Professional Advise

Extremely high-brow question here:  I recently built a pretty complicated/sophisticated Access-based database for my job and I think it's fair to say that my managers were more than pleased and impressed with the improvements this program brought to our department.  The thing is that I have absolutely no (none, zero, zilch) experience in database design… but I was able to put it all together and make it work by using a combination of Access Training Books, YouTube Videos and of course this website (plus 6 months of grueling hard-work).  

In any event… I'm now pretty sure that I have the 'bug' for database design, programming and software development… and I'd like to take it to the next level.  I live very close to a major University who offers all sorts of Masters Degrees in Computer Science and Information Technology/Engendering.  Of course I am also aware that a 'trade' like this has other, less formal avenues of learning opportunities (Private or Industry educators).    

My question is… does anyone have any advice or guidance as to how someone like me should best approach additional education and training in this field?
mdstallaAsked:
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EirmanChief Operations ManagerCommented:
The thing is that I have absolutely no (none, zero, zilch) experience in database design
This is of course no longer true ... You are to a degree an experienced database designer.

You could continue along the self taught route which has been successful to date. For this to really work you have to be actually working on real projects, fulfilling other peoples requests and tweaking design and function. Given that you have probably exhausted database design at work, you will have to look at designing  for other organisations such as charities where this won't conflict with your present employee status. Charities are always interested in the integration of Access databases with Word for the production of mailshots.

So do you need a formal qualification in database design or become a Microsoft MVP .... It depend on your age and whether you are happy being self-employed. Certain jobs require a qualification regardless of your skill level.
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Scott McDaniel (Microsoft Access MVP - EE MVE )Infotrakker SoftwareCommented:
I went the self-taught route, with a few college course scattered here and there. When I first started out, I created a database for my family's HVAC business, and that was when the bug bit me. I did some freelance work for charities and such, helped with a few organizations (a small police department in Texas, for example, needed a way to keep track of donations and such, and I volunteered my services for that), and created my own projects for things I enjoyed doing (tracking scores in the world of competition bbq, for example). Eventually I felt competent enough to begin seeking out work from others, and that's what I've done ever since.

That's not to say that a more formalized course of instruction is bad. It may be exactly what you're looking for, but it wasn't feasible for me at the time. Looking back, I probably could have gotten where I am a little quicker had I taken the college route, but that's water under the bridge now.

If it were me, I'd concentrate on database design and such. Learn how to properly store data, regardless of the platform, and you'll be much further ahead of the game. Don't get bogged down in this language or that - learn how to handle data correctly, and how to STORE data correctly.

As far as programming languages - Access isn't really a language so much as it is a development environment, so while you can take Access courses, they're geared more towards the power user, and day-to-day data entry person, than development. IMO you'd be better off learning one of the .NET languages, or Java, or perhaps concentrate on the mobile platform (which is HUGE right now).
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mdstallaAuthor Commented:
Great advise-- thanks for the feedback.
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