DJ School? Why For-Profit Education Isn't Exactly a Rave

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While funding disc jockey training is certainly an interesting role for government -- and is perhaps unique to the European Union -- there has also been rapid growth in niche, career-oriented training in the United States.France has brought the world pâté, the Kelly Bag, Citroëns and The Three Musketeers. Now it wants to add DJs to the list. A private, government-funded academy for prospective disc jockeys called L'Ecole des DJ's in southern France has been schooling students in the art of selecting and playing recorded music, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal (subscription required).

Founded in 2001 by a former real estate agent, "the state-backed curriculum at the Ecole des DJ's lasts 18 to 22 months and covers subjects such as copyright law, music appreciation and stage lighting -- as well as more subtle DJ arts like record scratching," the Journal says.

While funding disc jockey training is certainly an interesting role for government -- and is perhaps unique to the European Union -- there has also been rapid growth in niche, career-oriented training in the United States. Here, we have a number of private disc jockey schools, along with programs that offer training in video-game design, home staging, becoming a virtual assistant, and other areas that don't require the expense or formality of a two- or four-year degree.

Class Requirement: Healthy Skepticism

The Obama administration has championed job training programs for young people and older workers who have been cast out of the job market by economic changes. While many workers can certainly benefit from these programs, consumers need to exercise a healthy skepticism when evaluating them. The world of job training often lacks the accreditation and oversight that traditional college programs offer. Many of these schools may provide little value to students when you consider the substantial, and often-debt financed, investment that they require.

Here's the first question consumers need to ask when evaluating these programs: "Will this reallyhelp get me a job?" Just because a program is marketable to consumers doesn't mean that employers value the training.

Back in January, I asked Cindy Nicola, vice president of talent acquisition at Electronic Arts (ERTS), one of the largest video game publishers in the world, for her thoughts on the video-game design curricula offered by for-profit colleges like ITT Technical Institute, Westwood College and The Art Institutes.

Broad Education May Be Better


"Less than 10% of hires come from courses identified as specific gaming degrees," she said in an email. "Don't limit your choices and look for as broad an education as possible that will open doors in many fields when it comes time to look for that dream job."

In some fields -- cosmetology and dental hygiene, for example -- state licensing requirements mandate that students receive specialized training from an accredited institution. But in fields that lack those requirements, many career training programs can be close to opportunistic cash grabs that fail to provide much that couldn't be gained from on the job training.

At best, these programs provide a minor head start in a crowded job market. At worst, they load students down with massive debt loads that have life-altering consequences -- as in the case of the cooking school graduates profiled in a recent New York Times look at for-profit education.

Bottom line? Just because a school offers "DJ training" doesn't mean that the program is necessary, or even helpful, in breaking into the industry. Before you sign anything, check with prospective employers and ask the only question that matters: "Will this training really help me get a job?"
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