‘Self-Taught’ VS Formal Education

where do I start?


What direction do you take when you decide that you want to get into web design and development, or any tech position for that matter? There are so many resources at your fingertips and so many directions to go in regards to what your ultimate goal is.

I had already started to pursue a degree (associate degree) by the time I realized that what I was doing was not really what I wanted to do, so I was able to easily change my degree plan and utilize some already earned hours toward that new pursuit. I also had the ability to utilize the GI Bill to pay for my tuition and other school-related expenses. I am fortunate to have been able to do that. Some folks may not have that luxury, unfortunately.

I can not comment on what it would be like to take the “self-taught” path although I feel as though most of my “formal” education has actually been “self-taught”. I will say this though, through my job search at least in the Raleigh, NC area, most employers are looking for some formal education. I think this is due to the growing nature of the IT field along with demand for a solid foundation in programming languages or just tech abilities. Unfortunately, I do feel that the industry changes so fast with each technology that some of the things that I learned early on in my school career are almost obsolete or rarely utilized. For example Adobe Animate, I know it’s used but not nearly as much as the newer programs that Adobe offers (I’m also pretty certain they are not teaching it anymore). There are benefits and drawbacks to both learning paths and it ultimately depends on what you are trying to accomplish in the end.

A few pros to being self-taught:

  • The ability to adapt or learn the new technologies as opposed to possibly following the curriculum that could be out-dated or on the way out.
  • The cost is considerably lower, there are many free and low-cost programs, videos and tutorials, and even books if you want to go that route. I have used Udemy to help ‘supplement’ my learning for instruction that was not good or lacked in my “formal training”. I’ve also only heard great things about Treehouse another resource that starts out free for 7 days and then has a low monthly cost after that.
  • Time and Flexibility: It really only takes the time that you want it to take, there are no deadlines or schedules unless you make them, and it’s self-paced. You get out of it what you put into it.

A few pros to formal education:

  • You get a degree and or certifications! Employers love these, and it may make you eligible for some positions you might otherwise not be.
  • You will most definitely have a solid foundation of the need-to-knows like HTML, CSS, and Photoshop (Web Design specific).
  • Help with getting your foot in the door, it gives you connections and possible assistance in your job search at the end, rather it is from internships or career fairs, they help with resumes and job interviews.

Regardless of the path chosen, there are plenty of reasons to choose either or a combination of both. It all depends on what you know you are capable of when it comes to time and financial obligation. I 100% believe that it’s possible to obtain your ultimate goal by either method.

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