Common knowledge in a world that places such high value on credentials is that learning something requires that you get a degree in it. Of course, some credentials are impossible to avoid. If you want to become a lawyer, you have to go to law school, and if you want to practice medicine, you have to go to medical school.
But for many professions, particularly creative professions, a degree is not necessarily a requirement, despite the fact that an entire industry rests on creating programs and degrees in web design, creative writing, visual arts, etc.
Of course, this is not to say that such degrees are completely without merit. But are they right for you? Here are a few common reasons that you don’t need a web design degree to be a successful web designer:
1) You can’t afford it.
This is perhaps the number one reason that I tell potential students to put off getting an advanced or very specialized (especially artistic) degree. If you are like most of us, you’d have to take out loans in order to finance a degree. Of course, this is just a fact of life, and just because you have to go into debt in order to get something, doesn’t mean you should completely avoid it.
That is, unless, there aren’t any almost guaranteed payoffs. A degree in web design may impress some employers, but it won’t necessarily increase your earning potential in the way that a law degree does. If you’d have to rack up significant amounts of debt to get the degree, then skip it. If you won the lottery, then go for it.
2) You can take cheaper, individual classes that teach you the same thing you’d learn in a degree program.
There are two reasons for pursuing a degree—to learn a specific subject very well and to certify yourself for a particular job. In the case of web design, the vast majority of positions do not require a degree in web design. In fact, most employers would pick a candidate who’s had year of real job experience over candidates who spent two or three years in a graduate web design program.
If the second reason for getting a web design degree is no longer valid, then what about the first—learning? The truth of the matter is that you can learn basic and advanced web design by reading books or taking classes that don’t necessarily lead toward a degree, and you can accomplish this at a fraction of the cost of a degree.
If you are interested in learning more about web design, take a few online classes! You don’t have to quit your day job or even leave your home.
3) You’d be better learning on the job.
As noted earlier, employers value experience much more than they do education. Of course, the basic credential of a bachelor’s degree in any field is important. But if you didn’t major in web design, don’t sweat it. Find an entry level position and improve your skills as you work. One thing that is definitely true of web design—as my readers here can probably attest—is that you learn more by doing, not necessarily by reading and taking classes.
Learning web design on the job is a much more hands-on process that doesn’t require you to give up that paycheck.
What this all comes down to, really, is money and time. If you have the money and the time to pursue a degree in web design, you might consider doing it. But most of us have a scarcity of either. You can still be a great web designer without ever entering a classroom to learn about web design.
What do you think about degrees programs in web design? If you did get a web design degree, was it worth it?