Should You Pursue an Online Web Design Degree?

Monica Galvan
Should You Pursue an Online Web Design Degree?
You want to be a web designer but you’re wondering, do I need an online degree? We’ll share the pros and cons of a traditional degree in web design and alternatives to help you choose the best option for you to become a web designer.

Decide if web design is right for you

First, let’s go over a few basics on what a web designer is and what their role and responsibilities are to make sure it aligns with the career path you want to pursue.

There are quite a few different roles within the design community. You may have heard of various titles like graphic designer, UI designer, UX designer, product designer, and web designer. UI, UX, product, and web design are related but what’s the difference between graphic design and web design? Check out this article we wrote on the topic: Are Web Design and Graphic Design the Same?

Web design is the process of designing the visual look and feel of a website. As a web designer, you’ll focus on planning the user experience of the website, wireframe layouts, organize content and images in a way that tells a story, and design the final UI.

Web designers focus on the user experience first by creating low and high-fidelity wireframes to dictate what content goes where and the flow as a user navigates through the website. You’ll design the navigation, a killer first impression on the homepage, and always consider the mobile and desktop experience. After nailing down the user experience, you’ll focus on designing the user interface. You’ll use color and typography to create supporting graphics and icons and mockup the final UI design. You’ll also consider animations

It’s also important to note that you don’t have to know how to code to be a web designer. Web design and web development are two separate phases when creating a website. Check out this article for more information: Web Design vs. Web Development, what’s the difference?

Is a degree required?

The short answer is no. You don’t need a degree to be a web designer. However, you do need to have an amazing portfolio of work to show. Your portfolio is how you get hired as a designer, not whether you earned an online degree from a prestigious university or not. 

But in order to have a great portfolio, you need to master the fundamentals of design, understand best practices and how to design for the web, and how to package it neatly onto a portfolio website to share with prospective clients.

What are your options for learning design?

Now that you understand what a web designer does, how do you learn the skills you need and actually get hired full-time or pursue freelancing? There are a few options.

College: Study for 4 years to earn a degree

The first option most people jump to is to go to college, study for 3-4 years, and earn a traditional degree like a Bachelors's or a Masters's. For decades, going to college was the safe option, it was the guaranteed path to a high-paying career. But with so many people following this route, rising student loan debt, the time and cost involved, it may not be the best option for you.

Who is a college degree for?

If money and time are not a deciding factor in your education then pursuing a traditional or online degree may be right for you. If you’re young, maybe you have help from parents or family, and you’re not in a rush to get your first paying web design job then taking the time to learn web design over 3–4 years may be the right choice. 

An advantage of college in the past has been the networking opportunities. Your instructors are practicing professions that could help you get an internship or a first job. Colleges also host their own events for graduates to connect with potential employers. 

Cons of a college degree

The cost is steep. College degrees cost tens of thousands of dollars over the course of a few years from tuition, project and course fees, software, equipment, and more. Be sure to consider the long-term financial commitment you’re getting yourself into.

Since the university dictates the curriculum, you’re required to complete certain courses in order to earn a degree. This means you’ll need to take general education courses like English, math, science, and history. If you attend a more specialized art school, these classes may be geared more toward the arts (for example, I took a class on the history of graphic design and one on writing English narratives). Unfortunately, even if you don’t want to take these courses, you still have to pay the tuition and pass the course.

When the pandemic hit in early 2020, colleges shut down in-person classes switching to online-only which stripped away most networking opportunities. Many students decided to put their education on hold since they didn’t see the point in paying thousands for an online degree when they could pursue other cheaper options. Current events like the pandemic have changed how we view the future of education and careers. We no longer have to be limited by location.

Bootcamps: A 3-month crash course in web design

Another option that’s risen in popularity over the last few years are bootcamps. These are 2–3 month-long programs that give you a crash course on how to do web design. Every Bootcamp is different but most offer a more intense schedule. Rather than meeting once a week for a class over a year, as you would at a university, bootcamps follow a 9–5 schedule Monday-Friday over several weeks. This way you get through more material quicker. 

Who is a bootcamp for?

If you want to condense your education into a small block of time, like 12-weeks, this is a great option for you. If you put your head down, study hard, participate by asking your instructors questions, and really dedicate yourself to the course work then a bootcamp is a great way to get ahead.

How a bootcamp differs from a traditional college or online degree is you are learning only the necessary skills for web design. In the first half, you learn the fundamentals of design. The second half focuses on developing a portfolio project from start to finish. The intention of this project is to have something to show potential employers or clients, a piece of work that demonstrates your skills and process.

Cons of a bootcamp

Since the commitment is lower and there is only so much you can learn in 3 months, the price is substantially cheaper. This will depend on your location, but in the United States bootcamps can range anywhere from $5,000 — $20,000 USD. A well-known program is the UX Design Bootcamp from General Assembly, a 12-week online program offered at $14,950. You have the option to pay all upfront or finance and pay extra in interest over time.

It can be nice to concentrate on learning web design intensively in a 12-week period but this method doesn’t work for everyone. You need to understand your learning style. Can you realistically see yourself studying on your own daily for 12 weeks straight? Will you retain all the information and feel ready to pursue jobs or freelance opportunities?

If you’re entirely new to web design, it’s not realistic to think you can be hired as a professional designer after practicing for only 3 months. But if you’ve been self-studying for a while, working on self-initiated web design projects, then there’s a possibility.

Self-study: Choose your own path

You also have the option to learn web design on your own. No college or bootcamp to dictate your curriculum, just you exploring and learning. 

Who is the self-study option for?

If you’re self-motivated then you won’t have a problem learning web design on your own. There’s a wealth of free information on the web from video tutorials to online classes where you can learn specific skills. Everything you need to know to become a web designer is already out there and available, you just have to find it, learn it, and practice it.

This option is also the lowest financial commitment as you’re exchanging time to read books and blog posts, search for resources online, and watch free videos on YouTube. 

Cons of self-studying

You need to be extremely disciplined in order to motivate and push yourself through. If you need accountability, you probably won't find success in learning web design this way.

Self-studying also assumes you know what you need to study. If you’re new to web design you may not know what you need to learn. You can search on Google and YouTube for the pieces but you won’t know how to put them together.

This method also takes the most time. Since there’s no end date, like when you finish all required courses at a university or the 12 weeks comes to an end for a bootcamp, you could potentially be studying for years before you ever pursue web design as a career. At that point, it’s just a hobby. 

Here’s some advice from Ran for self-taught designers:

Is there another way to learn web design?

We’ve gone over 3 distinctly different ways you can learn the skills you need to be a web designer and make it a career. But what if neither of them feels like the right fit? We have one last option to cover.

Maybe you like the idea of learning on your own time but you want some sort of mentorship and you want to follow a solid curriculum created by a successful web designer. If this sounds like you, then check out one of our Flux Academy courses.

Over 3,000 students have learned with us
Over 3,000 students have learned with us

Who is Flux Academy for?

You can learn web design, web development, and how to become a freelancer on your time. It doesn’t have to take 12-weeks or 4 years. It takes as long as you want. Need a little more time to learn something? You can replay video lessons as many times as you need until you understand the concept. You have access to the material forever, it’s there when you need it.

After considering college degrees and bootcamps that cost tens of thousands of dollars, we offer a much more affordable option for design education. Our courses are in the low-mid hundreds (not thousands). We also offer payment options to make it even more affordable. 

You also get access to a community. Remember the networking opportunities we mentioned for why most people decide to go to college? You also get this benefit but at a much lower cost and now you’re not confined to networking only with those in your location, we are a worldwide community. You get access to weekly calls with Ran Segall and your fellow students. Get the support you need and build momentum. You also have the opportunity to receive expert feedback on your designs from the Flux Academy instructors and peer critiques in our community hub.

Screenshot of Ran and students from a past weekly mentorship call on Zoom
Screenshot of Ran and students from a past weekly mentorship call on Zoom

Which Flux Academy program is right for you? 

We offer 3 different programs that go deep into design, development, and how to build a successful freelance business. We give you the path to follow so you learn only the skills you need at your pace.

Flux Academy programs
Flux Academy programs

In The $10k Website Process, you’ll discover a step-by-step process to design beautiful, high-value websites that achieve strategic goals for your clients. Master the art and strategy of website design, and increase the value of your services, as well as your rates.

In The Webflow Masterclass, you’ll learn how to use Webflow to build custom, fully-functional websites quickly without learning how to code. Break free from restrictive templates, regain your creative freedom, and bring your best creations to life with this powerful visual development tool.

In The 6 Figure Freelance Designer, you’ll learn how building a successful business as a freelancer is possible anywhere with an internet connection. We give you a roadmap to follow to consistently attract high-value clients and make a great living doing what you love.

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