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Design on a Dime

Design on a Dime
Certificate programs offer a fast track to careers in Web development and design.

It's now important for every business — small or large­ — to have a website. Many companies that have put off updating or reconfiguring their websites due to the recession have decided they can no longer wait to revamp their online presence.

As a result, the Web development and design industry is booming, and so is education that teaches people how to master those 21st century skills.  A number of Southland   schools now offer affordable Web developer/design certificate courses.

With so many options, selecting a course that's right for you can be difficult. Experts recommend that you start by deciding which courses meet your budget and educational and career expectations.

Santa Monica College

"Our Web design certificate is a comprehensive program geared for entry-level positions within the Web design community and consists of six affordable classes that can be taken at the student's convenience," said Bill Lancaster,  faculty leader for the Graphic Design Program at Santa Monica College. "Students look to acquire technical and creative Web design skills using industry-standard software such as Dreamweaver, Photoshop and Flash."


Lancaster said the focus of his program is a curriculum that assists students in developing entry-level portfolios suitable for Web design and interface design positions. A minimum 37 units (at $36 per unit) is needed for a Web design/development  certificate.
Cal State Dominguez Hills

Anissa Thompson, who teaches Web/graphic design and development at Cal State Dominguez Hills, said that the school's certificate courses offer "a working Adobe Certified Expert and Web design professional who instructs by teaching not just the how, but the history, as well as the best practices for designing and building websites."

According to Thompson, the school's classes are all hands-on, with students working in a state-of-the-art computer lab (with the option to bring  your own laptop), utilizing the latest Web  software. Instruction is well-paced and "techno-babble" is replaced with clear, concise explanations. In-class project time allows students to create works of their own design.

Catering to working professionals, Cal State Dominguez Hills offers Web development courses on a flexible weekend schedule, with Friday evening and Saturday courses available three times a year.

"The certificate program lays the foundation for a solid Web design and development skill set," Thompson added. "Past students have been hired by such companies as Yahoo!, the city of Los Angeles, Los Angeles County Public Library and design firms. "Five courses are required  for a certificate, totaling approximately $1,150.  

El Camino College

Another low-cost alternative for prospective students is the Web design certificate program at El Camino College in Torrance, which includes classes in drawing fundamentals, two-dimensional design, advertising design, digital art, digital photography,  multimedia design and motion graphics.

The El Camino program covers CSS, JavaScript, Flash and other cutting-edge digital tools.  Students learn through hands-on applications. For instance, one assignment asks students to design a fully functional e-commerce website that includes advanced elements such as a shopping cart and payment system.

"I learned a lot through this program and especially through my internship," said Sarah Leatherman, who recently received her certificate at El Camino and participated in a Web design internship in the college's Public Relations and Marketing Department.

A total of 36 units (at $36 per unit) are necessary for a certificate at El Camino. Leatherman is currently taking more classes there to advance her  skills and career prospects.

Web design draws students with a wide variety of backgrounds. For example, at Santa Monica College the target demographic is "primarily graphic design students who want to expand their repertoire of skills," Lancaster said.

Thompson said her students at Dominguez Hills run the gamut of ages, professions and prior experience. "I have had 13- to 14-year-olds, and I've had an 82-year-old student," she said.

Joe Yogerst, Brand Publishing Writer