Lately, at 2 Drops I have been receiving and seeing a lot of questions on YouTube and other blogs and forums in regards to whether one should go to college to pursue a web degree or just learn a web profession on their own. I assume a lot of individuals are contemplating this decision due to the fact, that our current economy and unemployment rate are still in the dumps along with the Fall semester of college upon us. I know there are a vast of opinions on this issue that can be found throughout the internet, which have been addressed by professionals such as Stefan Mischook, Michael Locke, and others.
However, I would like to share with you my opinion on the matter in hopes, that what ever decision you make it’s ultimately an informative one suited to your own personal circumstances, goals, and ambitions.
Today, there are a lot of senior professionals in the web industry, who don’t have a web degree or even a degree at all. However, the reason for this isn’t so much because they chose not to get a web degree. It’s because the vast majority of them entered into the profession during a time where there really wasn’t any formal training / higher education available to teach them.
So, there wasn’t a specific web degree to be achieved and the opportunities to learn on their own and on the job were greater and something, that was encouraged and acceptable by all companies of that era. Being that the demand for individuals to fill these opportunities far out weighed the current supply of those who actually possessed the knowledge and skills needed, allowed anyone with the desire to learn a great opportunity with out even having to compete for it.
Quite the opposite when compared today. Once things started to progress to the point where formal methods of training were established and the supply of qualified professionals started to meet the demand; competition for opportunities within the profession increased enabling the industry to set the criteria for which an inspiring web professional needed in order to compete.
In the beginning, they only had one professional title for someone who worked within the web profession and that was ‘Web Master’. Now days, it seems there is a new professional title being established for the web profession every year.
Since the economy crashed in 2008, the employment environment has been far different and more competitive than it has ever been, which has had rippling affects on all professions including those found in the web industry. When making your decision on whether or not you should pursue a web degree, I suggest you take a look at what opportunities are currently available for employment and find out what criteria is being considered as a requirement and what is recommended by the employers. This will help you determine what exactly you will need in order to compete for employment.
Having looked at available opportunities listed on Authentic Jobs, Dribbble, GitHub, Behance, etc. you will find that one thing the majority of them all have in common is the requirement for a relevant degree according to the opportunity available. Another requirement, which is most common in the opportunities listed, is having about two to three years of relevant work experience. When applying for these opportunities it is important that you can display having met the requirements through both your resume and portfolio because most recruiters and human resource personnel will simply discard you as a candidate if you don’t.
However, simply having the resume and portfolio displaying the required degree and work experience for the web opportunity you are applying for doesn’t guarantee you anything either. Think of it as simply the price of admission to be considered as a candidate for the opportunity. If you are considered for the opportunity, then you will ultimately have to participate in several interviews, which will probably consist of both phone and in person, and in some cases you will even be required to display your knowledge and skills through some sort of project.
One of the most common qualities employers are looking for in a candidate is being a team player and working well with others. You can guarantee they will ask you in one way or another about this and expect you to give them evidence of this. The reason being is because even though your specific responsibilities might be independent you will most likely be required to work with others in order to complete the overall scope of the project. This is why it is important for an employer to know if you have an understanding of the pipeline process and the ability to work with the individuals within it.
Sure, going to college and achieving a web degree doesn’t guarantee you anything in life and it isn’t technically necessary in order to gain the knowledge and skills within a specific web profession.
However, now more than ever with a poor economy, a flooded employment market, and so many people becoming more familiar with technology, you need all that you can get in order to compete with everyone else who is looking for work as a web professional. There was a time when anybody with any sort of web knowledge and skill, regardless of where and how they achieved it, could easily start their career out as a freelancer, but that time has come and gone.
Today, the freelance market is now flooded with so many incorporated design firms and/or other established web companies, that it is practically impossible to compete as an individual junior web professional and maintain a profit. There simply isn’t any competitive advantage in deciding not to go to college in order to learn a specific web profession.
Sure, you might be able to save thousands of dollars for not deciding to go to college, but the amount of money and time you are most likely going to lose out on if you are unable to compete for an opportunity would most likely be equal or greater than the amount you would have ever saved for not going to college.
Again, having a web degree doesn’t guarantee you anything, but it sure is going to help open doors and possibilities for you, that are otherwise going to be closed to you without having one. Going to college is going to expose you to experiences and opportunities, that you would otherwise not benefit from if you were simply learning a web profession on your own.
If being a web professional is something you are truly passionate about, then do your research, talk with other professionals in person within your area, and fully invest yourself in achieving your career.
If you plan and are determined, smart, and resourceful, then achieving an undergraduate web degree in your specific web profession should not only be achievable, but you should be able to do it without having to acquire much debt if any at all.
If and when you do start going to college, don’t just go through the motions and never lose focus on why you are there. You are only going to receive what you put in, so make every second and every experience count.
Being a web professional, you will always need an internal desire to learn things on your own throughout your whole career, as the web revolves around technology and technology is always evolving.
So, don’t be too disappointed or discouraged when you find yourself having to learn and do things on your own in college in order to obtain exactly what it is you are needing to know and experience. What you should focus on in college is learning the founding principles of your discipline, working with others, networking, giving and receiving constructive criticism, and getting as much practical experience as you can.
Remember, a good way to keep yourself on tract to ensuring you come out of the college experience as competitive as possible is to keep checking to see what employers are looking for, and then doing what ever is needed in order to get yourself there.
Best of luck and as always, feel free to Contact Me here at 2 Drops with any questions or comments that you might have.
2 Drops | One drop design + One drop code | Baltimore, Maryland