About This Episode
We've been trained to believe that a college degree is necessary to succeed in today's world — but the world is changing, and if you're going to run your own business, is that even true?
In today's episode we discuss the route we took, the pros and cons of obtaining a degree, and the many alternatives to formal education that exist today (both free and paid!).
Mentioned in this episode…
Share your experience and opinion in our community poll and discussion.
Check out Mike Oliver's Generate Blocks course.
Visit our sponsor, The Content Lab.
Transcript (auto generated)
Kyle Van Deusen 00:00:05 Hello, and welcome to The Admin Bar; the community and podcast, connecting the people with the products, the lessons, and the strategies to help push their business forward. My name is Kyle Van Deusen and with me is my good buddy and co-host Matt Sebert. How are you doing today, man?
Matt Sebert 00:00:18 Well, this is great. Starting off again. New year, new podcast!
Kyle Van Deusen 00:00:24 Right? Absolutely. Let's hope so. Anyways. Now we just gotta keep it up. So, all right, well, today we're going to be discussing the importance of formal education in the web industry, or if it's really even important at all. But before we get into that, I do want to take care of a few little housekeeping items. I did want to invite you to stop by our website at TheAdminBar.com, where you can find notes for this episode, all of our past episodes, tons of articles and our products, and a private job board and links to subscribe to our weekly newsletter, Friday Chaser. And if you're not a member of our community, which was recently voted the number one WordPress community, and is nearing about 5,000 members right now — well, we'd definitely love to have you! So you can go to theadminbar.com/group/.
Kyle Van Deusen 00:01:06 Answer a couple little questions and we'll let you right in. And lastly, I want to say a huge thank you to today's sponsor The Content Lab. The Content Lab provides reliable white label content writing services for digital agencies and their clients. Whether it's content strategy, website, copy, lead, magnets, blogs, or even email marketing and newsletters, the content lab has you covered. Now, I've been working personally with Abby and her team for well over a year now. And what I like best is the complete peace of mind I have when I send a project her way, I know I won't be waiting ages for clients to send copy, and I know the copy my clients get will be perfectly formatted for the web optimized for search engines and conversion focused. Now, if you're struggling with copy, then I would suggest you head on over to thecontentlab.ie. Yes, they are Irish.
Kyle Van Deusen 00:01:58 Let Abby know we sent you. I think you'll be as surprised as I was at just how affordable it is, and I know you'll be blown away with their work. All right. So, let's dig into this today, Matt. I think we got a lot of room to cover. I will start this off by saying this morning, I posted a post inside the group asking people in the community, how many of them went to college? If they went for something related or unrelated. I have the results of this poll here, I'm going to read from my list. So I just did it right before I did all the calculations right before we jumped on. I was really surprised to hear this because this is not what I would've guessed at all. So, about 48% of the people went to college and got a degree in something related to the web industry, in general or running their agency. I think business and things like that are definitely related. 35% went and got a degree in something completely unreal. Unrelated, 12% did not go and 5% started college, but did not finish. And that is definitely not the, the guess I would've made.
Matt Sebert 00:02:59 I'm actually kind of shocked that it's not the other way around to be honest. And I mean, I definitely have a personal bias there, but I still like, holy cow, those numbers are way off from what I would've thought.
Kyle Van Deusen 00:03:11 Yeah. And I mean, you're saying the personal bias, I think is important. I think that's an important place for us to start. So we're going to have this conversation. That's kind of the pros and cons of going, you know, going to college, uh, for our industry, especially if you're going to be running an agency, there's probably a distinction there. If you're going to run an agency, if you're going to go try to get a job, then, then you're out, looks a little bit different, but I think we both have some biases here. So one is going to be, we're both in the United States where a higher education is extremely expensive. I'm sure if you want to go get a four year degree, uh, I didn't look this up, but I'm sure it costs you 80, 80 grand just to go do that. Right. So it's, there's a huge financial burden if you want to do that. Uh, and then also we have kind of the, the routes each one of us took. So why don't you tell her a little bit about where you voted in that poll?
Matt Sebert 00:04:00 Uh, so I did a little bit, um, I wasn't entirely sure what I wanted to do or where I wanted to go. Um, my entire high school career was, was built around learning film and cinematography and all that. And that was where I was going to go. Um, and then I did a little bit of that and realized that's not like as much as I loved it. It's not what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. So it was a little bit lost. Uh, so I figured I'd get my, like just the, the general stuff out of the way. Um, and so I did that and I never went back. Um, so I've, I have a tiny bit, um, but that's it. I know you have a, an associates. Yes.
Kyle Van Deusen 00:04:40 Yeah. But I didn't go back to school until I was, uh, around 30 or so. I don't think I finished my degree until I was in, into my thirties. And it's a two year degree from a community college that took me like five years to finish.
Matt Sebert 00:04:52 Yeah. I think you were like wrapping it up, uh, when we first started talking with each other.
Kyle Van Deusen 00:04:56 Yeah. And, and so for me, I went and got an associates in business. I just figured, you know, at that point I wasn't even doing web full-time or anything. I just thought I was a graphic designer then, but I just thought a business degree would be more applicable to whatever I wanted to do in the future than necessarily like a graphic design degree where I'd already spent, you know, 15 years doing graphic design. Not that I didn't have plenty of stuff to learn, I still do, but I just thought the business side of it would be more applicable to me looking back now, I think that was the right decision because starting your own business, I think there was a lot of things I took away from that experience that definitely helped. So that gives you kind of an idea of where both of us are at in this.
Kyle Van Deusen 00:05:34 Um, so let's, let's dive in. Let's, let's talk about some of the pros and cons. I think we're probably gonna end up with more cons on this list than pros, but, uh, let's see what we can do. So I want to start off with one of my, uh, huge pros, uh, to going to, to go into college is I think it really, it raises the floor. So it might not make your ceiling higher as far as what you could potentially do because you went to school, but I think it, it raises your floor of where you start at. So, you know, uh, for me going and getting a business degree, I had already done, had to do finance classes and public speaking assets and, uh, just all kinds of like, basics like that, that gave me a, a better foundation than I think people who would just jump in to starting their business and have no idea about any of those things. Like I had already spent a semester, like heads down inside of QuickBooks having to, uh, balance a company's books and stuff like that. So I feel like having that floor raised a little bit is a huge part of, of how this has beneficial to me running my agency.
Matt Sebert 00:06:35 Uh, you know, and in some, in some ways, uh, I have a similar, I mean, it's not schooling as far as like, you know, university or colleges or anything, but I've always been into art. Um, and I took private art classes throughout my entire childhood and like young adult adult life. Um, so like, you know, I did years of pastels and oils and all like more fine art things, but that still gave me that, that ground, that base of, you know, just as far as design goes, like color theory and layouts and how to draw the eye from one place to a, to another and, and things like that. So, I mean, I think regardless like having a little bit of something to start with, um, I don't know where I read it. It's probably been echoed a hundred different ways, but you need to know the rules in order to break them type of thing, especially with like art and design and all of that. Um, so yeah, I think that just having like some sort of a basis somewhere, uh, that it helps.
Kyle Van Deusen 00:07:37 Yeah. And I mean, especially on the design side of it, like some people do just have an eye for design, like there, they quickly pick those things up. They can make anything look pretty decent pretty quickly, but what's really useful. And I don't have a formal education to design. It was, you know, like you, I just started doing it in high school for fun, and then, uh, ended up getting a job, doing that. So I spent a lot of time, I was just practicing it, but, um, the schooling side of it, the formal education side of it gives you such a, a heads up and like, uh, you know, headstart on all the vocabulary you need to use to be able to explain things or when you need to debug something, you can look at it and say, okay, well, uh, you know, because you know the rules around white space and contrast and all these things, because you learned them in school, you can quickly make things look better because you have like the vocabulary and these definitions to lean on that foundation to kind of go back to, instead of just moving pixels around a screen until something magically clicks, you know, and it looks good, which I do still all the time, you know?
Matt Sebert 00:08:36 Yeah. Yeah. I mean, you've got to play a little bit, but, uh, but knowing like where to start playing helps.
Kyle Van Deusen 00:08:41 Yeah, absolutely. And so another, another one that was brought up several times inside the post I did inside the group this morning was just like the, the college experience. I think for, you know, not only for like, I guess, opening you up to more different diverse things would just definitely really important when you're owning a business and you're dealing with customers from all walks of life and all that. If you had never gone and had any of that college experience, maybe that's a little bit more difficult, but that, and like the networking aspect of it too, like how many people go back and make connections with people they hung out with or knew, or went to classes with and stuff in college. So I think that's a huge part of it too. I know that's something my wife talks about is like, just all the experience of going to college was so valuable. Uh, sometimes even more so than the actual knowledge you got from it.
Matt Sebert 00:09:28 And like, I mean, it's a gamble too. Um, one of the, uh, one of the things that I wanted to bring up was while I was working on set, um, w the, the steady cam operator had to take like a couple of weeks off. And so the, uh, the guy that was leading the camera crew, um, he was the one that actually like allowed, it allowed me to tag along and, and gave me the position that I had there. Um, he was going through resumes, uh, to, to try and find somebody to take over for the, these two weeks. And he was making two piles and one pile would fill up and it would immediately go in the trash. And it was just, it was very quick, he was making super quick judgements. And so I asked him like, why do you immediately know that these folks, you don't want to hire any, I'm not going to say what school they went to, but it was a design school that was for-profit in Florida.
Matt Sebert 00:10:20 Um, and I'm sure a lot of people know what that w which one that is, um, and that alone, like, I mean, if you can, if you can pay that amount of money for schooling and have like, literally somewhat a hiring manager, look at your, like, where you went and immediately discard it. Like that's a chance I wasn't willing to make, like, that's a lot of money for that to potentially happen. So I figured, I mean that among other things that had happened, I would just hit YouTube and hit forums. I remember like, minties way back in the day, it was a t-shirt design website. Those guys were brutal. They were amazing artists. They were absolutely incredible, but they were brutal to other people's work. Not like in a mean way, but just in a, this isn't good. And this is why cut and dry. Um, and that's where I, I submitted a lot of my first designs and they were torn apart. And I think like having that community to go back to that, you know, the college analogy, like to have those people that are willing to tell you that this doesn't look good, you know, this is why you're going to learn a lot more, a lot quicker. So if you don't go to college, like find a community to join where people will honestly tell you, what's what, because your mom's probably not going to.
Kyle Van Deusen 00:11:41 Yeah. I think the not only tell you what, it's not good, but explain why that's the huge part of it, you know, so you can make those improvements constantly. So, uh, yeah, so I think there's definitely plenty of Prozac. And I don't want to say, like, in this conversation, I don't think either one of us would be talking to anybody in our, out of going to school. I think everybody's past different and whatever works for you, probably experience and college is the best of both worlds. And you probably get further along, but obviously you can be successful, uh, either way
Matt Sebert 00:12:10 That actually goes into a, to one of the comments that we got on that, uh, that post that you made, where I forget who it was, but somebody had, had mentioned that while you are in school, if that's the course you want to take, um, that don't just do coursework, like do other things as well. And, you know, put those out into the world, not just what you're supposed to be doing there, because you're going to get a lot further, a lot quicker.
Kyle Van Deusen 00:12:34 Yeah, absolutely. All right. So let's, uh, let's look at some of the cons, I know one, you brought up in our notes before we started, this is just especially in our industry, how quickly technology changes and the colleges can't seem to keep up with those things.
Matt Sebert 00:12:47 Yeah. And, uh, this is actually the, uh, so, so working, um, and, and watching all of those, uh, those resumes get thrown in the trash. That was like probably the, the biggest impact on me. But the second biggest was, um, I had, I had made a couple of friends, uh, from this, this mentees website. And one of them also named Matt. He was in school in Chicago, uh, one of the art and design schools. And I think he was about two years in to afford your degree and dropped out. Um, he had started his own business at that point. And one of the, like the, the things that made him want to do that was, uh, that he was becoming successful pretty quickly. But what actually, like actually turned the key to that was one day he was sitting in class and his, uh, his, his teacher walked up behind him, was watching him work a bit and leaned in and said, how did you do what you just did?
Matt Sebert 00:13:46 And at that moment, this guy was like, I'm not paying this amount of money to show my teachers how I'm doing things. Like I'm learning all of this through YouTube videos and, and other artists I'm just going to drop out and I'm going to continue learning from these people, but push my own stuff. Like first now, you know, like why wait another two years to do this stuff? Um, and I'm not saying like drop out of school, don't do that. You know, everybody's path is different, but that, that again, like, yeah, that makes sense. Like why, why, why teacher, your, your teachers, how to do things like it just moved so quickly.
Kyle Van Deusen 00:14:25 I can see that being pretty annoying, especially with the cost of school. And I guess that's, that's the other huge one too. Like, do you want to take out a, at least here in the states? I know we're, that's our perspective. So I can't speak to how it isn't other countries where they give you education, which would be nice. Uh, but I mean, do you want to go into huge amounts of debt in order to get this piece of paper? Right. You know, I, I went to a small community college because of that reason, because I got afford to, uh, fund it as I went, you know, I had a job and was paying for it as I went, so I didn't have to go into any debt to do it. Uh, but you know, like when me and my wife got together, we were, she was still paying student loans on, on her school and stuff too. So, you know, you got to think about how are you going to carry that debt into also running a business because when you start running a business, um, there's more debt. Things can be pretty lean. You don't want extra debt on top of your plate, you know?
Matt Sebert 00:15:17 Yeah. But you know, like having just said that and totally agree with all of that, you're going to pay your dues somehow. You know, like, even if you don't go to college, you don't have that massive debt. You're still going to be paying dues. It's either going to take longer to establish your business because you don't exactly know the ins and outs of running a business. Um, which is why, like, if I were to go back to school, it would be for, you know, some sort of a business thing. But, um, you know, the first, like five years of, of building what I, what I have now, I didn't go out. I didn't see people. I didn't date that much. Like I lost a lot of like my, my early twenties fun stuff, you know? And, and I, I just see that as I paid my dues in that way, rather than massive debts and my old roommate, every time I complained about this, it'd be like, dude, you didn't, you don't have debt. You didn't go to college. Like you're paying your dues this way. And you know, like he was right.
Kyle Van Deusen 00:16:15 Yeah. That's a good point. I hadn't looked at it that way before. Right there, there was one other, uh, I think, I don't know if this is a pro or con, it might be a whole different part of the conversation here, but we can kind of get into the next part of this. But I do, I do often feel like our industry needs a better barrier of entry. Uh, I think it's great. Like if there was a barrier of entry I wouldn't have got in, so I would have kicked myself out and pretty much everybody else that I know in love. Um, but because anybody can just open up shop and say, Hey, I'm a web development agency. You know, we're every one of us has dealt with the clients that, you know, got screwed by the last developer and have a bad taste in their mouth about everybody in our industry, because of,
Matt Sebert 00:16:58 Yeah. It's like, yeah, sorry that that's a high percentage too. Like, that's like 60% of my clients have had a very bad experience in the past because, uh, yeah, you know, you can just throw up a website, say that you do it and start getting work.
Kyle Van Deusen 00:17:14 And I feel like for so many, so for so many industries, the higher education is that barrier of entry. Like you need this degree in order to go do this, you know, like I can't just show up at, you know, even if it's not a great degree, even if it's just certification, like I can't show up to somebody's house as a plumber because I don't have any license to go do plumbing in people's house. Uh, and if, you know, obviously for good reason, because you could destroy the city's water supply, you know, if you, you connect the wrong pipes together, you can't, uh, you can't go cut somebody's hair without a license to cut hair well for good reason. Cause they use all kinds of chemicals that could burn somebody's scalp off. Right. Well, you know, we do a lot of things that are pretty important to people's businesses.
Kyle Van Deusen 00:17:56 I've seen a lot of web developers tear up somebody's business financially because of bad decisions, you know, and because there's no barrier of entry to do what we do that just leaves the door open for, for so many problems. But that's, that's definitely another one to think about. All right. So let's, uh, let's talk about some of the alternatives to formal education, because I think our industry is, is further along in that than some other industries are, but obviously the Internet's changed things. And then I think COVID has accelerated things where everybody's more open to doing online courses, YouTube, you know, should I learn things on Tik TOK? Like I learned CSS tricks on Tik TOK sometimes. And I'm like, holy crap, that saves me tons of time or money or whatever it may be. You know? So there's so many alternative forms of education online. Now I told Dave foyer, like every time I've been through one of his courses and it's been, I don't know, three or four now, uh, that he's taught every one of his courses were better and more valuable than any college course I ever took. He's that level of teacher, but there's been plenty of, uh, online courses that I've taken that I remember from more from I've gotten more value out of, I've been able to put into practice quicker than anything I ever learned in.
Matt Sebert 00:19:10 Yeah. It just hit me too. That, uh, when you're at school, you only, I mean, you're, you're assigned a teacher and if you don't jive with that teacher and if, and or if they're like their workflow, doesn't, uh, it doesn't work for you. And trust me, like, I mean, the way that Kyle works and the way that I work is vastly different, but we produce similar looking styles. Like we have a similar like design sense, but that doesn't mean we work the same way, like at all. So if you're stuck with a teacher that, that you're not like able to learn, like the way that you need to learn, that's kind of tough luck, right? Like, I mean, I haven't met in college, but I'm pretty sure you can't just like keep swapping teachers, but with these, these courses online, you can, you know, you can find the person that talks your language and follow them. And the best part of that is that yeah, like courses can be expensive, but you know, for what you're getting and like the value there and being able to pick your teacher, it's, it's definitely worth that, that small gamble rather than, you know, the, the hundreds of thousands of dollars that college might, might cost.
Kyle Van Deusen 00:20:19 Yeah. And, and you say, you know, some of the courses can be expensive. They're really not that expensive. I think if you compared any of the courses that are out there to going to take a college class, you're, you're gonna save money, doing it online, for sure.
Matt Sebert 00:20:33 Yeah, that's true. And I mean, I'm, I'm talking from my own experience where like, I don't like spending money. Like I like saving it. Um, I mean, I like giving gifts too, but, uh, that said, where was I going with this? Oops, my phone went off and I completely,
Kyle Van Deusen 00:20:52 Uh, w while you rethink about it here, I just Googled it. It says the average cost of a class in the United States for, uh, for one course is $3,277. I've never paid anything near that for an online course, you know, like Dave's, I paid a couple hundred dollars and got tons out of it.
Matt Sebert 00:21:09 Okay. Yeah. That's where I was going with that. Um, I recently purchased a course, um, to, uh, to learn a bit more about blocks and how they all work. And it was, I think it was like 200 5300 bucks, and that's, that's still, uh, a fair amount of money, you know, like for me, you know, I don't know, like it was, it was a, should I do this? Should I not? And at the end of it, it was like, well, you want to learn it? You know, this is a good course. Like I'm just going to do it. And I'm glad I did like really glad it was a great course, but because I've spent so little amount of money, like those smaller amounts for like learning still don't like click for me right away. Um, I think that's changing. Like, I'm definitely investing more into a, to like some sort of a continued learning type, a type of path, but, you know, when, when YouTube and like, you know, the, the admin bar and things like that, where you just post a question and get an answer, um, yeah. It's, it's, it's more of a difficult topic for me again.
Kyle Van Deusen 00:22:12 Yeah. So, I mean, YouTube is huge. Obviously I've learned, I've learned how to do most of my job off YouTube videos, and people can do that in almost any industry, which is, it's pretty amazing. I think the difference between that and buying a course is, do you want to do this in a cohesive manner? Or do you want to do this in a fragmented manner where like you pick up this here and that here and that here, and then it's on you to stitch it all together. Whereas of course, they're going to kind of do all that for you curate all that content into one piece and walk you step-by-step through it. So you're kind of paying for that more than you're paying for the information, because the information is out there. Like you can find the information
Matt Sebert 00:22:49 Like piece by piece by piece tub, like it works for, oh, I need to figure out how to do this with CSS, or I need to do like these little like micro things. Um, but when it comes to changing over to blocks, for example, and like wanting to do, uh, to, to learn all of that, like, I don't know what I don't know. So a course is going to actually, you know, go from point a to point B. And like, I was talking to you about how I was struggling just to start, because I didn't know where to start or like, I didn't want to, to start learning things the wrong way. So when, like, when it's a larger thing, buying a course absolutely makes sense.
Kyle Van Deusen 00:23:29 Yeah. Shout out to Mike Oliver's GenerateBlocks course. That's what we're talking about. We'll put a link to that in there in the show notes too. So, um, all right. Uh, so yeah, I think we covered, we covered most of that here that I had inside of, of my notes. I think both of you and I will land kind of in the same place here is like, it's good. Is it always worth it? Maybe not. I think, I think it does change the, the, the equation depending on what you want to do. Right. Cause if you just wanted to go get a job at some big agency, as some high level developer, they're probably not going to take your application if you don't have a degree or there's a lot of places that wouldn't, you know, so that is a whole lot different than if you just want to open up shop and, and do all of this yourself, it makes, it makes a pretty big difference on what path to take.
Matt Sebert 00:24:14 Yeah. And considering that both you and I are kind of in that same spot, like I took my general education stuff and got that out of the way you did an associates. What I would like to know, because there was such a, a higher percentage of people that do have, uh, like actual related, uh, schooling, as well as just people that had gone to college. Um, I want to hear from those people in the comments, like, what are we missing? Like what are we not bringing up? Because, I mean, we don't know what we don't know. Right. So, I mean, if there is like other arguments for, or against, uh, we definitely want to know that stuff.
Kyle Van Deusen 00:24:53 Yeah, absolutely. So we'll drop a link inside these show notes here to the poll I did inside the group this morning. Cause there's, I think before we started this, the pole and out like two hours and there was already, uh, over a hundred comments on it. So there's tons of conversation going in there already. So you can read through a lot of people's thoughts on that and then make sure to drop your own as well. Um, all right. So before we wrap it up, anything else you want to add up, add to this?
Matt Sebert 00:25:16 No,It's just good to be back.
Kyle Van Deusen 00:25:17 Yes, absolutely one today, but shorter is probably better get us back in the groove. Yes. Yep. All right. Well, I think that will, uh, just about do us for today and I want to thank everybody for joining us. And like Matt said, we'd love to know your thoughts on these topics. So, uh, make sure you join the admin bar community. If you're not already find that link to this thread. And then you can add your notes in there. All the relevant links to this will be inside the show notes, which you can [email protected] slash podcast. And while you're there, make sure to hit that subscribe button. So you don't miss any future episodes and we will catch you all inside the group, Bubba.