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Don’t throw away that four-year degree

Find a way to incorporate your college education into a career in computers

Dear Molly: I am a recent graduate from UC Berkeley with a degree in Music. I’ve taken only one class in computers (about HTML and Java programming) in which I received an A. I’ve been looking for a good job and since I enjoy working with computers I am interested in getting some kind of certification.

My question is: How likely am I to be employed if I have a non-related computer degree from Berkeley but have some kind of certification?

Can you recommend some highly respected certificate programs in programming or networking or UNIX administration?

Is the Berkeley Extension known to be good, and would certification from that institution perhaps be more highly valued than from another?

Molly says: I’d hate to see you not use that four years you put into getting your college degree in Music. You obviously enjoy it, so why not pursue something related to music? I know, it’s kind of like graduating with a liberal arts degree — you learned a lot, but the degree is no sure ticket to a good paying job. But don’t give up just yet.

Since you live on the West Coast, why not think about combining music and computers and working for one of the multimedia or special effects companies in the area? Lucasfilms and LucasArts are two companies that spring to mind ( I checked out the jobs section of the Lucasarts site and saw a few positions that you might be interested in, including one for a Special Effects Artist.

Now, to be honest, you may have to get the working equivalent of a Master’s Degree and build up some kind of portfolio before you can land a job with a company as famous as Lucasarts. So, you may have to start with a junior level position at a smaller, less well known company and work your way up.

Keep your interest in networking on the back burner until you’ve pursued the music/computers track for awhile. Recruiters like to see people pursuing careers consistent with the interests they’ve already poured money and time into — switching from music to computers isn’t a good sign to them that you’d be interested in computers long-term.

Molly Joss also writes the monthly Career Advisor column for ComputerUser magazine. To ask a career-related question, reach her at

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