Recently I surveyed 20 business owners and people in the web/tech industry that make hiring decisions. I asked the following question: “Would you hire someone without a college degree (any type of degree) as a web designer or web developer?”
I wasn’t surprised that some folks emphatically said YES.
“Our best are self taught.” – Matt Jaffe, Co-Founder, 303 Software
However, I was surprised that 85% of the respondents said yes, they’d hire someone without a degree.
The short answer to this burning question of “degree or no degree:” No, you don’t need a degree to get a web design or development job.
Does that mean you should skip college altogether?
So, can you forgo four years of college and head straight into your career in web design/development? Not necessarily.
Many respondents said even though they would hire someone without a degree, they prefer prospects with a college degree.
“I'd definitely not require a design or computer science degree, but I have a strong preference for candidates with at least a 4-year degree in something.” – Corey Snipes, Founder, Twomile Heavy Industries Inc.
Okay, you don’t have a degree. What does it take to get hired?
Of the 85% of the respondents that said they’d hire someone without a college degree, the majority clarified they’d only hire someone with experience and proven expertise. If you have the portfolio and track record to prove it, then a college degree doesn’t matter.
“If they are older and have a resume that is clear they have accomplished a lot, then I don't care about the degree.” – Raelene Vining, Engagement Manager, Four Winds Interactive
And even though some said they would hire without a degree when presented with the right candidate, it’s not likely that resumes from non-degreed candidates will make it in front of the decision maker. If an employer has to sift through scores of applications, they need a way to narrow down their choices. A college degree may be one of those filtering devices.
“I don't have the time to open up positions to people without degrees and then wade through all the muck.” – Sean Curley, Deputy Chief Information Officer, City and County of Denver
What about the other 15%? Why do they prefer to hire degreed candidates?
Earning a college degree takes effort and dedication. Plus, college provides the opportunity to develop valuable experience and critical thinking skills.
“It's more about psychological development than skill acquisition for me.” – Kirsten Stoffa, Owner, Stoffa Productions
So, does the type of degree matter?
Maybe. Maybe not. Some find it preferable for hires to have a generalist degree, rather than an art degree.
“We have found that university graduates with a general studies background and concentration in a trade are the most versatile and invaluable to our company.” – Kim Mallek, Creative Director & Co-Owner, Mighty Fudge Studios
However, for some positions, a pertinent degree will set you apart and provide certain qualifications, such as the relevant skills acquired when earning a computer science degree.
“We tend to preference interviewing candidates who have formal comp sci training for senior developer positions.” – Tynan Szvetecz, CEO, Commerce Kitchen
I’ll summarize for you.
Yes, you can get hired into a web design or web development position without a degree, as long as you have the skills and experience to prove you’re good. However, if you’re just starting out and have no track record, you’ll be at a hefty disadvantage without secondary education of some type.
Not all companies will hire you without a degree, but many – perhaps more than half – will consider you if you come via trusted recommendation and/or with a stand-out portfolio.
Currently, qualified and skilled web developers are hard to find, so if you have the chops but no degree, you may be able to make your way into a desirable position. On the other hand, in a market flooded with job seekers, a college degree can set you apart, and could be the edge you need to snag that web design or development job.
What do you think?
Have you hired someone as a web designer/developer without a degree?
Or, are you currently employed as a web designer/developer and have no college degree?
Photo Credit: John Walker