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What Degree Do You Need to Become a Web Designer?

While many Web Designers do have two-year associate or four-year bachelor's degrees, there is no formal education requirement for the position. Many job listings will specify whether or not they are looking for someone with a college degree, and having a degree will certainly improve your job prospects, but lacking a degree won’t shut you out from finding work in web design. In many cases, assuming you have the technical training, a specialized degree won’t even be that much more advantageous than a more generalist degree.

No matter your education level, there is a path for you to find a career in web design. While the path will be obvious for students with degrees in web design, this isn’t the only way forward. Read on to learn more about the most common web design degrees and ways to position yourself on the job market without a specialist degree.

What is a Web Designer?

Web Designers are creative professionals who are tasked with designing the layout and assets for web pages and mobile applications. They are creative professionals who are responsible for designing evocative and visually appealing web designs for their clients, and they will work on a diverse range of different projects. They tend to be well-rounded creatives who use both creative software applications and programming knowledge to design and build web applications. Using software applications such as Figma or Adobe XD, web designers will construct the appearance and feel of both the visual and functional elements of a webpage before handing that design off to web developers who will make the design a reality. At smaller firms, a Web Designer may also be expected to work on the programming side of a web design project, so most Web Designers learn the basics of HTML/CSS and JavaScript.

Web designers are most commonly employed by design firms that contract their service to clients, though many work as self-employed freelancers or work in-house for large businesses that are regularly building or updating web applications. They will most frequently work as part of large teams of designers and developers when working on large projects, but they may also find themselves working on individual smaller assignments, particularly if they are working as freelancers. Web Designers may specialize in working on specific elements or aspects of webpages or digital applications, such as building user interfaces or working on the tactile elements of a webpage to build a positive user experience.

Do I Need a Degree to Become a Web Designer?

Most Web Designers will enter the job market with a four-year degree either in web design or in a related field, such as graphic design, multimedia development, or another creative field. Some Web Designers may enter the workforce with a degree in a field far flung from web design, but they will need to have either a minor in computer science/design or they will need to demonstrate their technical skills through other means.

However, there are a few paths to enter into the field of professional web design without getting a four-year degree. The best way is to receive career-focused skills training through accelerated professional training programs, such as the Web Design Certificate program offered by Noble Desktop. Courses like these will catch students up on the kinds of technical skills training that they need to find work in the industry. These courses also provide students with professionalization resources and seminars built to help catch them up to designers who gained a great deal of networking experience in their degree program.

Another way to become a Web Designer without a degree is to simply start freelancing and build a name and reputation for your work. This will be the hardest and least guided process, but it may also be the best option for students who have the technical training and design skills, but don’t have the accredited diplomas or certificates to demonstrate these skills on a resume.

Common Degrees for Web Designers

The most common degree for Web Designers is a four-year bachelor's degree or its equivalent in either web design or a related creative field. These degrees are offered by a wide range of different higher education institutions and many smaller technical schools. While these are the most common degrees for web designers to hold, this is far from an exhaustive list. In addition, some of these degree programs may only provide you with some of the skills required for some job openings. For example, someone with a degree in the fine arts might not have the coding skills necessary to apply for all available web design positions.

Common Web Designer degrees include:

  • Bachelor’s Degree in Web Design
  • Bachelor’s Degree in Graphic Design (the most commonly held degree)
  • Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science
  • Associate’s Degree in Web Design
  • Master’s Degree in Web Design
  • Bachelor’s Degree in Visual Communication and Advertising
  • Bachelor’s Degree in Business
  • Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts

Tips for Starting a Web Designer Career Without a Degree

Anyone looking to break into a career in web design without a degree will need to take a few steps to compensate for their lack of formal education. While it isn’t a deal breaker to not have a degree, degree programs tend to provide students with specific, useful support structures to make the job search easier. Without this support, it will take more dedicated work to do things like build a portfolio or a network of professional references.

The first and most important step is receiving the training necessary to qualify for most entry-level web design positions. Web Designers will need to be proficient with a number of different design tools, including Figma, Photoshop, Illustrator, and potentially InDesign. In addition, most positions will have coding requirements, so designers will need to learn how to code webpages using HTML/CSS and JavaScript. Beyond this, Web Designers will need to be trained in theories of composition and design since knowing how to use a tool won’t help you if you don’t know what you are doing with it. One great way to get this directed training is by enrolling in one of Noble Desktop’s career certificate programs, such as their aptly titled Web Design Certificate program.

Once you are comfortable with your training, you’ll want to start building a portfolio of materials that can serve as part of your job applications. These sample designs will demonstrate to prospective employers that you have the skills training you need and that you can put that training into practice. For new designers, particularly ones without a college degree, it can be difficult to build a large portfolio in anticipation of your first go on the job market. While courses like Noble’s Web Design Certificate will help you build your portfolio, these accelerated courses will give you less time to refine your portfolio, and your work will cover a wide range of projects, making it harder to create a coherent voice in the portfolio. To learn more about building a design portfolio, please visit Noble’s Career hub page. 

One way to build a portfolio is through volunteer work or freelance work. This can come with its own collection of challenges (you can learn more about freelance work in Noble’s career hub article on the subject), but it is a great way to start building experience without needing to have gone to college. Aspiring designers can do some light freelancing work to build their portfolio or they can volunteer to build specific designs in order to build a professional network. Be wary of doing too much volunteer work or low-value freelancing, as it puts you at risk of burning yourself out if you end up under-charging for your work.

Another important benefit of early freelancing or volunteer work is that it can help you build a stable of professional contacts and references. One of the biggest hidden disadvantages of not attending school for web design is that you lose out on a ton of vital networking opportunities and you lose out on the opportunity to build relationships with instructors and professionals who can provide references. In a professional skills training program, like those offered through Noble, you can build some of these relationships, but it will again be harder owing to the accelerated pace of the class. Noble does offer one-on-one career mentoring sessions during which you can discuss networking opportunities and strategies with your instructors.

Once you feel comfortable with the totality of your job materials, you are ready to start on your path to finding a job. If you find freelancing to be a desirable way to work in design, you can keep doing that and bypass ever needing to convince a hiring manager to look at your job materials. Otherwise, with a well-honed portfolio, a resume indicating your skills training, and your collection of professional references in hand, you can begin the job search, aware that some of the listings you come across may explicitly list education requirements for hiring.

Learn the Skills to Become a Web Designer at Noble Desktop

Students looking to build the technical skills they need to become Web Designers may want to consider the options available to them for professional training and skills development through Noble Desktop. These classes provide students with live training from expert instructors and include hands-on training and practical experience using real-world design samples. These classes are available at Noble’s Manhattan Campus or through live online instruction. No matter the delivery method, class sizes are kept small so students won’t have to compete with one another for their instructor’s attention. As a bonus, every Noble course comes with a free retake option, meaning you can take the class again within a year. This is ideal for students who want to receive more instruction and for students who want more time to gain hands-on experience that they can parlay into better job opportunities.

Students interested in becoming professional Web Designers will need a lot of skills training. For novices, Noble offers a Web Design Certificate program that will teach students how to use common web design software applications, how to code their designs in basic HTML/CSS and JavaScript, and how to use WordPress for more advanced web page design. In addition, students enrolled in this class will receive one-on-one career mentoring assistance and professional development seminars, including portfolio-building exercises. This is an ideal course for any student who wants to start a new career in the field of web design. Noble also offers more targeted programs, such as the UX/UI Design Certificate program, which prepares students to design interactive interfaces for digital applications and products. This focused career-program de-emphasizes the importance of learning to code and emphasizes the importance of tactile user experience design.

Students who have a measure of professional training and are seeking to expand their skills may want to instead consider enrolling in one of Noble’s skills bootcamps. For example, in Noble’s Figma Bootcamp, students will learn how to use Adobe’s Figma software application to build interactive prototypes of web designs in order to test their functionality before beginning the coding process. This is an invaluable tool for any Web Designer to know how to use, and in a bootcamp, you can focus on learning individual skills to improve your own career standing.

Key Takeaways

  • The vast majority of Web Designers have a college degree, with the largest percentage having a degree in a computer science or graphic design field.
  • While it isn’t a formal requirement, many job listings will explicitly give preference to applicants with college degrees.
  • Aspiring designers without college degrees will want to ensure that they receive professional skills training and that they spend time carefully constructing their job materials in order to demonstrate that they are still talented prospective candidates.
  • Students looking to build the skills and professional connections needed to build a career in web design may wish to consider enrolling in one of Noble’s web design career training courses. These classes provide students with one-on-one career mentorship, skills training, and portfolio-building seminars. These classes are available to students in person and in live online classrooms.

Learn more in these courses

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