By Nathan Young
Let's face it. Making a career change is tough.
Not only do you have to figure out what you want to do, but you also have to carve out the time to learn new skills, take out loans for any classes you need to take, and stay on track through all the ups and downs.
Even after all that, you also need to find your first position in your new career field!
It’s all a huge undertaking that comes with a lot of risk.
For those looking for a high-paying and stable new career, tech continues to be one of the most consistent and fastest-growing industries for employment. Additionally, skilled data analysts, developers, and wireless communications specialists are sought after in most businesses, from corporate and government to service and nonprofit. These also tend to be well-paying jobs with lots of perks and benefits, such as flexible employment, good work/life balance, and opportunities for advancement.
Even with the recent layoffs, the overall tech industry is going strong and doesn't look to falter anytime soon. More importantly, workers with critical skills are in demand at companies of all types and sizes, in both tech and non-technical industries.
To this end, UC San Diego Division of Extended Studies began offering a wonderful opportunity to the San Diego community.
The UC San Diego Extended Studies & Google Career Certificates program is an opportunity to acquire technical skills in high-demand occupations, with a class schedule and workload that makes it possible to complete the certificate while working from home and on a timeframe that works for you.
Through the program, you can earn your certificate in business intelligence, front-end development, or as a wireless communications technologist. Additionally, you’ll receive personalized career-readiness training and gain access to a network of employers to help you land a job upon program completion.
The best part is that you can participate in this program at no upfront cost. The student-friendly loan terms mean that only graduates who land jobs making at least $40,000 annually will make monthly repayments of the cost of their loan, with 0% interest.
We talked with two current students of the program, Ricardo Zapata and Anna Sandberg, to get their perspectives on the value of the program.
The Google Career Certificates Program is Great for Anyone Looking to Start a New Career
There are lots of reasons why a person could be looking for a kick start to a new career. Maybe they've hit a dead end, grown bored with their current profession, or have been out of the workforce for a while.
If any of the above applies to you, the Google Career Certificates program could be just the opportunity you need to obtain real-world skills for a career change.
"I’ve been a stay-at-home mom ever since my kids were born," said Anna. "I feel way behind on any kind of career. It would be very intimidating for me to go and try to find a job. I came across this program and it provided me with a passion and a purpose for what I would be doing. It provided me with a vision of what kind of job I can actually have."
Ricardo was at a different type of crossroads when he began the program, but it benefitted him too.
"I already have an MBA, but it hasn’t been very fruitful for me with the way my career has developed," said Ricardo. "I had been working with the Employment Development Department through the pandemic. The position had me doing some analytics work which piqued my interest. Then this program came along and I was like, ‘Okay, well this is my time. Let’s do it.’"
The Program Teaches Real-World Skills
San Diego Workforce Partnership has collaborated to offer three different paths: Business Intelligence, Front-End Development, and Wireless Communications Technologist.
The Business Intelligence pathway, paired with the Google Data Analytics Certificate, puts an emphasis on data analysis to inform better business decisions. Careers include business intelligence analyst, data analyst, finance analyst, operations analyst, data technician, or marketing analyst.
The second path is for Front-end Developers, paired with the Google UX Design Certificate. Front-end developers create the interface that end users interact with—this could be a website, application, or any other program that gets put into the outside world. Careers from this path include front-end developer, front-end engineer, web designer, UI designer, interaction designer, and UX designer.
The third pathway is a Wireless Communications Technologist, paired with the Google Project Manager Certificate. Wireless Communications Technologists implement and integrate wireless networking communication systems across a multifaceted global industry. Careers include Wireless communications technologist, wireless communication specialist, LMR field technician, customer service technician (CST), telecommunications equipment installer and repairer.
Anna and Ricardo both chose the Business Intelligence path and hope to capitalize on a set of skills they feel predisposed to.
"I have some extended family who have this kind of job and they are very excited to see me starting this," said Anna. "I also have some previous education in business, statistics, calculus, and economics. I think it's very interesting that all of these previous skills can apply to what I'm learning now."
Ricardo also hopes to build on skills from a previous position and parlay them into a higher-paying job once he finishes his certificate.
"As an employment program representative with the EDD, there was a lot of analytics involved but their programs were super old—like the black screen with the green letters kind of thing," said Ricardo. "I still was able to navigate that program and learn how to run all the different queries. It was interesting to be able to figure out what I was doing, even on the old computer. It was something that I enjoyed doing. That's part of why I feel this program is such a good opportunity for me."
The Program Offers Flexible Funding and Help in Finding a Job
Ultimately, the goal of the program is to help participants get trained and find new jobs in high-growth fields. For that reason, the program offers lots of important support, from flexible financial aid to job search support and regular check-ins to make sure participants are keeping up with the coursework.
One key aspect of making the program accessible for as many motivated people as possible is the outcome-based loan.
With the outcomes-based loan, there's no upfront cost to participate in the program. Even after completing the program, repayment is only required of participants who land a job making at least $40,000 per year. Graduates will make monthly repayments of the cost of their loan with 0% interest.
Ricardo highlighted the job search assistance as something he is interested in taking advantage of.
"I'm definitely going to take advantage of what the Workforce Partnership is providing as far as connecting us with employers," Ricardo said. "I see the MBA, my background with the EDD, and my management experience all as part of the next step. I hope that any employer I get connected with can take that into consideration and I can find something where I can level up with my expertise."
Anna also highlighted support from Extended Studies staff as part of the attraction for her.
"There is always someone available if I have a question," she said. "They are checking on us in a very positive way to make sure we're staying on track. If we're falling behind, they're asking why and seeing how they can help. It's pretty amazing. It makes the whole program feel very doable."
The Program Makes High-Level Tech Skills Accessible
Most of all, the students appreciate how high-level technical training is being made accessible to them through the program.
"I feel that the most important thing that I've been learning in the program so far is definitely the SQL language," said Ricardo." It's super important and helpful in preparing us for when we're out there in the real world."
Anna also specifically mentioned the SQL language as something she's excited to learn, which is especially important to her as she didn't come into the program with a lot of tech skills to begin with.
"All of this is completely new to me. Even Excel is new to me. I never really used it significantly before."
"The Google classes are teaching a lot about what the data analyst job is like at different stages of the career," she continues. "The people who teach the classes work at Google and share how they use the information on the job."
"We're studying how to pull the data from the database, doing the data cleaning, and eventually presenting the data. They're teaching us what the data analyst job is for all the stages of the analysis and presentation. It's a fascinating thing to learn."
The Program is Opening Doors
Both participants we spoke with felt optimistic about the future because of the program.
"I think there's a lot of opportunity right now and companies are realizing that analytics are super essential to their business," said Ricardo. "It could be for marketing, finances, or anything else. My interest would probably be in finance."
Anna has become an advocate for the program everywhere she goes.
"Whenever I meet another mom, I start telling them about this program," she said. "My kids are like, 'You're a walking advertisement. You should be working for them.’ I say, ‘Well, this program is amazing. I just can't believe that it's happening.'"
Anna also highlights just how valuable the program has been for her overall well-being.
"This program came as the light at the end of my tunnel. It's been a challenging last few years for me.
"During the pandemic, I was locked up with two kids in a new place and I didn't know what to do. It got to the point where I was just trying to pay the rent and survive another year. It was a tough time."
"The program was recommended by somebody from the county assistance office. I already had a data analyst job in mind as something I could potentially do and then this program came offering the exact certification for the exact job I was interested in."
"It gave me inspiration. It gave me a purpose. Everything fell into place."
"I know I will get this certificate and get the job. It's very clear. It's very specific and it's very doable."
To learn more about the UC San Diego Extended Studies & Google Career Certificates program, attend an upcoming information session in January or February. Please register for your preferred date:
- Jan 19, 12–1 p.m.
- Jan 31, 5–6 p.m.
- Feb 13, 12–1 p.m.
- Feb 26, 5–6 p.m.
Visit the San Diego Workforce Partnership website at workforce.org/aboutgoogle/ to explore more details about the UC San Diego Extended Studies & Google Career Certificates program and sign up.