How to get into e-business

Q. I think I have the ideas and the dedication to be a successful internet entrepreneur, but my degree was not related to business or computing, so I have little technical know-how. Is there a postgraduate course that I could take?

The government-funded scheme Business Link (www.businesslink.gov.uk) helps budding entrepreneurs. The site has useful advice and information on finance and grants, links to other websites, and a section dedicated to IT and e-commerce. You could also try one of the workshops on how to set up your business.

From a technical point of view, much will depend on your ideas and what you need your website to do. If you know absolutely nothing about computers, the most basic qualification is the European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL), which will introduce you to most software used in business. Most colleges run an ECDL course: to find your nearest provider, visit www.ecdl.co.uk. Other similar courses focus on the software packages used to create simple websites, or offer training in more complicated programming skills. It all depends on how much – or little – you already know.

In terms of postgraduate courses, again, you're spoilt for choice. Coventry, London South Bank, Westminster and Plymouth universities have Masters degrees in e-commerce; institutions such as Birkbeck, Hertfordshire, Newcastle and Liverpool offer similar qualifications under the guise of e-business. Entry requirements vary though, so contact the course leaders before applying. A database of such courses can be found at www.prospects.ac.uk/links/pgdbase.

Right time for property?

Q. I'd like to become an estate agent with a view to becoming a property developer later in life. Should I do a course before I apply for a trainee position, or just hope for some on-the-job training?

Property development has always been a high-risk career, but currently it's riskier than ever, with talk of a long-term slide in house prices nationwide. You'll need a thorough knowledge of the housing market, as well as a sound understanding of economics if you're going to succeed.

Experience at an estate agency would be invaluable, giving you the chance to learn the basics about which properties sell and why, as well as what today's typical house-hunter is looking for. There are no specific entry requirements for estate agency, but it helps to have good people skills, a knack for sales and to be comfortable using a computer. While you work, you could take industry-specific qualifications through the National Association of Estate Agents (www.naea.co.uk), but because you're viewing the career as a stop-gap on the way to property developing, experiencing the industry first-hand will probably prove more useful.

On the other hand, you might actually be better off staying at university to train as a chartered surveyor. This would give you more professional credibility as a new property developer, which you'd need when it came to seeking investment for a project. For a list of undergraduate and postgraduate courses accredited by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, visit www.ricscourses.org.

Drawing on talent

Q. I'm in the second year of my BA in fine art, but when I graduate I'd like to do a Masters degree in illustration. Could you tell me which courses are the most highly regarded?

There is no league-table system for Masters courses, but it could be worth checking your chosen department's score in its most recent teaching quality assessment. But before you start, think about what you actually want from your studies: is it a broad overview of the field you're after, or do you have a specialism in mind? Two institutions do a highly specific course in children's-book illustration, for example, while Edinburgh College of Art is the only place that offers a postgraduate degree in fashion illustration.

Ultimately, your ideal course will be the one that best meets your professional needs and learning style. Write down everything you want out of the degree – training in digital illustration or work in other disciplines, for instance – and see which course ticks all the boxes. A searchable list of the possibilities is available at www.prospects.ac.uk/pgdbase.

Once you've started your course, you might want to join the Association of Illustrators (www.theaoi.com), which offers special rates for its student members. Benefits include impartial advice on how to lay out your portfolio, and a handy directory of potential clients.

Thanks to careers consultants Liz Hagger, Mike Cox and Gillian Sharp

Send your queries to Chris Green at c.green@independent.co.uk

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