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Do You Need to Go to School for Web Design?

My degree is in Video Art (whatever that is). I have a BFA completely unrelated to anything I do as a freelance web designer. According to The Washington Post, I’m in good company. 73% of college grads end up in careers outside of their major. Were those four years a total waste of time and money? I wouldn’t go that far—BUT to anyone wondering if they need to go to school for Web Design to be successful in this field, the answer is NO. Let’s explore why…

Self Education is on the Rise

Nothing like a good old-fashioned pandemic to kick this trend into hyperdrive! We now have access to incredible, priceless content and educational tools created by some of the foremost experts in our field. Why? Because everyone’s been locked in their house for a year. This is turning the ivory tower upside down. Online courses, guided tutorials, and masterclasses are especially popular because they allow you to learn super-specific topics at your own pace at a fraction of the cost of university tuition. People are questioning if the absolute bonkers amount of debt they leave college with is actually a wise investment. That trepidation becomes especially relevant when you consider three quarters of grads don’t go into the field they spent all that money studying!

Whether just leaving high school or entering a midlife crisis, people are seeing the immense value of learning something on their own terms—that actually interests them professionally. A world of knowledge is now at our fingertips and (sorry colleges) but we have options now!

Web Design is Getting Easier

We are at a wonderful point in internet history. It’s easier than ever for web designers to build sites—but difficult enough for business owners to still need us. There was a time when you needed a vast understanding of computer science to manually write code from scratch like some sort of underground command-line hacker. It became incrementally more accessible with the advent of HTML editors like Front Page and Dreamweaver. Eventually, content management systems like WordPress came along to save people like us a ton of time and headache. Recently, we’ve been witnessing a renaissance of intelligent drag-n-drop website builders like Wix, Squarespace, and WebFlow.

The barrier to entry for new freelancers is much lower today thanks to advancements in the tools we use to create sites.
Do you need a degree in web design? Nope, you pretty much just need a mouse.

Experience Becomes Talent

In the creative world, textbooks can never compete with actual work experience. As you begin to serve clients on a freelance basis, your bag of tricks (and confidence) will grow. Like anything else, web design can seem a bit daunting in the beginning. Learning a new skill can be intimidating and overwhelming. Stick with it, soldier. The reward on the other side is so worth it. You don’t need to be the best on day one—just better than your clients. As time passes and you cross more and more projects off your list, you’ll reach new heights of talent without even realizing it. Dive in; be eager for opportunities to work, build your portfolio, and learn as you go!

I’m not knocking the college experience here. While it might not be for everybody, it’s a pretty awesome era of life for many others. Go to school; get your doctorate in Siberian Husky Breeding for all I care. Just do yourself a favor and understand that learning web design does NOT need to cost $80,000. Everything you need to become a successful freelancer exists within your laptop. At the end of the day, a client doesn’t care about the diploma on your wall. Their only concern is the end result for them.