Self-Taught vs. Degree Program: What Should I Do?
July 11, 2013
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Natural talent may get you pretty far – especially in a design field, but today’s industry standards require more than talent. Having a formal education can give you the upper hand in most industries. But what about Web Design and Development?
Read more about the pros and cons of being self-taught versus completing a degree program – and decide for yourself:
Choosing to be self-taught is significantly cheaper than pursuing a degree program. Your education comes primarily from online resources, including Web design blogs, books, industry experts who offer public webinars and tutorial websites.
This option also allows you to demonstrate how hardworking you can be: you decide how much you learn, how quickly you learn, and how well you learn. Mastering techniques is only a matter of self-application and determination.
As a self-taught student, you may learn how to improve upon and showcase your natural talents. You may focus on your personal interests and develop the necessary skills to pursue your goals.
- Learn at your own pace, according to your schedule
- Study from home
- Remain up-to-date on latest trends
- Learn from influential people in the industry
- A degree may be necessary to work with a company or corporation
- Education may not be well-rounded, if you are simply pursuing your own interests
- May not be competitive in comparison to those who complete degree programs
- May lack professional resume and/or portfolio
What Industry Professionals Say:
- “I don’t know what a Web design education is like first hand and I imagine that’s true of most folks in the industry who are 30 or older.” – Chris Coyier, designer at CodePen
- “Learning from others’ knowledge and experience is priceless.” – Dan Mall, founder and design director at SuperFriendly
Completing a degree program in Web Design and Development may give you the upper hand in the industry. Having a formal education on your resume shows employers that you have been taught industry standards, that you understand fundamental theories and that you are up-to-date on today’s trends.
It is important to know that many of today’s industry professionals were self-taught, as Coyier noted. However, this was because they didn’t have any other choice. Degree programs were simply not available 30 years ago when the Internet was starting to take off.
Today, things are different. You can concentrate exclusively on Web Design. In fact, a degree program may be a great opportunity for you to develop a design foundation. During your program, you can concentrate on the foundations of design, your ideas and experimentation.
- Work closely with and network with like-minded peers who may be potential partners in the future
- Build a professional portfolio
- Expand your knowledge through a curriculum based on industry standards
- Learn from instructors who have worked in the industry
- Take advantage of on- and off-campus opportunities, such as internships
- More expensive than a self-taught approach
- Depending on the degree program, may take longer than a self-taught approach
What Industry Professionals Say:
- “An official form of education would be superb to teach the next generation of creative professionals.” – Matt Gifford, software developer and consultant at Fuzzy Orange
- “A standard for formal web design education would make career paths and hiring new web guys a lot easier.” – Chris Mills, developer relations manager at Opera.
Our conclusion is simple: a degree program is the way to go. Though there are many benefits to teaching yourself, you may be more competitive after you complete your degree program.
However, we recommend that even as a student in a degree program, you should adopt some self-taught practices. Pursue your natural talents and interests by taking applicable elective courses. Also, stay current on industry trends through online webinars and tutorials. Taking advantage of these free resources, in conjunction with your courses, may be the best approach.