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On the fast track

Check out accelerated learning programs if you don’t want to get a degree.

Dear Molly: I have no real experience with computers, but am interested in a career in computer databases. I’ve checked out the course offerings at the local college, as you often suggest, but everything I’ve seen at the introductory level seems so basic. All I want to do is learn about databases. How can I get on the fast track?

Molly says: Most colleges and universities these days have academic programs and continuing education programs. They may also have something called accelerated learning or accelerated degree programs. Check out the computer course offerings in all these departments before you make your decision.

The academic computing department is usually geared toward undergraduates pursuing a two- or four-year degree. Thus, the introductory computer classes cover a lot of general information because they are preparing you for an in-depth understanding of what’s going on inside the computer.

The continuing education and accelerated learning programs are for people not pursuing a degree, so you can find short courses that take six, twelve and maybe 20 hours on a particular, focused area of study. You might, for example, find a course on Microsoft Access that tells you how to use this database program for creating and using simple business-related databases.

Since you have no formal education in computers and want to build a career in database technologies and applications, there is no way to shorten the learning process significantly. You will have to start at the beginning and put the time in. If you feel you don’t need the intro to PC level courses, talk to the professors who teach the database-related classes and see if they will let you into the course without satisfying the prerequisites.

When pursuing an education in computers, don’t just read the course descriptions from the local colleges and decide the courses won’t do what you need to do. Talk to the staff and professors at the college. Tell them what you want to do and ask them to advise you on specific courses and learning plans. If they won’t talk to you, check out some of the online universities and colleges. There is a way for you to get the education you want, if you’re willing to pursue it.

Molly Joss also writes the monthly Career Advisor column for ComputerUser magazine. Ask a career-related question at [email protected]

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