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Should I go for a degree

 11:27 am on Aug 31, 2007 (gmt 0)

Well I got into web development about 5 years ago after studying with the open university. I have now completed the certificate in web applications developmen [www3.open.ac.uk] with them and have learned quite a bit over the years. As a result I now have my own web site and have developed about 8 or 9 web sites for paying clients to date. I currently do freelance work but projects are few and far between.

I am halfway getting a degree with the OU (BSc IT & Computing) [www3.open.ac.uk], I will be learning c and java etc in future courses, I have also been accepted into Manchester university to do BSc Internet Computing [informatics.manchester.ac.uk].

I am halfway through completeing my OU degree and it will take the same amount of time to complete as it would going to Manchester to complete that one. Manchester is quite prestigious and highly regarded but I will get into quite a bit of debt and I have other commitments, although I am prepared to go there, however with the OU I can complete the degree with minimal debt.

I am so undecided as to what to do. My heart tells me Manchester but my head tells me stick with the OU and put the money it would cost to go to Manchester into advertising my services.

Do you think it would be worth me going to Manchester and getting into 20k+ debt or should I follow the path I am on and invest in advertising?

I can design professional looking web sites, Im good with PHP, MySQL, HTML, Dreamweaver, Photoshop, a little Flash and know a lot about standards and accesibility etc, Im ok with SEO and all sites I have developed have good PR and sufficient visitors, I know quite a bit about databases too. Im a bit shaky when it comes to e-commerce though, playing about with OScommerce atm.

What do you think?



 1:48 pm on Aug 31, 2007 (gmt 0)

I think client's don't select consultants in the web industry based on degrees. Nothing wrong with a degree, but get it because of stuff you'll learn or because you're interested. Don't do it because you think you're more likely to get hired in this industry.


 5:28 pm on Aug 31, 2007 (gmt 0)

I think client's don't select consultants in the web industry based on degrees.

I think it depends on how far you intend to go.

I'd certainly be skeptical of a web design company, for example, who's President doesn't have a degree.

If I were a bank officer loaning money, or a venture capitalist considering investing in a startup firm, I'd certainly consider whether the top people at the firm have degrees - and from where.

And I disagree on your basic premise as well. Maybe for web design degrees don't matter. (But I think in many cases they do.) Other jobs in the "web industry" certainly do require a degree in most cases, and/or lack of one would be a considerable disadvantage.


 7:06 pm on Aug 31, 2007 (gmt 0)

I think I will end up going to Manchester as ultimately I want to run my own web design firm and I think a degree from a good university will help me a great deal....not to mention the contacts I will make.

Hopefully with a good degree and my experience as a freelancer, I will be able to land myself a decent job once I graduate. Then I will take things from there.


 7:12 pm on Aug 31, 2007 (gmt 0)

Get the degree. Not only as insurance for qualifying for jobs at some companies that require them should you ever want to, but also because it's necessary if you should ever decide that you'd like to teach rather than deal with clients. Having a degree is, in a way, like having an insurance policy.


 7:21 pm on Aug 31, 2007 (gmt 0)

Another vote for the degree for 3 reasons:
1) Getting a degree is not just about getting the knowledge. It's also about interacting with the profs and other students. Expand those interactions into a network to draw upon later in your career (for job referals, partnership potential, etc.).
2) You may later decide that you don't want to go solo any more and would rather work for a company. Not having a degree will close the door at a lot of companies.
3) You may later decide on a career change. Again, not having a degree will close the door at a lot of companies.


 7:55 pm on Aug 31, 2007 (gmt 0)

university is also a lot of fun. you might meet your future wife.
web design is a well-paid business so i wouldn't go worrying about the debt too much. if you're in your early-to-mid twenties then you shouldn't be worrying about that stuff anyway - that's for old people to worry about! people with kids and mortgages and stuff. it's not like the government are going to demand you pay back the money the minute you leave.


 1:33 am on Sep 4, 2007 (gmt 0)

tongpo - Sounds like you have more of an issue with confidence in how you should apply yourself.

If you can combine the structures that a good degree course will offer you with practical experience, by getting stuck into whatever it is that you intend, I think you will have a great combination of applicable skills, to whatever field you want to focus on.

What I look for, or look to instill in a young person is the capacity to overcome trepidation and step out. Whether it's in sport , business , art , IT or anything the key is to have a go and always it results in a champion in their field [ provided the natural ability to self empower in that area exists ].

fyi - when i engage folks i always look to see what they've achieved. A combination of those two blessings [ academic and practical accomplishments ] usually can't be surpassed and they both eventuate from hard and passionate application, often leading to good fortune.

Above all be confident about making errors - this is how your personal R & D will enable you beyond other's learning/instruction and set your personal pace at a rate that other's will look to you to follow. Training your brain is about repetitive actions that cause you to adapt to act instinctively in areas that become your natural skill. A degree can provide confidence in those basic structures - but academic learning needs to be a platform for creativity to work well.

Making good decisions can also become instinctive after a while :)

So , good luck in making your own decisions, following what you are good at , and taking it to a new level, both to you and others - follow your instinct with confidence.

[edited by: Whitey at 1:47 am (utc) on Sep. 4, 2007]


 4:40 pm on Sep 8, 2007 (gmt 0)

I've never had a client ask about my (lack of) degree. And I somehow doubt that venture capitalists or investors give two rat's patooties about degrees of management of companies they're putting money into. I'd expect them to be looking at past performance.

Clients care about results and experience. My '20+ years experience' in the field I'm in and my specific examples of success I can point to are what sell me.

If you're going entrepreneurial or self employed, then a degree is strictly for either self satisfaction or for knowledge, it'll make 0 difference in your business otherwise. If you're planning on being an employee, then a degree makes a huge difference.

The last actual job I took back in the 90's, I beat out plenty of people with industry degrees the rough equivalent of a masters. The case I made? I can learn a few equations a whole lot faster than the degree'd folks can duplicate my experience in the field.

Go do your work, if that's what's going to make you happy. It's likely that later once your income's stable and you've got a client base that you can go back to school to take something for no other reason than it interests you.


 6:05 pm on Sep 8, 2007 (gmt 0)

In picking schools dont concentrate too much on the prestige. Instead look into the curriculum. Check out the content of the courses. Find out about the
Professors and their background, expertise in their chosen fields.

If you can monitor some classes that helps. Talk to some students, better yet
to some alumni.

Social scene is also important part of your university experience.

Girls, mates and good pubs! Oh, dont forget to crack a book now and again!..KF


 6:20 pm on Sep 8, 2007 (gmt 0)

In the U.S. once I had work experience, then the reputation of the college I went to didn't seem to matter, as long at it was an accredited school. At least it didn't seem to in IT, which historically had been a very high demand field up until the dot com bust.

But having a degree from an accredited college can be important if you ever want to apply for a regular job. In the U.S. there are many companies that will not hire applicants unless they have a college degree, especially for any higher level position. I have worked at a number of places that I know verified my degree.

One of my relatives had a lot of work experience but never finished college. He decided to finish his degree later in lfe from a place in the U.S. geared towards adult and part-time students. It wasn't like getting a degree from some place with a reputation like Harvard, but it was from an accredited college. It did make a difference for him in getting a better job eventually at a place that had degree-required positions.

Personally, I'm very cautious about money so I would not go to any school where I had to go into debt to attend. However, that may not be the right choice for someone interested in looking for more of a social life, a spouse or future business connections.

The book The Millionaire Next Door has interesting stats on millionaires' educational backgrounds. Many were B and C students so they didn't get into top colleges, but most do have college degrees and a significant number have advanced degrees.


 7:21 am on Sep 24, 2007 (gmt 0)

Education is always good to have, and can prove vital at later stages of life - even that nonsense some professor rambled off at some point might be a fortune in your ears which you realize five years after you heard it - and as mentioned previously in this thread - alot of companies require it before they'll even consider hiring you.

You might get lucky with the services you provide now, but please remember to think ahead - it's not sure they can provide you with a basic living standard later on - and you'll have to get something on the side, or abandon it altogether. That's also when education and experience kicks in, and you'll need something to show on your CV.

About debt: Don't be afraid of it - but respect it for what it is. There's no reason to put yourself in a worse position at a later point of life because of decisions made in the here and now which just seems so urgent (pizza anybody?)


 7:32 am on Sep 24, 2007 (gmt 0)

Find out about the
Professors and their background, expertise in their chosen fields.

And if your degree is in Web Design, make sure that the lecturers have solid commerical Web Design experience and can list numerous brilliantly designed and functioning websites on their resume. Expect big-name .coms amongst the mix.

Just as you'd expect a lecturer in thermodynamics to be at the top of the field in thermodynamic research, so too must you demand your web design lecturers be people at the very apex of professional web design.

A PhD doesn't make someone a good lecturer in Web Design or Web Development. Don't get blinded by titles. If someone's biggest online achievement is a faculty website and a homepage for their pet then they aren't remotely qualified to teach you to a professional level.


 8:01 am on Sep 24, 2007 (gmt 0)

And if your degree is in Web Design, make sure that the lecturers have solid commerical Web Design experience and can list numerous brilliantly designed and functioning websites on their resume. Expect big-name .coms amongst the mix.

I have every respect for all the people involved in educating others. But if a person has been desiging "big-name .coms" I think they wouldn't normally be involved in teaching others.

I think Education in general is not about getting the details of learning how to do things. It sets the framework of your future approaches and visions in life. You learn how far you can go, and but the 'how' part won't necessarily be there.

You will attain more "Social Benefits/respect" than anything else.

Should you go for it? Yes, I think you should.



 8:36 am on Sep 24, 2007 (gmt 0)

But if a person has been desiging "big-name .coms" I think they wouldn't normally be involved in teaching others.

Good places to study design have large numbers of staff who are 'visiting professors' and similar. They spend most of the week working in industry and are selected because they are at the very top of their field. In addition, full-time staff should be working at university spin-off companies or doing industrial consultation work.

Degree level courses are sometimes structured like advanced level college diplomas and are founded on the idea that textbooks are a good source of module content. Just be sure you're not going to one of those places but to somewhere that uses people of a higher calibre than the textbook authors and which teaches you so much more than a textbook could ever relate.


 1:00 pm on Sep 26, 2007 (gmt 0)

Here's some input into your options.
1) your current degree with OU is just fine for your current career path. From a purely rational point of view, any gain from attending Manchester will be offset by the following: setbacks due to putting your career on hold; setbacks due to having to relocate; debt; less accumulated credit towards your degree (they rarely take all your credit in a transfer).
ie in terms of where you are now, the better business decision is to finish the degree you're in.

2) you're overestimating the effect of "I went to Manchester, actually." 99 percent of people you meet won't even know whether that's good or bad. The rest won't care unless they're trying to decide between two fresh-faced graduates with no experience for some corporate soldier position.

3) on the other hand, attending a brick-and-mortar university full-time is, as already noted, a great experience.

So, I suggest you frame this decision as what you want to with your life at this point in time. Do you want to continue with your current business? If so, a degree is enough: "Manchester degree" is way overkill.
Or do you want to up and move, take a break from the world of business, see college bands, chase college girls, wear what you like, and get into debt in the meantime.

I think Manchester would be an interesting and life-changing move. You would learn lots. However, don't fool yourself that it's good for your business career, certainly in the short-to-medium term. If you do it, go into it with your eyes open about what you want and what you're throwing away.


 2:30 pm on Sep 26, 2007 (gmt 0)

Don't do it!

At least not to learn about working with the internet. I suspect you have most of the skills you need already, a more useful experience would be more freelance/team work.

You need to use your energy getting yourself out there.

All the people I have ever worked with look for experience and examples of previous work over education, especially as qualifications in this area are fairly new still.


 8:27 pm on Oct 8, 2007 (gmt 0)

Take it from a guy who has been very successful without a degree.

Get the degree! And get it from the most prestigious place you can get it.

You never know what you will do down the road. Having a degree gives you options that you will not have otherwise.

Everything changes. The internet will change over time. The role of webmasters will change over time. You may not like the new role or it may not be available.

I've been self-employed for the last 15 years in a couple of un-related careers. Usually made over 6 figures, but on occasion had periods close to zero.

It would have been nice to know that I could easily get a job if one of my new business ventures failed. Not having a degree takes the "easy" part out of it.

Past a certain level almost everyone has a degree. It's embarassing not to. You can still get a job, but it's harder. It's like going to the interview with a stain on your collar. You will HAVE to explain it.

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