Are you artistically gifted? Do you prefer to create your art on the computer screen as opposed to creating it with pen and paper? Have you considered pursuing a career in graphic design? If you said yes to each of these questions, then keep reading to get a taste of what this career path may have to offer you. Graphic designers use what they know about graphic design software to create visual art materials for films, packaging, promotions, advertisements, CD-ROMS, and websites. Sometimes this material will be for the purpose of attracting an audience, while other times it will be to inform or instruct a particular group of people. You will be responsible for designing and arranging graphic images, sounds, animations, videos, and texts into one consolidated, seamless multimedia program. Keep in mind, this industry is a fast-paced, ever-changing world so it will be critical that you can stay abreast of any changes that occur, as well as new software that is introduced for graphic designers to use.
In order to work as a graphic designer you must have some level of formal training; colleges and universities typically offer an associate’s degree, a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, and a graduate degree program in graphic design. Regardless of which degree program you decide to pursue, you will be learning about how visual communications are based on aesthetic principles and fundamentals. Keep in mind, the more advanced level degree program you pursue, the more extensively you will delve into the skills and knowledge of graphic design. As you begin the coursework for your degree program you will first be required to complete an introduction to graphic design course; this class will teach you about the hardware and software that you will be using to work in the field of graphic design. While your specific coursework will vary some depending upon the college you choose to attend and the degree program you pursue, you should expect to take classes related to digital design, visual arts, typography, business management, applied design, and graphic design for corporate clients. Take a moment and view any of the schools you see listed on our site. If you see one that interests you, let them know and they will send you a free information packet relative to your intended career path.
Other popular career options relative to your degree as a graphic designer are to become a design director, a design engineer, an interface design director, a media design manager, or a package design manager. While the responsibilities will vary slightly for these common career choices, you would still be using what you know about design to produce an end product. If you are serious about your new career then choose the top school to get your graphic design degree from. Graphic design is an industry that is growing and becoming increasingly flexible. The world has seen graphic design expand and adjust as an industry to the modern, digital world and beyond. Graphic design skills are applicable and desirable in almost every industry imaginable, so the job market for professionals with a graphic design background is ever-present,
Good graphic designers are undoubtedly technically sound and creative, but the qualities that make a great graphic designer are soft skills gained through their professional or academic experiences. Over time they develop exceptional communication and collaboration skills but still maintain their ability to work independently and efficiently when necessary. Pursuing education in graphic design will allow you to enhance that eye for design while helping you develop the soft skills necessary to work in graphic design related positions.
There are several academic routes for someone interested in graphic design. Many choose to take a more traditional route by attending physical courses at a 2- or 4-year university. Alternately, according to the National Center for Education Statistics about 12% of all undergraduate students, and 25% of post-baccalaureate students choose to take their courses exclusively online. Though it is not always the case, some online degrees are more cost efficient for students. For others, it may just be better fit to their individual schedule, mobility and preference.
A degree in graphic design is almost guaranteed to help you transform your passion for design into a career you will love. Graphic Design programs are designed to prepare an individual to combine and apply artistic and digital technical skills. The foundation of such skill development is found in the concepts of fine arts, communication skills and commercial applications. Depending on the institution, graphic design degrees may be offered as a certificate, AS, AAS, BA, BFA, BS, MA or MFA. Despite common myth, the average annual tuition for a graphic design major among online universities is not significantly lower than that of attending a university without living on campus. A degree is not necessary to start a graphic design related career, many firms and corporations are more prone to recruit with an educational background in graphic design. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics names a Bachelor’s degree as the typical entry-level education for graphic design related professions. Even so, an associate’s degree may prove to be an advantage when searching for work. Professionals with the additional experience and education of a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree are likely to have more and higher-paying opportunities in the job market.
Graphic Design Certificate or Diploma
Some online institutions may offer a certificate or diploma for graphic design. The academic course work can usually be fit within a single year. This may not weigh as heavily as a two-year, four-year or post-secondary degree but can still be beneficial for professionals in other fields looking to gain some expertise in graphic design.Software developers and vendors such as Adobe offer certification programs of their own, deeming the student certified with specific regard to their products.
Associate’s Degree in Graphic Design
Students can spend up to two years to receive their associate’s degree for graphic design. Depending on the number of credits and types of courses taken, a student can either get an Associate’s of Science in Graphic Design or an Associate’s of Applied Science in Graphic Design. Some institutes offer Graphic Design as an Associate’s Arts as well. All types of associate’s degrees will help you hone and polish your creative, technical and problem solving skills, while building a comprehensive portfolio in preparation for your graphic design career. For students that are surer of their preferred focus in the graphic design field, some programs may allow students to choose a concentration such as web design, advertisement or packaging design. Courses for an associate’s degree path may consist of more fundamental and technical classes, so that students graduate with the exposure to be qualified for entry level positions from which they can build experience. Those may be courses like:
• Design Fundamentals
• History of Design
• Visual Communication
• Perspective Drawing
• Observational Drawing
• Digital Illustration
• Concept Development
• Color Theory
• Corporate Identity/Brand
• Introduction to Creative Suite (Adobe or Corel)
• Advertising Design
• Web Design
• Game Design
• Motion Graphics
The graphic design field offers a multitude of positions within numerous industries. The options for career paths in graphic design are virtually limitless! After graduating, students can look forward to positions such as:
• Desktop Publisher
• Web Designer
• Printer Worker
• Assistant Creative Director
• Associate Graphic Designer
• Freelance Graphic Designer
On average, positions for graphic designers with associate’s degrees yield salaries of $38,500 that are subject to increase with more experience (payscale.com).
Online Bachelor’s Degree in Graphic Design
Students pursuing a bachelor’s degree will spend an average of four years and $x. Students can pursue a bachelor’s of science or a bachelor’s of arts for graphic design. A bachelor’s degree will be more in depth than an associate’s, spending more time on the designer’s foundation as an artist. Though many of the courses are designed to expose students to the various elements of graphic design, many institutions may allow students to choose a concentration.
A bachelor’s degree will provide greater exposure to the graphic design industry as a whole through courses like:
• Design Fundamentals
• Art Direction
• Principles of Photography
• Digital Photography
• Photography Manipulation
• Graphic Illustration
• Electronic Design
• Graphic Symbolism
• Packaging Design
• Web Scripting
• Web Design
• Web Development
• Basic Web Animation
• Contemporary Design Issues
• Fundamentals of Marketing
• Architectural Drafting
• Applications and Industry
The courses will give students a greater handle on more subjects in the graphic design realm and prepare them for a wide range of positions. As graphic design effects nearly every industry imaginable, especially in today’s increasing digital environment, students can enter the job market successfully in positions such as:
• Freelance Graphic Designer
• Web Designer
• Industrial Designer
• Creative Director
Master’s Degree in Graphic Design
Obtaining a master’s degree for graphic design will broaden the career opportunities available to you. After receiving a bachelor’s degree, students will spend up to three years to obtain their masters at an average cost of $x. A degree is an investment and the return on a Master’s Degree is almost always higher than that of an associate’s or bachelor’s. Graduates of master’s programs are well rounded in the field and are likely to receive high-level positions such as Senior or Chief Designers, Creative Director, Owners of Design Firms and College Instructors. In these positions, graduates will make an average income of $85,000 annually.
A Master’s Degree will fully prepare a student for the highest-level positions in graphic design with a curriculum that is well-rounded in both technical practice, theoretical understanding and specialty training. The curriculum may consist of classes such as:
• Visual Literacy Theory
• Visual Literacy Studio
• History of Graphic Design
• Graphic Design Theory
• Integrated Design Media
• Ideation Models
• Ideation Process
• Analysis of Static Content
• Design Research and Analysis
• Experience Design for Physical Spaces
• User Centered Strategy
Coupled with experience, a Master’s degree in graphic design can open the door to high-paying positions like an art director, a senior designer, a marketing manager and a design firm executive.
If you are most interested in an Associate’s Degree
• Rasmussen College Online is listed as one of the best offered online Associate’s programs for graphic design. This online program offers concentrations and specializations within the associate’s program for subjects like web design, interactive design and animation. The tuition is affordable at $9,360 annually.
• Independence University is a highly recommended online program for students pursuing their associate’s degree in graphic design. The school uses Blackboard for easy student course management and has a graduation rate of 63%. The annual tuition is just under $17,000.
If you are most interested in a Bachelor’s Degree
• Academy of Art University is rated as one of the best online Bachelor’s programs by OnlineCollege.org. It is rated as such for its value, student engagement, library and research support, learning support and faculty accessibility. Additionally, its faculty credentials factor into its top-tier rating. Annual tuition is $20,340 for undergraduate studies.
• Full Sail University was also listed as one of the best Bachelor’s programs offered online by numerous sites. OnlineCollege.org lists its best qualities as career support, technology support, and alumni engagement.
If you are most interested in a Master’s Degree
• Savannah College of Arts and Design is listed by many sites as one of the best online programs for a master’s degree in graphic design. OnlineCollege.org lists it as best for career support, technology support, student engagement and activities, disabilities support, learning support, as well as for involvement and accessibility of faculty and alumnae. Annual tuition is $36,045 for graduate studies.
• Academy of Art University is rated as one of the best online Master’s programs by OnlineCollege.org. It is rated as such for its value, flexibility and financial support. Additionally, its faculty credentials factor into its top-tier rating. Annual tuition is just under $30,000 for graduate studies.
A degree in graphic design offers a wide variety of careers both in and out of the corporate world. As of 2014, about 20% of graphic designers were self-employed. Graphic designers combine technology and art to create visual compositions for digital and print platforms. Different designers utilize different skills, tools and techniques to accomplish their varied goals, but across the board much of the fundamental training is very similar.
Desktop Publisher - $41,090 yearly salary
Desktop publishers use computer software like InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop and PageMaker to compose layouts for magazine, books, brochures and other items for digital or print publishing. BLS cites just under 15,000 jobs for desktop publishers as of 2014. Some of these jobs are found within publishing houses, while others are integrated into advertising, PR and marketing firms.
Most of the skills necessary to become a desktop publisher can be developed in training and working, but an associate’s degree in graphic design can be beneficial. Time management is a critical soft skill for this role to meet demands and deadlines successfully.
As of 2016, the median annual pay for Desktop Publishers is $41,090. The number of desktop publishers is expected to decrease by 21% to 2024.
Drafter - $53,480 yearly salary
Drafters utilize computer-aided design and drafting (CADD) software to convert the drawings and designs of architects and engineers into plans. Drafters are present across several industries including aeronautics, architecture, electrical or mechanical engineering and civil engineering. Drafters may sometimes also be referred to as CADD operators, as a result of the systems they use to create digital plans. Though some specialized training may be necessary for drafting within a specific industry, an associate’s degree in graphic design can be applicable. Much of the technical training that a traditional graphic designer receives is applicable to drafting, such as the computer and software understanding, artistic background with regard for perspective and life drawing and soft skills, like communication and collaboration. As of 2016, the median annual pay for Drafters is $53,480 per year. In 2014, there were approximately 204,000 jobs but that number is expected to reduce by roughly 6,200 over time to 2024.
Web Designer - $48,659 yearly salary
A website designer utilizes many of the same skills a graphic artist does, but perhaps with more focus on the overall composition and layout of a website. Their role typically consists of planning and executing the design and following up with updates and service as necessary. Though usually website developers handle the more technical coding aspect, many designers are capable as well. A web designer may have their personal preference of software but is generally well versed and can apply their skills in many different software. A web designer’s role requires many of the same soft skills that a graphic designer gathers through their experiences, especially collaboration. Web designers should also have a develop sense of brand management. The median salary for a web designer is $48,659 but with experience, many find themselves making well above the median. While a majority of web designers are hired by firms, there are many that freelance design and develop.
Multimedia Artist/Animator - $65,300 yearly salary
These artists are behind the visual effects and animation in productions on TV and in movies, in games and more. Typically, an artist is well-verse in one medium, like cartooning or CGI for movies, and will stay within that medium for their career. Even within a specific medium, there are specialists for a specific effect or animation. An artist in CGI might be a specialist in character animation while an artist with a focus on video games may specialize in the designs of different levels. Generic computer skills from a graphic design degree are helpful but often animation studios operate on custom software that must be taught to each team member.Usually multimedia artists work in teams so the need for collaborative skills is critical. Due to the specialty nature of this field it is often required that artists have at least a bachelor’s degree in graphic design, game design or other related majors. Even beyond their educational background, it is likely that artist receive custom training from their hiring firm. As of 2014 there were 64,000 positions and that number is expected to increase an average of 6% over time to 2024. In 2016, the median salary representative of multimedia artists was $65,300.
Product (Industrial) Designer - $67,790 yearly salary
An industrial designer combine their understanding of design with business necessities or engineering requirements to develop the products that we use in our daily lives. A product designer may be more involved with the pre-digital stages, such as client consultation, research on the product needs and drawing. Still, like drafters, they will use CADD software to create digital renderings of their designs and prototypes.For most entry level industrial design positions, a bachelor’s degree is preferred or even required. As more experience within a particular industry or product type is gained, a designer is likely to find higher positions available to them. In 2016, the median annual pay for Industrial Designers is $67,790 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. There were approximately 38,400 industrial design jobs available but the market for jobs in the field is essentially stagnant. It is only expected to grow roughly 2% over time to 2024.
Art/Creative Director - $89,820 yearly salary
Art Directors are primarily responsible for project management in all sorts of publications and productions. The may oversee the visuals of print publications, digital publications and multimedia productions while directing other designers developing art, copy, film, etc. The creative director is most likely to be the primary contact with the client, and will utilize their communication and collaboration skills to gather a thorough understanding of the client’s needs. They will then communicate those needs and objectives to meet the goal to their team. Very few creative director positions are open to recent graduates. Usually, an art director has 5-6 years of experience as a designer or an artist. In that time, they are able to develop and enrich their communication and collaboration with teams and clients, fine tune their eye for design and constantly expand on their artistic abilities.The median pay for Art Directors was $89,820 in 2016 with about 74,600 positions in 2014. The job market for art directors is relatively slow and is expect to increase only 2% by 2024.
Design Firm Executive - $103,950 yearly salary
Depending on an executive’s specific position, they may oversee the overall operations, the client relationships, finances or the creative aspect of the firm. This can be a very demanding position depending upon the various responsibilities assigned, the size of the firm and the size of its clients. A client relations executive may work on developing and maintaining profitable relationships with clients while also serving as a mutual representative for the firm and its creative department and the client’s needs and desires. An operations executive, such as a COO, is more responsible for the overall efficiency of the firm. For these types position, a bachelor’s degree is best, but even more critical is experience within the field of the firm, and experience communicating with teams, clients and any other stakeholders. The job market for top level executives had a median annual salary of $103,950 in 2016. In 2014 there were roughly 2.5 million positions designed for top level executives, not just that of design firms and the job market is growing at an average rate leading to a 6% increase of positions by 2024.
Marketing Manager - $127,560 yearly salary
Marketing mangers typically work for large firms and handle marketing, promotion and advertisement to captivate consumers. This position is often more demanding than a creative director because the marketing manager will collaborate closely with sales and finance teams to determine what marketing materials are needed to drive revenue. This position will likely require some or most background in business but a background in graphic design and the psychological theory of design will be of good use. For marketing manager positions, a bachelor’s degree and experience are needed. A likely candidate will have experience in advertising, sales, promotion or marketing as well as a related degree. According to the Bureau of Labor statistics about 31% of current advertising and promotion managers had previously worked for advertising agencies. In 2016, the median salary for an advertising or marketing manager was $127,560. In 2014, there were 225,200 positions and the market for jobs is growing faster than average totaling an increase of about 9% by 2024.
Since graphic design professions are so broad and varied in manner, it is difficult to sum all potential requirements into a list. However, almost always positions related to graphic design are filled by people who have great communication and collaboration skills. Often, graphic design related roles are part of a greater collective design to accomplish a goal. Even for freelance designers these soft skills are critical for working with clients. Though it is not a requirement, graphic designers should be able to thinking critically to find solutions and adapt quickly to changing circumstances. New information, new client desires and changing trends will test a designer’s adaptability in the work place.