Do I Need a Degree in Order to Start My Own Web Design Business?

While many freelancers agree that degrees are not necessary to start a web design business, successful web designers need to display a level of talent to potential clients that years of experience alone may not provide. For aspiring owners who wish to pursue post-secondary studies, established web designers recommend obtaining a degree in any field of information technology (IT).

Occupational Overview

The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) describes web design as the practice of creating Internet websites. Experts predict above-average industry growth until the year 2020 as more personal and commercial entities continue to enter the virtual universe. Recent data indicates that designers earn an average annual salary of $75,660 United States dollars (USD).

Web designers are there to ensure that a site LOOKS good. They have experience on what appeals to the browsing public and work with clients to create a site that illustrates their individual personalities while attracting people from a desired demographic. The task differs from that of web developers, who make sure that all the pretty images work properly.

Degree Discussion

An increasing number of students pursue post-secondary studies in the field of computer science, but current designers state that education typically appeals to employers rather than potential clients. A number of schools now offer bachelor degrees that focus on web design. Sample classes include:

– Instructional Design for Multimedia

– Web Animation

– Information Design

According to program descriptions, the courses help students shape their portfolio. Successful designers confirm that a great portfolio attracts customers, not the degree earned. Degree holders learn coding that does not typically translate into effective design abilities. In some aspects, a degree works as a financial safety net. They arm people to re-enter the workforce should their independent venture be unsuccessful.

Getting Started

Basic start-up steps include the same materials used by any fledgling business, including the construction of a solid business plan and establishing fee rates. The most important aspect remains creating an eye-catching online portfolio that displays all creative talents and makes that particular company stand out from others. In many cases, independent web designers specialize in a particular field (i.e. – small business or non-profits) to truly hone their craft.

Many entrepreneurs go into their new endeavor believing design projects will occupy most of their time. Design knowledge is paramount, but learning how to network separates the standouts from the amateurs. All the knowledge in the world is useless if no one asks for an expert opinion. Beautiful images do not matter much if no one is around to see them.


Entrepreneurial individuals looking to open their own web design businesses need to consider their existing skills when contemplating collegiate studies. If they have current experience and an extensive portfolio, then school can wait. For people with minimal or dated knowledge, completing bachelor-level IT studies reduces the risk of potential business failures by providing a comprehensive starting foundation.

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