Self taught Web Developer vs College

College vs Self Taught

Is college the better path to becoming a web developer?  This is never an easy question to answer. The answer really lies in a few questions you have to ask yourself.  What type of career do you think you want?  Do you picture yourself working for a large corporation some day?  Most of those companies require some level of college just to get an interview.  So, in that case you would need to pursue the degree path.  What type of learner are you?  Can you sit for hours in a classroom?  Are you great at taking tests?  If you can tolerate college, and you have the time and money then a degree will only help you in the long run.

Can you still succeed as a web developer without a college degree? Absolutely! There is one problem though, you still have to learn all the basics you would have learned in school.  This isn’t generally a problem if you enjoy learning. But you will need to be disciplined and devote hours a day to your education.  If you choose this path you will need to start with the basics. It is extremely important to learn HTML, CSS and JavaScript first because this foundation of any modern web site.  My advise is to start with the basics first and if you really enjoy it then you can move on to more advanced languages.

Opportunity Cost

Is there an opportunity cost if you choose college over self study?  What I mean by opportunity cost in this case is would you be further ahead 10 years from now if you don’t go to college.  Maybe.  Think of it this way, how many people do you know that have a degree in a completely unrelated field than they currently work in?  Could they have the same job today without that degree?  If so, then they may have wasted 4 years or more going to school to reach the same end goal.  You could be a senior level web developer in 4 years and making money for most of that time, versus learning outdated technology and paying for the privilege.

Is Web Development for me?

You might not even like being a developer.  What if you spent years in college and loved the curriculum but hated actually working as a developer after graduating?  There are much easier ways to find out the answer to that question.  A shorter path would be to learn the basics either on your own or through a bootcamp program, then start applying for jobs or maybe an internship.  Within a year you should know if you can handle the day to day tasks of web development.

Learning to Learn

Working as a developer will be a lifetime of change and learning new skills. So, learning how to learn is more important than where you learn.  All that matters in this industry is that you are able to research a given problem then implement a solution from what you’ve learned.  So, my advice is to just get comfortable with learning in general and you will do great.  Whether you learn these skills in college or on your own it doesn’t really matter.


There are so may paths you could take to reach your goals, in this case I would start learning on your own if you are comfortable doing so.  If you need help then I would suggest a bootcamp, but those courses are accelerated, expensive and really just a cram session.  If you find that you love the industry and still want the degree, you can always go back to school.  But, I think you will be better prepared for a job by learning the basics on your own and start working in the field as soon as you can.

If you are considering a career as a web developer please take a look at my Resources page. There is a large list of books, software and other educational resources that you can benefit from.