Do I need a Design Degree to get a Junior Design Job?

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May 8, 2011

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I’ve known that I wanted a career in design and development since I was about 11 years old. I remember browsing the internet, wondering how to create images and websites and teaching myself how to do so.

Jump forward in time and I’m struggling in my first year of my AS-Levels and I was a bit stuck, wondering where I was to go next. I knew that I didn’t feel confident enough to complete my A-Levels and I wasn’t enjoying the subjects I had chosen. But earlier in the year we’d had a presentation where we were told that if we didn’t go to University, then we most certainly would end up at least 30% worse off wage-wise than those that completed a university course. Naturally, the thought of not going to university scared me – but I knew I wouldn’t be able to stay how I was.

Luckily for me (at the time) I managed to find a course locally that was for adults and was teaching Interactive Media – anything from graphic and web design to animation. The only catch was my age – having only just turned 17 I was a year younger than the lower age limit of 18, but luckily for me (again!) the examining body decided to let me on to the course.

For the next two years I studied hard for my HND and came out with mostly Merit and Distinction grades – gaining only a pass in one module. I’d always planned on completing a degree after my HND, whether that meant going to a different university or completing a top-up year where I was studying for my HND. However, I decided to take a year out and try and get a job as a junior instead.

I was almost at the point of giving up and going back to university when I got an interview for a junior position in January 2010. Since June 2009 (six months) I had been searching and applying for an endless amount of jobs. Needless to say, the job requirements included “HND or Degree or above” but, in practice, I was never asked about it in the interview.

Since then I’ve had another job at one agency and I’m soon to start a new job at a brilliant web agency. Again, my education was never really asked about for both roles. We’re lucky that in our industry – the creative/design industry – we don’t need to have a qualification saying we can do something. We get hired on our skills, talent and quality of work – education is secondary.

Personally, I wish that I’d had a bit more know-how about me before I decided to do my HND. Although the HND helped me become more disciplined about deadlines and allowed me to work alongside several similar-minded creatives, it didn’t really do much for me and I came out after two years feeling like I hadn’t learnt much more.

It doesn’t matter if you study for a HND, Degree or go straight into working – from what I’ve seen, you’ll still start as a junior. If I had started as a junior at 17, I’d be at a much higher level than what I am now at almost 21. However, although it’s been a harder road to get where I am now I wouldn’t change it for the world – it’s shaped the designer, developer and person I am now.

And all that being said…although I’ve found the educational world not to be quite right or even beneficial to me that’s not to say that you, reading this, won’t. University can be wonderful for many other reasons – you get to meet friends you’ll hopefully keep for life, you have the freedom to experiment and create your own unique, individual styles at university more than anywhere else.

I guess my closing thoughts can be summed up like this: do what you think will make you happy. Don’t follow the crowd, don’t do what your mum and dad tell you to do and don’t do something because you think you have to. Do whatever you decide to do for yourself.

And love every minute of it.


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