Do you need a qualification to get a job as a web designer?

Simple answer?

No.

Wow, that was a short article.

OK, let’s look at it in a bit more depth. Whilst it’s true that you may not need any formal qualifications to get a job as a web designer, there’s still a lot of other stuff you need, which is what we’ll look at next.

But first, let’s look at the argument for having a qualification, and why it was traditionally—and still is at some studios—a requirement to get a job as a web designer.

Why do I need a qualification?

Web design is popular. 10 years ago it didn’t used to be, but today, right now? The industry has exploded. Anybody can download a copy of Photoshop or Figma (my new favourite tool), get to work learning some stuff online and pass themselves off as a web designer.

Because of this, when studios put out job applications for web designers, they’re usually swamped with applications from all over the world. Web design has almost become as trendy as being an action movie star. Almost.

So, studios need a way to quickly filter out the massive amount of applications they may receive. The easiest and quickest way is just to say: “if they don’t have a relevant qualification, we’ll bin the application”. So that’s what larger agencies do. If you don’t have the relevant qualifications, you aren’t even getting through the door.

There’s other reasons why having a qualification can be helpful. A formal qualification instantly shows—on paper at least—that you’ve got the knowledge and the capability to be able to do the job.

But really, that’s about where the reasons to get a formal qualification stop. For everybody else, you just don’t need one anymore.

The rise of the self-taught web designer

It isn’t a new concept to be a self-taught web designer, because the entire industry sprung up around people teaching themselves how to become web designers.

Way back in the prehistoric ages of the web, designers were coming to the web from mostly print design backgrounds. They were classical graphic designers that had to learn a new skill because their company needed a new website or they just wanted to make themselves a website.

All of these people were self-taught. Eventually universities, colleges and book publishers started releasing courses and content that would teach you how to be a web designer, but still the majority of the “trained” web designers had trained themselves.

We’ve always had these two tiers in the web industry. Some people are self-taught, and some people went to university. There’s nothing wrong with either method, it’s just the way the industry has ended up. Unlike lawyers or doctors, there’s no legal requirement to get a formal education to provide design services.

This trend has continued to increase towards the self-taught web designer. As services like Codecademy and Treehouse have popped up the rise of people teaching themselves and shunning formal education has continued to rise.

Will teaching myself work for me?

So in the industry we have self-taught people and people who went to university. Depending on your personality and your preferred ways of learning one or the other method may work best for you.

Even if you go to university or college and take a formal course there’s going to be times where you’re learning for yourself. Becoming self-taught is a goal you should look to achieve quickly when you get into the industry because your knowledge can’t stand still. Things change in the creative industries quickly, so you need to adapt.

You might be better for university if:

Be aware though: university—particularly in the UK or the US—will cost you a lot of money and the likelihood of you getting a job as a web designer will be low. At the end of 3 years your skills could be outdated and your passion for the industry might have waned.

You might be more suited to teaching yourself or going on a course like [re]start if:

University allows you to experiment for a few years and discover your place in the world. Doing a shorter course or teaching yourself doesn’t allow for this and it’s more for the people who want to get a job right now.

Remember though: it’s about much more than just the technical skills

Teaching yourself online with things like Codecademy sounds appealing at first and you may get some use out of it to learn technical skills, but our industry is much more than just the technical skills.

Qualifications are only the first step on this ladder towards getting a job. You also need some other really important skills such as:

There’s lots of other things too but these are sometimes the things that we see get forgotten by people.

The creative and digital industry thrives on small tightly-knit teams so a lot of the extra skills you’ll need are based around fitting into a team. You need to be a good team player, be friendly and be able to communicate to your team openly and easily.

Whilst you might not need a qualification to get a job as a web designer, you are still going to need the skills to get one. How you acquire those skills is becoming more and more up to you.