I started Hauben Media as a teenager. What started as a simple graphic design business has now become my career of 15+ years. We now develop many websites each year and manage hundreds of thousands of dollars in advertising for local businesses.. It really turned out to be pretty special.
But you know what had zero impact at any step along the way? Having a college degree.
In my years of hiring employees – both for my own and when I managed a design team for a manufacturing company – the college degree never mattered one bit. The only thing that mattered to me was the potential employee’s skill.
Your portfolio and real-world experience is all that matters.
If you are a graphic designer, I want to see that you can create great designs. If you’re a web developer, I want to see the amazing websites you’ve created.
Elite talent is rare in this industry. Even rarer is elite talent combined with work ethic. I would be absolutely crazy to turn away a phenomenal employee who I know can produce great work for my clients just because they didn’t have a college degree.
In fact, I’m a highschool dropout!
I think our generation was promised that if you got a college degree, you’d land a great job in your field. And then we got older and realized we were lied to.
Some careers need a degree. Want to be a doctor? You’ll need a real degree and proper schooling for that.
However, web development and graphic design can be learned through youtube tutorials and a few years of practice. And if you wanted to get really in depth, you could spend $2,000 on an intensive training program in SEO or online marketing. You’d learn more than what you’d learn in college and would save yourself $100,000.
You see, I did get my GED and do a few semesters at two different colleges – Briarcliffe College and Full Sail – years after starting my freelance business. I felt like I had to get a college degree “just in case” Hauben Media didn’t work out.
What I saw at Briarcliffe were completely unprepared, inexperienced teachers. My graphic design teacher was teaching outdated design software and gave an absolutely bizarre final test that had nothing to do with graphic design. I ended up leaving after a few semesters. After just a few years taking on free design projects and learning the tools of the trade with my freelance business, I didn’t really feel that I was getting any kind of benefit whatsoever at Briarcliffe.
And while I think there are some exceptional design programs across the country, I think most of them aren’t teaching you anything you couldn’t learn yourself on youtube.
Any serious web agency is going to hire you on your talent and experience, not whether you went to college or not. Save the money on college and work hard building a portfolio.
How To Build A Portfolio
The only thing that matters is your portfolio. Anyone looking to hire you will be evaluating your skills, and they’ll want to see a real portfolio with examples of your work.
If you’re interviewing to be a designer, this is no different than how an art student would apply for an art job – you’ll need a portfolio showing sample flyers, logos, and other promotional materials you’ve designed.
If you’re an upcoming marketing pro, your employer will want to completely understand your strengths and weaknesses as early as possible to make sure you’re the right hire. Things like certifications can go a long way, as well as real testimonials from people you’ve worked with saying that you’re good at what you do.