I’m on the self-taught side, for several reasons:

  • There just weren’t any good classes to take when I started to get interested in web design oh, about 10 or so years ago. Well, actually in the little town I grew up in there were no web design related classes at all, so that narrows the options quite a bit.
  • I never liked classes or school in general. I always found it tremendously boring and inefficient. Underpaid, unprepared teachers working with outdated, stiff material that has little to do with the real world. And I guess that today I still associate all sort of “courses” with that type of environment. I might be wrong, but judging by the number of art students failing to find work after graduation, it seems that’s still largely the case.
  • Generally in a class you have to wait for everyone to catch up to the same basic level and I don’t find that the best use of my time or money.
  • It’s just the type of personality I have. I always liked to explore, figure out how things work and learn by myself, at my own pace (still reading, researching and stuff, just not in a “class” environment). I learned English on my own, I learned to paint on my own, coding, design and so on.

And that’s my side of the story. It saved me lots of money and time over the years, but that’s because, well, I’m me and this is how I learn new stuff.

This of course might not be the case for a lot of people out there who would benefit more by going with the school route. There are certainly a lot of good and talented professionals out there who got their start that way. So I encourage everyone to figure out what route would work best for them.

And for people who are afraid that if they don’t have a diploma, they won’t ever get a job or land a client, that’s just silly.

In all my years of freelancing, I think I’ve only been asked a couple of times if I have any degrees and that was more in the context of small talk. Just showing my portfolio usually gets the job. The point here is that real work and skills are (usually) more powerful than a piece of paper.

You might hit a few walls in getting a job interview, but usually, if your work is good enough you’ll get past the paper work and land the job. I personally know developers who are now working for agencies that deal with huge corporate clients (banks, retailers, ISP) without any diplomas in the field. They’re just good.

So good luck with whatever choice you make, I hope this little article helps to shed some light on my side of the fence.

[Update]

I wrote an article about starting learning web design on your on, you can check it out here:
learning web design on your own: getting started