Educational Routes into Web Design
If you’re looking for a career in which you can combine your creative talents with your love of computers, web design could be for you – but how can you develop the skills you need to make a success of it?
Whilst it isn’t always necessary to have a qualification to find opportunities in the field it can help finding work within an agency much easier, but with so much confusing terminology in the industry, how can you work out which is the right course for what you want to do?
Learning by Doing
There are some very successful people in the web design industry that are entirely self taught, and with more and more books available to help, learning like this is getting easier.
Getting work from this kind of start tends to be a very slow process however, and you might have to do a lot of work on a voluntary basis before you start getting paid commissions. It is useful though as an adjunct to a formal learning process.
There are an increasing number of good online web design courses available. Most are somewhat limited in scope, so while they’re useful for building up your knowledge of particular areas, they don’t offer the breadth of learning of a university degree. They also make it harder to get one to one support with problems, and they don’t give you the networking advantage of a course where you can more easily socialise with fellow students.
Many colleges run HNC and HND courses in web design or related subjects. They can be a good choice for people who have already gained some skills and want a qualification to prove what they’re capable of, and in some cases, financial support is available for people who want to take them as a route out of unemployment. The downside is that they are often taught using outdated software on outdated machines, so you might find that what you learn on them isn’t much use in the real world.
The Right Web Degree
If you choose to take a university degree, what should you go for? Some people recommend focusing on strong computer science skills, but others think design-based courses are more useful. Some universities offer a specific web development course that combines both of these elements. The university has long held a reputation for excellence in technological subjects and its geographical location has put it at the heart of northern England’s online business revolution, boosting both the support it receives from industry and the opportunities available to its graduates.
The Right University
If you are going to take the higher education route, it is essential to choose a university carefully. With the costs and debt associated with higher education spiralling in recent years, you need to carefully consider whether the investment in education will pay off in the long term. Browsing graduate employment statistics can be an excellent way to weigh up a potential course.
There has been some dispute within the academic community over the effectiveness of traditional university ranking measures, so it is definitely worth looking at these statistics with a degree of scepticism. For example in a recent article in the Manchester Evening News, (Prof. Holmes on discriminatory tables), Bolton University professor George Holmes makes the case that league tables often neglect the importance of non academic criteria such as student experience, purely focusing instead on grades. With this in mind, the best thing you can do to make an informed, well rounded choice, is to check out online university forums in order to get an unedited view from current students and graduates.
Maintaining Design Skills
The world of web design is always changing so no matter how or where you study, you will need to make an ongoing commitment to learning if you’re going to stay in the game. Make sure you read related news and keep up with developments, and be ready to take further short courses throughout your career. This ongoing process of discovery is part of what makes web design a thrilling area in which to work.
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