?

Yes, I’ve read a few comments on the site basically saying ‘don’t do it!’. And stories of living hand-to-mouth and scraping by. I’m not sure if they were tongue in cheek or dead serious, but I just wanted to basically know if there were any regrets about your chosen field.

But the only way I can really think to word the question is, "Is IT worth it?’ That reason designers design I guess.

Thanks all!