Can you really teach yourself to be a web pro?

Is being self-taught a realistic way to become a competent web professional? We ask our panel of experts.

University courses often come under fire for not keeping up to date with the latest web developments - but is it really possible become a competent web professional by teaching yourself everything? We asked the experts.

Sara Soueidan

I have a BS in Computer Sciences, but what I've learned in college is a drop in the sea of what I've learned by myself, so I still consider myself self-taught. Yes, being self-taught can very much allow you to compete with those who have been university taught. Universities have limited curricula that are rarely (if ever) up-to-date with the latest technologies and best practices. Plus, university courses may be able to teach you the basics, but it's experience that allows you to compete with others, not your college degree.

Sara Souiedan is a frontend developer.

Dr Leslie Jensen-Inman

Humans make great learners. It is possible to teach ourselves how to do most anything – including how to code and design. It takes time and experience to gain the skills needed be a great developer or designer. When you have an excellent mentor or coach helping you stretch and strengthen skills, the time you spend honing these skills is often more focused and relevant to your learning goals. Whatever path you choose should include collaborating and working on projects with some people who know more than you and some people who know less."

Dr Leslie Jensen-Inman is co-founder of Center Centre.

Anne-Gaelle Colom

It all depends on the self-taught coder's background and their motivation. It is inevitable, however, that a self-taught coder will have knowledge gaps when compared with that of a computing graduate. Academics spend a long time designing degrees to best prepare graduates for the industry with all the required soft and technical skills, and teach them to be good self-learners. This means that a university graduate is skilled and has supporting architectural knowledge of key subjects. This is a huge head-start and helps them be effective coders much faster than if they take the self-taught route.

Anne-Gaelle Colom is a senior lecturer at the University of Westminster.

Christopher Murphy

As an educator working in a university, I believe there's a great deal that a university education offers that isn't catered to in either online courses like Codecademy or short, intensive courses like General Assembly. Whilst these approaches have a place as part of a rich learning environment, degree programmes afford students the opportunity to learn over an extended period of time, enabling them to 'learn how to learn', a critical skill that takes time to acquire and that needs to be nurtured.

I believe universities need to raise their game, however. This is one reason our curriculum is open, so that we might develop teaching resources that are fit for purpose.

Christoper Murphy is a senior lecturer at the Belfast School of Art.

Ryan Carson

Yes, you can absolutely teach yourself to code and design. We have hundreds of students with no university degree who are getting amazing, high-paid jobs as developers and designers. There are not enough Computer Science and Design graduates from universities to fill the hundreds of thousands of jobs in technology, and that gap will continue to widen. Most employers are now looking to what you can do, not what certification you have. At Treehouse, we can make a student job-ready in as little as six months, all from the comfort of your couch. Why would you spend 3-4 years of your life at university, and go into debt, if you don't need to?

Ryan Carson is a co-founder of Treehouse.

Janna Hagan

I think teaching yourself to code is totally dependent on the type of person you are. I specifically chose to go to college because I knew I didn't have the type of discipline that was needed to learn on my own. I needed the structure and support that post-secondary provides to succeed. However, there is no 'one size fits all' option.

I don't think many companies nowadays care about whether you are self-taught or not; they care about how good you are. A self-taught programmer could be better off than a fresh university graduate - it's all relative to that individual.

Janna Hagan is a UI designer at Myplanet.

Jack Franklin

It is absolutely possible to teach yourself to code - there are so many resources, not only to teach programming on the web, but also ones that teach computer science. I'd encourage anyone who is learning, to spend some time looking at comp-sci foundations; I firmly believe that a basic knowledge of computer science fundamentals is an advantage to programmers. The best way to learn is by doing - come up with an idea for a project and try to build it. It will be frustrating, but the experience of building your own thing is invaluable and the best way to learn.

Jack Franklin is a Developer at GoCardless.