There is a lot of pressure placed on people to attend university once they have finished high school, but it’s not always a viable option for everybody. Student loans and debt as well as the education system don’t necessarily appeal to one-and-all.
But there are plenty of fantastic jobs with good salaries that don’t require a degree – such as becoming a web designer.
If you’re interested in IT, programming and design, then this could be the job for you. It’s a versatile job that could see you working pretty much anywhere in the world.
Now, there are plenty of degrees that can help you on your way to becoming a web designer if you so please, but they are not entirely necessary to becoming qualified in the craft. A degree may equip you with the skills required to become a web designer but a job is not guaranteed, and experience in the field is king.
Over the course of this article we will look at a web designer's job description in broad terms, as well as some specific skills, how you equip yourself with the necessary skills without going to school. We'll also cover the salary and benefits that come with the position.
Table of Contents
Web Design – What is it?
To explain the job of a web designer as simplistically as possible, it can be described as building, redesigning and updating websites.
A web designer has the knowledge and ability to understand what a website requires to make it both as functional and easy-to-use as possible. At the same time, they want to make it as aesthetically pleasing to the user as it can be.
Web design is a relatively new – but very popular – industry, having been created along with the internet. In the last 10-15 years, digital media has skyrocketed in popularity, making web design an important part of people’s lives – most rely on web to talk to family/friends, shop, gain information… and without well designed and easy-to manoeuvre websites, this would be far more difficult!
Satisfaction rating from current web designers is quite high, with 64% describing themselves as happy, with working environment and skill utilization proving to be 2 of the biggest factors in this percentage.
The web design industry is currently considered to be a good one due to the increasing popularity of websites in all of their capacities and as a result, job prospects and future growth appear to be good.
To be a web designer, you need to be someone who is both creative and technically inclined. Next, we will look at what it takes to become a web designer.
Video: Interview With A Web Designer
My favorite quote from this video is, “Every Business Needs A Website”. It's so true! Even learning something as simple as building a basic WordPress website, will give you the basic skills to create a website that can be listed and ranked in Google. Every city in the world has local businesses that need internet traffic. That means there is a HUGE market to make money designing simple websites for small businesses!
Perhaps the most important skill in a web designer’s repertoire is there eye for detail in relation to design – what makes the most aesthetically appealing website, while also offering the most ease in relation to functionality? This is what a web designer needs to be able to find out.
You will need strong creative and problem-solving skills, a great attention to detail and the ability to work towards tight deadlines. You’ll also need the ability to break down and explain technical matters to your clients, so they know exactly what they’re paying you for.
In terms of design principles, here is what a web designer should be looking out for and pursuing:
Using the correct proportion of heavy (large and dark colors) and light (small and lighter colors) elements to create a balanced, appealing layout.
Looking at contrasting sizes, textures and shapes to define and draw attention to certain elements of a website.
Emphasising everything on a page results in you emphasizing nothing – web designers must carefully choose what the most important information is and highlight it.
A good website is always consistent – one page does not have a completely different appearance than the next. A web designer must embrace repetition once they have figured out an ideal format.
If you are able to successfully understand and interpret these four areas of design, you may be onto a winner with web design. You will also need to become proficient in design programmes such as Photoshop and Illustrator.
What You Need to Become a Web Designer
As mentioned previously, it is possible to get a degree to set you on the path to becoming a web designer: the most popular routes to the profession are through computer science or graphic design. While you may not be interested in taking these courses, you will need the skills they require to excel as a web designer.
The best way to start out with becoming a web designer without a degree is freelancing. It may not pay very much, at least at the start, but it is a great way of building a portfolio of work. By using websites like Upwork and Freelancer, you will be able to get work that you may not otherwise be able to get due to a lack of connections within the industry and professional experience.
Things might start slowly, but you will be able to earn plenty of experience in the time you would be spending in university. After 18 months or so, you should be able to approach industry jobs with a proficient portfolio and evidence of your abilities, which will help you increase your connections in the field. If you aren't landing jobs, you need to be practicing on your own website, and creating a portfolio of your own creations.
It’s worth noting that generally, experience is the most important thing in relation to securing a good job as a web designer. While some employers may look favorably upon a degree in the field, they are more likely to be impressed by a portfolio of completed works that will showcase what you’re capable of.
There are certain apprenticeships and internships available as entry-level opportunities in the field, and while they may not necessarily pay very well, it is worth entertaining the idea – potentially alongside freelancing – as it gives you a great opportunity to earn practical experience and make connections which will be invaluable going forward.
Salary and Benefits
Once you get up-and-running as a web designer, you can stand to make a very comfortable living from it, as it is a career with the potential to pay very well.
According to the bureau of labor statistics, the median pay for a web designer as of 2016 was $66,130, which works out at $31.79 per hour.
Starting off, it is hard to gauge the salary of a web designer as there are so many factors in play. At the very beginning, as a freelancer, it may be difficult to sustain yourself through web design alone. This, however, will change with experience.
The bureau of labor statistics also states that as of 2016, there were 162,900 people employed as web designers, with this number expected to increase in the coming years.
In terms of benefits for the job, you will be entering a profession that offers stability and long-term career viability – the web isn’t going away any time soon. You’ll also potentially be able to work from anywhere that there is an internet connection – possibly even your own home.
You will not necessarily need to attend college to become a web developer, and everything you require to improve your knowledge is available online – and it is your knowledge in the field, not your degree level that will determine your salary.
If you are working for a larger company, there is the potential of other benefits such as dental care and insurance, but this varies from company to company.
If you’re self-employed you will set your own hours. You may choose to set up your own web design business, or expand your skills to become a web content manager or make an additional move towards business management.
If you like the sound of being a web designer, but feel it may not be quite the right career path for you, there are other options.
The most obviously similar career path is that of a web developer. Web development encapsulates many elements of web design – to the point that many employers will look for candidates with experience in a combination of both fields – but focuses more on the functionality of the website and programming as opposed to appearance and how it all operates together.
Another role that would be ideal for those not totally encapsulated by the idea of web design but like the idea of a job in which aesthetic capability is key is that of a graphic designer.
If you’ve got a keen eye for a good design and feel a career in which you are implementing this skill would be right for you, but don’t necessarily like the technical side of things, then graphic design could be the perfect career path for you.
Every brand and business needs graphic design in some capacity – if you are skilful enough, you could become indispensable at your company as a graphic designer.
It’s also worth mentioning that a major benefit of not going to college and entering the working world straight away is that you will not need to repay student loans and can begin working – and earning – straight away. That means you can accept low-paying jobs to gain experience, without the heavy burden of loans lurking overhead.
If you can see yourself being a web designer, it’s worth exploring your options. As mentioned earlier, you may decide to take the college route if that appeals to you, but be aware that it is not completely necessary.
Starting out may be difficult and freelancing can be draining, but once you build a decent portfolio that showcases your abilities, you’re on the path to becoming a fully-fledged (and well-paid) web designer.
I never went to college, and it ended up being the best decision I ever made. Almost a decade ago I learned how to create my first online business, and now I work full time from home. The best part is that I set my own salary, and set my own schedule. If I want to make more money, I work harder. If I want to work less, I just take the day off!