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Here are some questions I've been asked recently

1. I've been really confused lately about my future. Im 18 years old and I feel that by the time I graduate with a 4 year degree in computer programming that I may already be obsolete.

So many get-taught-quick-make-it-rich-now computer programming certificate programs seem to good to be true to me, and I have always been taught that when something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

I've completed 1.5 years of college already and I have taken only 1 course in computer programming, Intro to VB 5.0. I've been interested in programming since I took QBASIC in 11th grade and I've always been at the head of my class with it.

My question for you is, should I attempt to complete a certificate course while I am attending a Junior College/University so that I can perhaps get an entry-mid level job while I am still in college or should I just concentrate on school and not worry about the state of computer jobs until I graduate?

I know that questions like this cannot always be answered on a personal basis but as of right now I have not recieved a single bit of help on all these questions I have except for your website, and I figured that you have probably run across this question several times but I just don't know what to do.


That's a great question, and you've basically answered it yourself.

Believe it or not, I had this very same discussion in Amsterdam last week at the Microsoft TechEd Conference. That is, how are students of 4 year traditional curriculums expected to compete with students who have elected not to attend college, but have gone through a training program and are now certified.

On a fundamental level, my feeling is that colleges and universities need to ensure that a Computer Science Major has been saturated with computer courses during their four years---personally, I'd like to see at least half of the college credits devoted to the major, with a lot less elective courses permitted to count towards the degree.

I've taught students who have just completed their last programming class in their Sophomore year---and therefore have two years to go without being required to take a single programming course. This situation is even worse with evening students, who could spend the last four years of their average ten year evening degree without a programming course.

Your suggestion to pursue a Certificate while still in school is an excellent one---in fact, I've had students do that, and spend their last year or so in school 'moonlighting' and programming on the side. Many of them landed jobs with employers through these 'side' jobs---some in fact, were making more money programming on the side than some of their professors.

I know that Microsoft is trying to help out with this problem at academic instituions also. I'm going to pass your email onto one of my Microsoft contacts, and see what advice they may have for you. But for now, follow your own good advice---learn VB, C++, Java on your own if you need to---and take and pass as many Certification exams as you can.

2. John

I was web surfing today, and looking into some computer programming courses, (Visual Basic). 6 months ago I took the first 3 courses for Microsoft's MCSE course, and don`t see any future in it without a 4yr college education. However I do have a assoc. in electronic eng. from a tech school. And 4 yrs NAVY. My question is, do you have to take C++ nowadays, or start in vbasic first. And get a real job as a programmer. When I look in the heip wanted adds, I rarely see networking jobs, but plenty of programming jobs.


My advice would be to take Visual Basic. For the money, you can't beat ZDU.

Check out my ZDU site for more information.

Then, if you want to pursue programming further, take C++.

However, I'm of the opinion that you can get a job with just VB, and passing the VB Certification test. Passing the test gives you the Microsoft Certified Professional Status, which may be enough to get your foot in the door. In my business, results are what matters. I like to see people pursue the College Degree for the many benefits it gives you, but there's no reason you can't be pulling in good money working as a programmer while you do it.

3. I know you're very busy, but I'm kinda in a bind for guidance and really need your help. I am currently a registered nurse who is burned out on nursing. I love spending time on my computer and feel I would like to get into the computer field as a new career. I have talked to my brother who is a computer analyst about whether I shold enroll at a major college and persue a second degree in computer science or if taking courses like your class at ZDU would help me land a programming job.

I want to write computer software (gaming software) as well as develop healthcare related software. Would you please nudge me in the right direction. Your help is greatly appreciated.


I have quite a few nurses in my classes who are in the same boat ---and are now pursuing high tech careers in computers. To me, your backgrounds and likes seems a perfect fit.

Many of my nursing students are hired by Health Systems company in my area either to do programming or Systems Analysis---so I think you're a perfect fit.

Taking a ZDU course is a quick way to get your foot in the door of the programming world, particularly if you pass the Microsoft Certification Exam in Visual Basic. Once you're hired doing work you enjoy again, pursuing a second degree in MIS would be a good idea.

4. John, can you give me an idea of what types of courses I should concentrate on for a Database Management career?

I have taken classes on Access 97 and SQL. The SQL was through ZD and just touched on it. I have a meeting with our IT Director to help plan a career path for me. Any suggestions would be great.


This question isn't quite as easy to answer as some of the others I've received. And it's influenced by whether you are currently employed in an IT position or not. If you are, then it's just a matter of taking a few courses in the Database package your company is using, plus some others. If you are not currently employed in IT, then my answer is drastically different.

Many years ago, I was a mainframe Database Administrator---and I basically got the job because no one volunteered for it.

Database Administration jobs are difficult to get---it's the old Catch 22 that employers want experience before they'll hire you---but how do you get the experience to begin with. Obviously, if your employer is willing to consider you for such a position, that's great.

You can check my Education Web Site for some thoughts on courses that a prospective Database Administrator should take---C++, SQL for sure, some courses on Oracle, Access, or SQLServer. Some of these courses are available cheaply (ie through ZDU), and others are more expensive.

Let's start by agreeing that in today's market, you'll probably be administering either an Oracle Database, SQLServer or some others. Get started on getting certified in those Databases. Both Oracle and Microsoft have programs leading to certification. Like all certifications, getting certified can get your foot in the door.

5. John, I was wondering, along with VB, what other courses or tutorials would be helpful? I've taken tutorials in Excel and Access, but I also saw HTML mentioned in some posts.


Try not to spread yourself too thin.

Learning VB, at this stage, should be your primary concern. After you feel comfortable with VB, I would take a course in SQL and HTML. SQL will be helpful with future VB work. And HTML seems to be valuable no matter what you are doing.

At that point, you'll need to re-examine your situation and decide where your IT career is going.

Right now, my hot technology list includes

  1. VB
  2. HTML
  3. ASP
  4. C++
  5. Java

6. Hi John

I want to pursue a career in programming with VB. But every company wants 2 or 3 years experience.

The old catch 22

How do you get experience?

Any suggestions?


Several of my readers/students have programmed for nothing--- i.e. volunteer work. You'd be amazed at the excellent experience you can get (be sure to hold onto the rights to market and distribute the book), plus you can take the code with you to interviews. Remember, it's not so much the number of years that counts when you go to the interview, it's convincing the person doing the hiring that you can "hit the ground running." You can do that with 0 years of paid experience.

A couple of people I recall programmed some applications for their church, one or two for their employers on their own time, and one for a soup kitchen in Detroit---very successful, and very marketable.

7. Mr. Smiley

Hello, I am a 33 year old, part-time college junior studying communications.

One year ago, I was offered the position of assistant to the MIS Director.

With little computer skills, my boss taught me some basic steps so that I could understand the IBM System/36 (the system we currently use). My boss suggested that I change my major and study computers. He said I could get a lot of hands on experience working with computers on my current job. The compliment was great but I lack confidence. It's easy for him to say, he studied engineering plus he has 20 years under his belt.

What type of jobs are available if I studied computers? I want to know what else is available besides programming. I need some suggestions. Can you help?


There are many types of computer jobs available besides programming positions, although programming positions are generaly the ones that people think of when you say that you work with computers.

Other types of jobs available are:

to name a few.

The school that you are attending should be able to provide you with some guidance on future jobs (or perhaps a faculty member working in the field can).

8. Hello Mr. Smiley

I'm a new college student,my major is computer programming,I don't have any background in this field and I'd like to buy a very useful,easy book which can help me to learn about logic,visual basic.This semester I took logic & SQL classes,and I'm going to take visual Basic (version 5) and HTML and ....

But as I mentioned I'd like to learn more to get ready to understanding programming better,(specially object-oriented programming like Java),and NOT something related to C or C++ or cobol or pascal.

What do you recommend that I buy.


I may be a bit partial, but I think that my Visual Basic book will be best for you---you can check it (and my others books) at

Reviews have been very positive and I use it in my classroom at Penn State.

9. John how are you doing?

I am contemplating two things:

Give up VB programming or spend $1500 on training for 6 days. Its not easy. I have purchased your examples book, how to use vb 6.0 in full color and how to program Visual Basic 6.0 by Deitel.

I need a book that helps you create a difficult program using everything that visual basics has to offer creating the program from the start and going through it to the end.

If you know of a VB Book that is focused only on creating one or two projects but uses everything VB has to offer please let me know.


First, I wouldn't give up VB Programming.

Secondly, I wouldn't spend $1500 for 6 days of training.

That won't give you want you want either.

What you need is real world experience---and if you check this page and other parts of my website, my best advice has always been to do volunteer work to get it.

You may want to become part of my VB, Inc. Volunteer group

which will attempt to get people some real world experience (on a volunteer basis) while at the same time provide some good for a worth charity.

As far as books, what you are asking for is something that I envision writing somewhere down the road--but at the moment, I'm not aware of anything out there that does the trick.

The problem with such a book is that it fills a very narrow need---there are lots of books for beginners, some books for advanced programmers, but no real books for the person about to go off to a job interview or start work on Monday.

Another possibility is my VB Programming Fair

which will give you a chance to go to town, so to speak, with a project of your own.

10. I am pursuing a career change to VB programming. Currently I am in the Biologics industry with a BA in Biology. I have no professional experience in programming, but have taken both of your Intro to VB6 programming part 1 and 2 on ZDU. Those classes were a great start in my learning process. I am also registered for VB6 database programming which commences Nov. 1st.

I have been in the workforce for 3.5 years. I'm not having too much luck starting my career change so far.I've been searching for a entry-level VB job everywhere.

My goal at this point is too get my foot in the door somewhere. Just wondering if you have any advice in helping me out with this. Answer:

It seems that just about every other question I receive revolves around the same issue: How can I get hired as a programmer if I don't have VB experience?

Courses are a great start. However, the 4th quarter 1999 hiring market is slow, and will be that way until after the Y2K hoopla. Once hiring picks up again, hiring managers still look for people with experience first, followed by people with a Microsoft Certification.

Therefore, my recommendations are these;

  1. Take and Pass the Visual Basic Certification Test
  2. Somehow get real-world experience, either by writing a dynamite Visual Basic Application for nothing on a voluntary basis or by entering my Visual Basic Programming Fair

For those of you I know personally, and whose work I've seen, my personal recommendation can open some doors. But my recommendations are not easy to come by, and in large part begin with asking you your Microsoft Certified Professional Registration Number.

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