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What Can I Do With A Graphic Design Degree

By David Krug 10 minute read

Choose your own journey, whether it’s the enticing and sordid ad world of Mad Men, the workplace of a fashionable new health food product, or in the studio editing video footage from a drone.

As a result of the way we now consume media, design can be found almost anywhere! The cliché starving artist still rings true, but the good news is that there are more opportunities than ever before to make money from your creativity.

Twenty years ago, the internet was primarily text-based; today’s site visitors demand a slick and intuitive interface, captivating visual content, and carefully curated visual experiences.

Additionally, the growth of the World Wide Web has led to several new graphic design-related job titles, including user experience researcher and user interface designer.

If you’re fascinated by how the greatest designs work, how they were created (and how you can develop them yourself), you may be a good candidate for a career in graphic design.

The good news is that more academic options than ever before exist to assist you to get ready for this journey.

What exactly is a Graphic Design Degree?

A degree in graphic design is an applied degree program that draws from traditional courses in the fields of art, marketing, and computer science.

Courses in the following areas may be available depending on the student’s degree level:

  • Drawing
  • Advertising design
  • Computer graphics
  • 2-D and 3-D design
  • Typography
  • Visual communication
  • Branding
  • Web design
  • Videography
  • And others

Graduate students can specialize in a particular field of graphic design, such as:

  • Product design
  • Web design
  • User experience (UX)
  • User interface (UI)
  • Videography
  • Animation
  • And others

Exist several levels of graphic design degrees?

Graphic design degrees range from an associate’s to a doctoral degree. Self-study and Bootcamp programs, as well as a variety of certifications, are all accessible alternatives.

When it comes to earning a degree in graphic design, students have several options. They can enroll in 2- or 4-year universities or art conservatories.

To begin, associate’s degrees in graphic design are the most cost-effective method to get into the profession.

Free tuition is available to in-state or district residents of several metropolitan community college districts as well as entire states.

Graphic design associate degrees can be completed in 1.5 to 2.5 years the same as most other associate degrees.

In the beginning, students take general education courses to prepare them for college. Graduates of these courses are expected to be fluent in a wide variety of common arts and sciences, as well as proficient readers and writers, communicators, and quantitative thinkers.

Most colleges and universities need general education courses like:

  • 2 social science courses
  • Philosophy of Religion
  • English Composition and Literature
  • Mathematics
  • A Foreign Language
  • Natural Sciences

Graphic design classes will become more prevalent in students’ general education as they proceed toward graduation. 

The following are frequently taken courses at the associate’s degree level:

  • Introduction to Visual Communication
  • Introduction to Adobe Creative Cloud
  • Drawing
  • Typography
  • Color Theory
  • Graphic Design Fundamentals
  • Web Design Fundamentals

If you’re hoping to land a job in the graphic design industry, you’ll want to start working on your portfolio early on in your college career.

For students who desire a bachelor’s degree in graphic design, a number of colleges offer bachelor’s degrees in the field.

Bachelor’s degrees typically take four years to complete six years if taken part-time and a minimum of 120 credit hours are to be awarded upon successful completion of coursework.

Bachelor’s degree students begin their studies in the same way as those who have completed an associate’s degree. In reality, the same general education courses are often required for all majors.

Bachelor’s degrees often contain the following courses as part of the general education requirements:

  • Social Science
  • Philosophy of Religion
  • English Composition and Literature
  • Mathematics
  • A Foreign Language
  • Natural Sciences

Major courses begin once students have completed all of the general education prerequisites in order to graduate.

Among the advantages of earning a bachelor’s degree in graphics design over an associate’s degree is the availability of more optional courses and the opportunity to complete a thesis or capstone project.

Thesis and capstone work in creative fields such as graphic design may be excellent first additions to portfolios.

A bachelor’s degree in graphic design typically includes the following courses:

  • Language and Practice of Media Arts
  • Graphics and Layout in Print Media
  • Hierarchy and Form
  • Desktop Publishing
  • Basic Design and Color Theory
  • Introduction to Digital Imaging
  • Digital Graphic Design for the Web
  • Digital Photography
  • Typography
  • Advanced Digital Graphic Design for Web
  • Advanced Digital Imaging
  • Graphic Design Portfolio

A Bachelor of fine arts in graphic design and a bachelor of arts in graphic design are the two most common bachelor’s degree options in the field of graphic design.

A bachelor’s degree in fine arts (BFA) is a professional degree, while a bachelor of arts degree is a more typical undergraduate degree.

To put it another way, bachelor’s degrees in the visual arts devote a lot more time to hands-on experience with cutting-edge graphic design software.

In contrast, bachelor of arts degrees needs a greater number of college-level courses in general education. 

Reading comprehension, communication, writing, and mathematics are some of the core university-level abilities that students work on for longer periods of time in college.

Graphic design master’s degrees fall into one of three categories at the graduate level. 

Included in these three-degree kinds are:

  • Graphic Design Master’s degree
  • Graphic Design MFA and MFA in Professional Graphic Design Studies

At the master’s level, students are expected to devote more time to practical work and less time to academic study, much like at the bachelor’s level.

As professional degrees, both a Master’s in Fine Arts (MFA) and a Masters in Professional Studies (MPS) sometimes involve original research and a thesis similar to the master of arts degree.

Nearly any degree may be utilized to further one’s education in the field of visual communication design. It’s not only the name of the degree that matters when it comes to making a decision.

Following are examples of classes offered in all three master’s programs:

  • Guided studio experiences
  • History of Graphic Design
  • Advanced Typography
  • UI/UX Theory
  • Multiple Advanced Graphic Design Topics
  • 4-6 electives
  • Thesis Preparation

Art conservatories providing master’s degree programs may host competitions and exhibit student work on a regular basis as well.

What are the Alternatives to a Graphic Design Degree?

If you’re looking for a degree that focuses on a specific facet of graphic design, there are a few options. A graphic designer’s career can also be pursued without a college degree. Listed below are some of these alternatives.

Some of the technology and techniques taught in graphic design programs overlap with those taught in visual arts degrees.

The primary distinction is that degrees in visual art do not place as much emphasis on preparing students for careers in the arts.

Graphic design, in contrast to degrees in the visual arts, focuses on the production of the design in support of corporate goals and playing a role in the economy. Is it possible to work as a graphic designer after earning an art degree?

If you have a bachelor’s degree in art, can you go into the field of graphic design? Computer science bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral schools commonly offer specializations in user interface and user experience.

For those who prefer the science of design to the art of design, these schools might be wonderful for the career of your dreams.

Teaching yourself is a third way to learn graphic design. If you want to get your foot in the door, you may have a more difficult time with this method.

The degree isn’t always the most important factor when it comes to being a successful graphic designer. While you may lose out on some of the formal design theory lessons given by institutions, many of the tools used in current graphic design are entirely self-taught.

Certificates are a fourth possibility for graphic design education. Certificates are available at both the undergraduate and graduate levels and normally need 3-5 courses to complete.

In graphic design terms, a certificate is an abbreviated version of an undergraduate degree without any of the general education prerequisites. 

To become a graphic designer, you may be able to use your degree in another discipline as a bridge into the industry.

However, having a university degree in any field might aid with work opportunities, which is a drawback. You should think about it if you want to get a certificate but don’t already have a bachelor’s degree.

Another option for graphic design education is to attend a Bootcamp. Bootcamps are intensive, fast-paced professional training sessions that skip the fluff.

Rather than focusing on academic knowledge, boot camps are frequently run by business leaders and emphasize professional skills.

Several students have had remarkable success with boot camps. However, much as with credentials, attending a Bootcamp without having a degree may put you at a disadvantage with some jobs.

How can I gain admission to a degree program in graphic design?

Do Online Graphic Design Degrees Exist?

Many graphic design applications are available online, so the quick answer is yes. And for future designers who will mostly work with computers, there is no better way to learn than via hands-on experience.

Because many graphic design degree programs provide considerable studio time, this may not be the best option for everyone.

As in the visual arts, studios may be excellent places for group collaboration and access to high-end equipment as well as mentoring. It’s also worth noting that online programs may be a lot more convenient and cost-effective. 

Even if online degrees aren’t for everyone, here are some terms you should be familiar with if you’re considering one:

  • Asynchronous vs. Synchronous Online Learning. As the name suggests, these courses are all about time. It’s possible to participate in a virtual classroom in real-time with your teacher and fellow students if you take a synchronous course. In a “live” way, you communicate with each other. It’s like a typical university course, except you can take it from the comfort of your own home. You can log in whenever you want in asynchronous classes. There will still be deadlines for your educational work. However, the lectures will be taped and available. You’ll also communicate via forums, chatrooms, email, and planned appointments.
  • A Comparison of Fully Online and Hybrid Degree Programs. If you’re looking for a completely online degree, it’s probably not as common as you think. You don’t have to step foot on campus at all in these degree programs. Neither for orientation nor for the end of the term. There is no guarantee that a program will be completely online if it doesn’t declare totally or “100%” on its website. Many hybrid degrees, on the other hand, are nearly as flexible as online degrees. Some of the course activities must be completed in person in order to be considered a hybrid. Even so, this might signify a variety of things. You may have to attend weekly courses in-person in certain hybrid programs, while others only meet a few times a year.

What Am I Able to Do With a Degree in Graphic Design?

Finally, the question is worth a million dollars well, after a few years. What can you accomplish with a degree in graphic design?

While you may utilize a degree in graphic design for many non-graphic design occupations, let’s suppose you’re getting a degree in the area because you enjoy it.

These are some of the most popular occupations that a degree in graphic design may lead to:

  • Graphic Designer
  • Multimedia Artist And Animator
  • Art Director
  • Creative Director
  • Photographer
  • And UX/UI Researcher

Among people with a degree in graphic design, a graphic designer is by far the most prevalent work title. A professional creative team or a pool of in-house graphic designers is available to most businesses of any size.

Due to the rapid growth of internet media, there are now over 300,000 graphic designers working in the United States alone.

Graphic designers might be self-employed, employed by creative industries, or employed by non-media groups to carry out all aspects of graphic design.

Graphic designers’ typical responsibilities include:

  • Create graphics for use in both online and print media sources.
  • Assist clients with the creation of branding guidelines and overall visual direction.
  • Invite customers to your office and help them visualize their ideas
  • Establish the scope of each graphic design project with the help of other creative team members.
  • Keep up with the latest design trends and more

The national average compensation for graphic designers is around $50,000. Despite the huge demand for freelance designers, designers in more established businesses and those working in online media may make far more money than independent designers.

Multimedia artist and animator is a significantly more specialized occupation. High-end and specialized work is often produced by these designers that incorporate visual fine art with design.

Despite the fact that multimedia artists work on many of the same projects as graphic designers, they frequently have a more in-depth understanding of a different art form often animation.

Working at a creative agency, as an independent contractor, for film production firms, or in the video game industry is not uncommon for multimedia artists and animators

Included in the typical responsibilities are:

  • Create deliverables based on their expertise, such as 3D animation, cartoons, or video editing effects.
  • Work with customers to determine the scope of the projects.
  • Able to work well in groups to produce massive multimedia projects
  • Up-to-date with modern design approaches as well as tools
  • Assist clients with their creative visions.
  • And there’s more to come!

Salary is greatly dependent on the duties of multimedia artists and animators. Many specializations fall under the $63,000 mark on average.

These two titles are sometimes used interchangeably, and they include a wide range of activities in anything from web media to film production to museum exhibits.

It’s not uncommon for seasoned designers or creative directors to have the administrative acumen and the ability to traverse the peculiar economics that surrounds the creative sector.

The role of art and creative directors can be categorized as either marketing or creative leadership.

As a creative director, you may be expected to perform the following:

  • Initiate, oversee, and complete all stages of the creative process.
  • Implementable design tasks are derived from business and marketing objectives.
  • Develop and implement marketing deliverables as a whole to supervise sales presentations to customers or other departments
  • Involve your team members in professional development opportunities.
  • Make other top executives aware of the value of design and branding.
  • Budgeting, payroll, and hiring/firing choices all need to be considered.

In spite of the fact that the highest-paid art and creative directors such as Disney’s creative director may earn far more than what we show below, the current average income for these professionals is $120,049.

Salaries may vary according to the size of the market and the importance of creative assets to the aims of a business.

David Krug

Author