Is Formal Education Important?

I was looking at the results of A List Aparts 2009 survey results, and was downright flabbergasted by the results of the question asking whether the respondent’s education was relevant (figure 8 on the main page for those looking at the data results right now). 18.2% found that their education was not relevant to web design. That’s one in five. When combined with the next figure (a little), it jumps to 47.9%. Almost half felt that formal education was essentially only marginally useful for their career. On the further breakdown by age (figure 2.3 on this page) ,   there is an almost 15% drop in relevance for the 65+ crowd. This makes a lot of sense, most of these people would have gone to school in a very different climate of the mid-60’s. Computers took up the size of rooms and networking was a high end venture. It makes sense that a lot of people who ended up as web designers would probably have come from graphic design backgrounds as print morphed into web. Many of these people may be in managerial positions as well – who may not need the technical skills that the front line grunts require. It would be nice to have a basic breakdown by age and job title to see if there’s any sense of that information.

Now there’s not a lot of web design programs – even fifteen years later. Most students who are interested in the field learn HTML in high school – either in a class or on their own, then develop whatever skills they need to complete the task. Informal learning for the most part, these people are task oriented, which school does not really address well. School does a good job of broadening people’s horizons.

I feel that while I didn’t get an education that informs my skills as a web designer (I am mostly self taught), I do draw from the lessons learned in software engineering  and in media arts as well as education (the three things I’ve studied formally) and apply them to design in a greater sense. I wonder if I think about these sorts of questions more than others though.

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