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  1. #1
    SitePoint Addict rabbitdog's Avatar
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    How much does college matter?

    Hi all -

    I was hoping to get some input from all of you who are working full-time as designers, or even better, those working in positions of hiring managers.

    I've been working as a "freelance" designer and programmer since before I graduated high school, in '97 (giving away my age there. ).

    Upon graduation from highschool, I had the SAT scores and the grades to easily have been accepted to most mid-range colleges I would have wanted to apply (I considered Goucher, here in Maryland, if any are familiar with it). But for a variety of personal reasons, it never happened, and I wound up pursuing design work immediately - as a freelancer.

    I am entirely self-taught in my profession, and have made sure that I read a helluvalot of material beyond how-to books (which, ironically, I've rarely touched). I've never worked on particularly high profile projects, but I have had a fairly steady stream of work since I started. For a brief period, I worked full-time, offsite, for a company prominant in its industry. I have also written a few articles that have been published in nationally circulated magazines.

    But I still don't have a college degree.

    I'm considering jumping into the job market to find a fulltime design job in a few months, and my question is this - How much does college matter? I see jobs posted that require Bachelor degrees to even be considered, others that require at least a comm. college degree; it's depressing to feel like I'm automatically excluded from these. I wonder how much I have missed by not attending college, if I really know significantly less than someone who has been in a design degree tract. Are there any graceful ways to address lack of college in a resume and interview?

    Thanks in Advance.
    Mr Vector
    High quality, royalty free, vector graphics
    for t-shirt artists and graphic/web designers.

  2. #2
    ********* and Coffee Addict SmellTheCoffee's Avatar
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    Hi,
    To some it matters a lot. However, if you can prove your real world experience outweighs college experience you shouldn't have a problem proving your value to a potential employer. Although, I never hit the job market I did drop out my senior year of college to pursue my own business and I can attest to the fact that real world experience is an excellent asset. Now, I am the CEO of one of my client's companies. I've never considered a college degree to be a requirement for hiring. It's all about you and how you convey yourself. You may run into some companies that require it but keep at it and you'll find a good match to your skills and your experience. Good luck with the hunt!

    John
    "Your Internet Coffee Filter"

  3. #3
    Intoxicated with the madness petertdavis's Avatar
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    It probably depends most of all on who's looking at your resume. If some corporate HR drone is looking at it, they'll probably screen you out, because that's all they're trained to do. If you're going directly to a person in charge of hiring, they'll probably be looking more for the skill set they think is important for the position. So, first try to get your resume directly to a hiring manager, and secondly taylor your resume to stress skills that you would need for the job you're wanting.
    Peter T Davis

    I buy forums - PM me if you're selling.

  4. #4
    Wanna-be Apple nut silver trophy M. Johansson's Avatar
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    It probably depends a lot on how many is applying for the job, and how big the selection of college peeps are.
    Mattias Johansson
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  5. #5
    SitePoint Addict rabbitdog's Avatar
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    Thanks for the input, guys. A little more depressing outlook than I was hoping for, but a dose of reality is definately good to have.
    Mr Vector
    High quality, royalty free, vector graphics
    for t-shirt artists and graphic/web designers.

  6. #6
    ☆★☆★ silver trophy vgarcia's Avatar
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    As a Web developer, most companies will forego the college degree if you have a fair amount of relevant experience. The only time I haven't seen this is in overly "traditional" organizations that require college degrees for everyone higher than a mailroom clerk, or for specialized development positions (i.e. a required minor in Business for a Business Process Reengineering position, or if you're working on Accounting software in which a knowledge of accounting is essential).

    I have a small amount of hiring power at my job (in that I don't really hire anybody, but I interview and help approve anybody that is going to work with me) and I look first to make sure that the applicant knows what he's talking about, then I make sure he'll fit on the team. Education is one of the last things I look for if the experience and knowledge are good enough, but if it comes down to two otherwise equal applicants, I'd be more inclined to take the one who has been to college.

  7. #7
    Sports Publisher mjames's Avatar
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    Just speaking for myself, I think you need a college degree. It all depends on how risky you are. Having a college degree should give you a wider choice if jobs to consider and ultimately something to fall back on if your hopes don't pan out.

    I think college is for most people and it definitely won't hurt you when applying for jobs. Those who are in the rare position to do something that'll secure them financially longterm out of college can skip college, but the reality is that very few are in that position.

  8. #8
    SitePoint Guru hurtdidit's Avatar
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    I, too am a college dropout. I dropped out halfway through my senior year when Hurtdidit started taking off, and I've never looked back. In fact, I wish I would have been able to quit sooner to pursue the life of a freelancer!

    The only thing college really teaches you is how to think, IMHO. Face it, the stuff that gets thrown at you, you don't really LEARN it, it's more like MEMORIZING the factoids and terms so you can pass the next test! What does that get you at the end of four years? I sure as hell can't remember 90% of what was lectured to me, yet I feel confident in saying that I am better off professionally than the vast majority of my peers are.

    But if you are pursuing a career at a large company, unfortunately that means you are going to be just a set of numbers on a points scale when they thumb through your application. Depressing, maybe, and ridiculous for sure, but that's how it goes. That being the case, you have to ask yourself if that is the sort of organization you would want to work for, anyway.

    What might be more feasible is to pursue a smaller design firm that specializes in design (either graphic or internet), and bring your portfolio along. The creative directors at those places will almost certainly appreciate the value of real-world experience over a piece of paper that say B.S. on it.

    May I ask, though, why are you considering leaving the life of a freelancer for the corporate life?

    "A small group of thoughtful people could change the world.
    Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." --Margaret Mead

  9. #9
    Web Design Ireland cianuro's Avatar
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    I work with/hire a lot of freelancers and I have to say I have never once even looked at a CV. The most important thing to me is what you can do. A simple portfolio of your best work (I dont want to spend hours reading profiles, C.Vs etc) and I'd start you off on simple project and move you up depending on the level of what I can see you doing.

    I have a team of 44, most of them are freelancers. One of them I began working with 2 years ago and he now gets over $600 from me alone.

    One guy I had do a job for me. It was a simple project that one of my "regulars" could have taken care of. This guy was a graduate and I have to say, I have never seen such a bad job of a design project.

    Although a degree might matter to some, some is not all.

  10. #10
    + platinum's Avatar
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    I think with your portfolio and skillset you could walk into a lot of jobs, it's just the matter of finding some to apply for.

    Almost all companies will hire someone who has had experience and a good portfolio of work rather than someone with a "Degree", because quite frankly a lot of these people waving around degrees in whatever don't know anything, almost anyone can "pass" a degree with some theory and reading textbooks...

  11. #11
    Intoxicated with the madness petertdavis's Avatar
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    Wow, I remember this thread, a year and a half ago....
    Peter T Davis

    I buy forums - PM me if you're selling.

  12. #12
    SitePoint Member TPoise's Avatar
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    True your portfolio and experience is a big asset, but having a college degree can only help.

    I'm currently getting my degree in Computer Science, and also running a company at the same time. it's alot of working managing both, and my GPA does suffer. But once I get my degree I know I'll have many more options available to me. For instance, if for any reason my business goes down suddenly, I will have an easier time finding another job in another market.

    And with a computer science degree that also expands my versatility; I can apply for a Software Engineering job (code monkey) or do IT stuff (network monkey) or go into general Math/Science (research monkey). This gives me many more options to "keeping-the-lights-on-and-feeding-the-family".

    College will open many doors for you, especially in the variety of diverse people you will meet. And also, do you REALLY think you can do freelancing the rest of your life? You won't be able to increase your rate/pay as easy as it would be in a traditional job. You'll also get a stable paycheck with a traditional job, for some people that is really important knowing you'll get paid regularly.

    But working for yourself does have alot of advantages. For instance if I want to go jogging at 10am in the morning, I go (of course if I don't have class at that time). And if I don't feel like working, then I don't and I go off and play with the kids. Probably can't do that with a normal 8-5 job...
    Tim P.
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    Adira Technologies, LLC (Page always under construction)

  13. #13
    l 0 l silver trophybronze trophy lo0ol's Avatar
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    Going to college isn't all about learning a trade. There's a lot more going on that you learn about that isn't in text books. Also you'll meet oodles of people which not only boosts your fun-o-meter, it'll help you in the future as you network with all these different people. Life is about who you know. My two cents on it I suppose.

    (And I fully agree with TPoise.)

    (And this thread is old.)

  14. #14
    SitePoint Wizard Lil_Red's Avatar
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    Funny that I know so many code monkeys and network monkeys who've never been to college. Believe it or not you don't need a college education to have a lot of options, look at Bill Gates & Steve Jobs. Neither of them have a college education.

  15. #15
    Wanna-be Apple nut silver trophy M. Johansson's Avatar
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    To my knowledge, there is no statistical correlation between education and wealth at all.
    Mattias Johansson
    Short, Swedish, Web Developer

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  16. #16
    Technical Director at StuckOn JakeCop's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by M. Johansson
    To my knowledge, there is no statistical correlation between education and wealth at all.
    You've obviously never heard of the British aristocracy!

    Seriously though, I have a BA Honours degree, and I've never been asked about it or mentioned it in any interviews. Nothing I learnt in school, college or university has aided me in my work. The jobs I've been in, I've landed through my portfolio of work. Experience is more important, particularly as just about anyone can get, or in today's market fake, a degree.

    In fact, you'll find that with experience and a portofolio of work you're better placed to attain the position you're after than a recent graduate, who has no experience of the work environment. Jobs I've seen advertised request 2 years commercial experience or more, never a degree.

  17. #17
    Web Design Ireland cianuro's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JakeCop
    Jobs I've seen advertised request 2 years commercial experience or more, never a degree.
    Here here. Your dead right. When I was 17 (It seems so long ago) I got a job in a MAJOR It corperation. I obviously did not have a degree, but in my interview I was not asked about that, was not asked my age and was only asked to describe my skills and demonstrate them.

    I got the job before a 24 year old graduate.

    During my time there (Only 2 years) I saw gratuates come and go. I have to say, they had not got a clue. In some cases, I was asked to mentor them and train them up. Fair enough, they got a bit upset being trained by a 17/18 year old, but the point is, even though they had their precious degree, it actually made things worse.

    I have since gotton my degree in Computer Science and I have to say, apart from learning how to program in C/C++ (of which only the elite get the real jobs in that) I learned very little practically. All the theory I learned has only helped me understand a bit better whatI curretly do.

    Of course I am not saying a degree is useless (A new girlfriends parents appreciate it more than most employers these days!)

  18. #18
    Livin' the dream.. ThreeD!'s Avatar
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    it also depends on what kind of job you apply for.. you can't apply for a job as a lawyer if you don't have the proper education Then again a lot of companies today are looking for people with proper work experience, so it really depends on what area you're aiming for..

    If you look at 13-14 year old kids being pro's with Photoshop and Flash you know they don't have to go to college to learn something they've been doing for 5+ years. They'll jump straight into the biz world and hit it big..
    * Losers make excuses - winners make it happen *
    Your dream can come true - if you have the courage to pursue it!

  19. #19
    ☆★☆★ silver trophy vgarcia's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lo0ol
    Going to college isn't all about learning a trade. There's a lot more going on that you learn about that isn't in text books. Also you'll meet oodles of people which not only boosts your fun-o-meter, it'll help you in the future as you network with all these different people. Life is about who you know. My two cents on it I suppose.
    Thank you! Basically if you want to learn a trade, pick up some books or look it up on Google or go to a tech school. If you want to get a higher education than that, go to a university. It's the difference between being a mechanic and being a mechanical engineer.

  20. #20
    l 0 l silver trophybronze trophy lo0ol's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by M. Johansson
    To my knowledge, there is no statistical correlation between education and wealth at all.
    Of course there is! In virtually every study I've ever read on average the college grad makes a heck of a lot more than someone who just went to, say, high school.

  21. #21
    ☆★☆★ silver trophy vgarcia's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lo0ol
    Of course there is! In virtually every study I've ever read on average the college grad makes a heck of a lot more than someone who just went to, say, high school.
    Is that study US-centric though? It may not make as much of a difference in other countries.

  22. #22
    SitePoint Wizard Lil_Red's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lo0ol
    Of course there is! In virtually every study I've ever read on average the college grad makes a heck of a lot more than someone who just went to, say, high school.
    Umm, Bill Gates & Steve Jobs never went to college. My husband never completed college and he makes more than any of our college grad friends.

    Then there is the building contractor or the steel worker. College is no guarantee that you'll make more than the non-college grad. Colleges want you to think that you need that piece of paper to get a good paying job so they can take your money.

  23. #23
    l 0 l silver trophybronze trophy lo0ol's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lil_Red
    Umm, Bill Gates & Steve Jobs never went to college. My husband never completed college and he makes more than any of our college grad friends.
    Obviously there's exceptions to every rule. Bill Gates is always pointed to that way. Gates himself said in later years that he was stupid and that he regrets not finishing his education- in fact, he implores students to go get a college education.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lil_Red
    Then there is the building contractor or the steel worker. College is no guarantee that you'll make more than the non-college grad. Colleges want you to think that you need that piece of paper to get a good paying job so they can take your money.
    I'm just saying, statistically speaking college grads make a lot more than high school grads. Not like a few extra thousand a year, something like twenty to fifty thousand. Here's a USATODAY study:

    http://asp.usatoday.com/educate/special/quest/cq17.pdf

    I think suggesting to someone young that they shouldn't go to college is fairly stupid, for lack of a better term. College gives you a broad education in addition to your regular studies, so if some sort of figurative bubble were to burst you'd at least have some other options.

  24. #24
    l 0 l silver trophybronze trophy lo0ol's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lo0ol
    Obviously there's exceptions to every rule. Bill Gates is always pointed to that way. Gates himself said in later years that he was stupid and that he regrets not finishing his education- in fact, he implores students to go get a college education.
    A good on-topic article:

    http://news.com.com/2008-7345_3-5167499.html

  25. #25
    Wanna-be Apple nut silver trophy M. Johansson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lo0ol
    I'm just saying, statistically speaking college grads make a lot more than high school grads. Not like a few extra thousand a year, something like twenty to fifty thousand. Here's a USATODAY study:

    http://asp.usatoday.com/educate/special/quest/cq17.pdf
    Hmm, I might be wrong about this, but as far as I can see, that's not an USATODAY study. It just cites stats from the U.S. Census bureau.
    As far as I can see, the stats come from here:
    http://www.census.gov/hhes/income/ea...ll1usboth.html
    (the one you cited uses 1998 stats, though)

    As far as I can see, this study only lists individuals that are employed? Isn't a study like this a little inappropriate to use as a base for a "college = wealth" argument, as the most wealthy indiviudals does not at all make their money from any employment, but from assets?

    Dunno, maybe it counts assets as employment or something. I might be wrong.
    Mattias Johansson
    Short, Swedish, Web Developer

    Buttons and Dog Tags with your custom design:
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