I just got a job in Southern California where I don't think I would say there is no market, rather a ton of competition. One of the companies where I fell short rec'd 300+ resumes. I was one of four that got to the second interview stage. I felt that was a success in itself. I do believe it is easier to become a developer than a DBA. I don't think I have heard of anyone just going in as a DBA.
Anyway, FWIW my career path included:
1. 2 classes at Pasadena City College in basic computers in Fall 98
2. Part-time attendance (like yourself we had two kids while I attended) DeVry University from Spr 99 - Fall 02
3. In the middle of my DeVry experience I got a job as a Technical Recruiter. I did everything I could just to get close to the tech sector. In fact, I was driving a van 500 miles a day on a graveyard shift so I could only go up. I made a lot for what I did, over 65k in 2001 but couldn't stand the job or the sleaze in the industry.
4. After 911 there were layoffs all over the tech sector as you know. That included recruiters since no one was hiring anymore. I got placed at a client's IT dept luckily as a Technical Assistant to the Project Manager on a data migration project. It was only to last three weeks and my job was going to be editing Word documents for the project. 3 weeks turned into 6 months and during that time I did a lot more stuff than I was intended to.
First of all I was overqualified for the initial job. I did successfully pass the first two Oracle exams while working as a recruiter and took a bunch of database classes outside of normal school by paying for extension classes out of my own pocket. I felt the certs were important to me because I needed them to help get me a job. Otherwise I would be a person with no experience AND no ability. At least w/ the certs they established that I did know something.
When the Project Manager wanted to order a SQL Developer from my recruiting firm I hung a "How 'bout Me!!" sign over my head (figuratively speaking) to her. She hesitantly went along with it and I did ok for the three months working w/ SQL Server scrubbing data.
The Oracle certs helped me get the job then but I think it was obviously being in the right place at the right time. The contract ended in Nov of 02, one month after I graduated w/ a CIS degree.
5. I go 16 months without another tech job working as a temp at a mortgage lender. I work on two web pages for my church just to stay in tune w/ IT. I read as much as I can but can't take any more classes due to my temp salary.
6. 10-12 interviews including Mattel, Countrywide, Capitol Records and Dole Food Company but no job. Some close calls though. In each and every interview, I fall back on all that I did in terms of certs, self-study including taking those classes on my own, the fact that I focused on databases in school. In all I convey that they won't find a person w/ more desire than myself. When I went into the interviews I bring things with me like scripts, copies of my two Oracle certification exam scores and a data model I developed for my senior project at DeVry on top of my resume.
7. Finally, I land the type of job I have been longing for. Through it all there was much more rejection than I care to share. My hire was a combination of ALL things, accomplishments, attitude, desire, and integrity.
It is a tough market out there but I believe you are right. The market will get better. I think you should pursue what you really want. Otherwise you will sit there and always wonder what you could have done. Good luck.
Thank you for sharing your story, Dave. It's very inspiring. It's great to know there are still young people like you who are willing to spend time and effort to achieve their dreams. And the fact that you never gave up and kept fighting and learning is very commendable. I used to head a department with 64 young consultants, not one of them could come close to your level.