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Should I go to university to become a Web Designer/Developer?

So you’re passionate about starting a career in web development? Then you’re likely wondering where to start in terms of education, and whether it’s necessary to enroll in a college or university to become a Web Designer or Web Developer.

University courses for aspiring web developers can be an amazing way to break into the industry.

College courses can indeed help you learn the foundations that will carry you throughout your career. While technology in the industry changes at the speed of light, the basic fundamentals of web design and development are likely to remain unchanged for the foreseeable future.

Nothing ever compares to the luxury of a solid education, when you’re learning anything new. Especially if you have a passion for it.

However, be aware that your university degree in Web Design or Development will probably hold the most weight when attempting to score your first job, but not much after that.

Particularly for larger organizations who are taking graduates for their first job, a degree holds a small token of verification of your junior ability, and is mostly a matter of formality.

Like all careers, holding a degree (or any kind of previous education, for that matter) doesn’t necessarily indicate that you know what you’re doing. In web development, this is particularly the case.

There is an inherent challenge with education for web design and development.

What you learn during your studies will, for the most part, exclude the practical knowledge you’ll find yourself needing a couple years into your career.

Web development is one of the fastest-paced industries in the world, changing at an increasingly rapid rate.

Sadly, the knowledge you gain via any form of education in the field will be largely different (and in some cases, obsolete) in a matter of years. And when I say years, I don’t mean decades.

For anybody wanting to get into the web development space, something vital to note is that this fast-paced nature of the industry requires you to build on your personal knowledge constantly.

Firstly, there simply isn’t enough time during an educational course at university to learn everything there is to know, and what you do learn is seldom sufficient for what you’ll find necessary once you enter a paying job.

Hirers look for candidates with skill and experience, as that often matters more to them than educational qualifications, as far as web designers and developers are concerned.

Anyone can hold an educational degree in web design or development, but not all graduates possess the passionate creative flair and tenacity for vigorous troubleshooting that your hirer will require from you on a daily, long-term basis.

The way that the industry-leading websites and web applications are built changes at such a rapid rate, and with that so do best practices and the skills needed to develop fluency in such tools.

For instance, in years gone by, PHP development was all the rage. Every software company required PHP developers, but by 2019 the language is one of the less-favored amongst companies developing new, complex websites and applications.

This is a prime example of the way that constant learning is required to retain an edge in the industry.

Another example is that of responsive web design.

It’s only very recently that building websites responsively became a common requirement for nearly all companies and clients employing web developers across the world.

Students who had previously studied web development, even at the best of universities, couldn’t possibly have received education on this huge shift in industry-wide practice before it gained the traction it holds today.

Now, every web design and development job is essentially founded on the premise of responsive web design. Websites, apps, and other software lives and breathes by this new technology, and you cannot escape it. But equally, education in years gone by would have by no means foreseen or appreciated this industry mega-shift.

In all web development jobs, responsive (or adaptive) web development has become an unwavering requirement, and you’d be incredibly hard-pressed to find a job that doesn’t require these skills today.

For freelance web developers, a degree of educational history rarely holds any weight on their ability to score a job.

Most web developers art large are actually more likely not to have a university degree or other accredited certification in the field.

As it happens, some of the world’s best, and most sought-after web developers have never set foot in a lecture relating in any way to their choice of career.

If you’re providing web design or development services as a freelancer, I see little need to embark on an educational path at this point, anyway. It won’t make a difference to your income or earning potential as a freelancer. Period.

But let’s also look at this from a different angle.

If you are looking to get into the field as an aspirational, but young and inexperienced individual, studying could certainly prove a valuable path.

However, instead of studying a narrow subject like Web Design, it might be a better idea to enroll in a broader course, such as Software or Application Development. This move is strategic, because you’re positioning yourself for the possibility to explore a broader range of career options, rather than such a regenerating niche.

This way, you’ll find that your broader knowledge, and the skills you have acquired as a result, have the ability to cross-over into a variety of software-based positions, including web development.

An education which is hyper-focused on web development is a far riskier territory, due to the fact that the industry changes so often, and you’ll want to avoid the future realization that, in hindsight, it didn’t teach you very much at all.

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