Self-taught vs. college – which path is best for creative professionals?

Do you really need a college course to get started in that creative field, or, can you teach yourself? Industry professionals – which is best?

Self-taught vs. college - which path is best for creative professionals? Graphic of a man in front of two laptops.
Credit: Pixabay

Whether you’re an aspiring artist, writer, designer, or musician, deciding between pursuing a formal education at college or teaching yourself through self-study can be a daunting decision. Both paths offer unique opportunities and challenges. It’s essential to weigh the pros and cons carefully before making a choice.



  1. Flexibility: Self-teaching allows you to learn at your own pace and on your own schedule. You have the freedom to explore different topics and techniques that interest you without being bound by a formal curriculum.
  2. Cost-effective: Learning on your own can be more affordable than attending college, as you can access many resources for free or at a low cost online. Such as tutorials, books, and courses. It allows you to learn at your own pace.
  3. Hands-on experience: Self-taught individuals often gain practical experience through trial and error, experimentation, and real-world projects. This hands-on learning can be invaluable for developing skills and building a portfolio.


  1. Lack of structure: Without a formal curriculum or guidance from instructors, it can be challenging to stay focused and motivated. You may struggle to know where to start or what to prioritise in your learning journey.
  2. Limited networking opportunities: Self-teaching may limit your exposure to networking opportunities, mentorship, and collaboration with peers and industry professionals. These contacts are often available in a college setting.
  3. Validation and credentials: Some employers and clients may prefer candidates with formal education credentials, such as a degree or certification, which could put self-taught individuals at a disadvantage in certain job markets.



  1. Structured learning environment: College provides a structured curriculum with access to experienced instructors, resources, and facilities tailored to your field of study. This structured environment can help you stay organised, motivated, and focused.
  2. Networking opportunities: Colleges offer numerous opportunities for networking, collaboration, and mentorship through classes, clubs, internships, and alumni networks. Building relationships with peers and industry professionals can open doors to jobs.
  3. Credential and validation: A college degree or certification can provide credibility and validation of your skills and knowledge to potential employers and clients. It demonstrates your commitment to your craft and may give you a competitive edge in the job market.


  1. Costly investment: Attending college can be a significant financial investment, with tuition, fees, books, and living expenses adding up quickly. Student loans may also lead to financial burden and debt after graduation.
  2. Limited flexibility: College programs often follow a fixed curriculum and schedule, leaving little room for customisation or exploration of other interests. This lack of flexibility may not suit everyone’s learning style or career goals.
  3. Outdated curriculum: Some college programs may lag behind industry trends and technology advancements. Providing outdated or irrelevant curriculum that doesn’t adequately prepare students for the realities of the job market.

Ultimately, the decision between self-teaching and attending college depends on your individual learning style, goals, and circumstances. Both paths offer valuable opportunities for growth and development as a creative professional. It’s essential to consider your priorities, resources, and long-term career aspirations carefully before choosing the path that’s right. sign up for free GIF
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