To become a web designer in the UK you do not really need any formal qualifications by law in order to set up on your own and start designing websites for clients. This is both a blessing and a curse to professionals wishing to work in the web design industry. On one hand it makes it very easy for professionally skilled individuals to join a rewarding and potentially very lucrative industry. On the other hand the industry is given a bad name, confused and cheapened by cowboy web designers, who enter the industry without adequate qualifications, skills and experience.
This article outlines the qualification that you will realistically need in order to embark on a career in web design and obtain a role with a UK web design company.
First of all, to become a web designer one of the pre-requisite qualifications in the UK is to be higher educated. This means a minimum of a Higher National Diploma (HND) in a computer or media related subject or better still, a degree from a red-brick university. I personally hold a first class honors degree (BSc) in computer science from the University of Sunderland, which I am certain allowed to get me a foot in the door of one of the leading web design companies in the Yorkshire area. Studying for such qualifications allows you to develop an awareness of the industry and allows a lot of time for self learning of software skills and web design techniques, which are critical for a career as a web designer.
Some (but not all) of the skills which you will need in order to become a web designer are:
ASP / PHP
Macromedia Development Packages
Of course the skills that you need will vary depending on the area of web design that you intend to pursue. Graphically oriented web designers will need strong graphic design skills such as adobe photoshop, fireworks and flash. Web Designer that are more coding oriented will need a strong command of the following skills: HTML, CSS, SQL and ASP or PHP. The latter are typically referred to as web developers rather than web designers.
Getting All Important Web Design Experience:
The time taken to achieve competency in web design technologies in my opinion is 3 years this can be coupled with the time it takes to study for a degree at a UK university. Of course formal qualifications are only a small piece of the puzzle. It is the experience gained from your first web design job that you will find most valuable.
From my own experience, I learned more from my first 6 months working in the web design industry than I did during my 3 years at university. There really is no substitute for the experience of working with a professional web design company and being able to ask experienced web designers for help and advice.
Developing A Specialism:
Over time it is definitely worth developing a web design specialism. For me it was the development of search engine optimized website. It was that particular area of web design that took my interest and the area in which I have excelled as a website designer. Becoming a specialist in a particular area will really raise your stock and will allow you to become and expert in your own particular niche.