Associate’s Degree in Graphic Design
An associate’s degree in graphic design is a 2 year undergraduate program that gives students a strong foundation in the profession. Associate’s programs are offered by technical schools, community colleges, universities and more. A high school diploma or the equivalent is required to apply.
One thing to check – if you are considering using this as a stepping stone to a bachelor’s degree, make sure your credits will be transferable to your chosen 4-year program.
- Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in Graphic Design: Often aimed at students who wish to go straight into the workforce upon graduation.
- Associate of Fine Arts (AFA) in Graphic Design: Combines studio courses in art and design with liberal arts courses.
- Associate of Arts (AA) in Graphic Design: Curriculum includes humanities courses.
- Associate of Science (AS) in Graphic Design: Curriculum includes science and math courses.
The AFA, AS and AA are common choices for students who are working towards a bachelor’s degree. You’ll also find plenty of career-based degree programs that focus on a particular skillset (e.g. web design, interactive design, etc.)
In addition to general education courses, the curriculum will typically tackle the theory and practice of design. Sample courses might include color theory, illustration and computer graphics.
Your job prospects will live and die on the quality of your professional portfolio, so be sure the school is going to help you create one. In addition, look for courses that cover technical skills and industry tools, such as Adobe Creative Suite.
It can be tough to get a conventional entry-level job with an associate’s qualification, but you may be able to find work as a graphic design assistant or freelance designer. If you have outstanding portfolio examples, there’s nothing to stop you from offering your services as an independent contractor.
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Bachelor’s Degree in Graphic Design
A bachelor’s degree in graphic design is a 4 year undergraduate program that provides comprehensive training in all aspects of graphic design and art. A high school diploma or the equivalent is required to apply. Depending on the program, you may also be asked to submit a high school art portfolio.
This is the baseline qualification for most jobs in the field. To improve your chances of employment, look for programs with internships/job training and great faculty currently working in the field.
- Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in Graphic Design:Combines studio courses in art and design with liberal arts courses.
- Bachelor of Arts (AA) in Graphic Design: Curriculum includes humanities courses.
- Bachelor of Science (AS) in Graphic Design: Curriculum includes science and math courses.
You don’t have to have a bachelor’s degree in graphic design to become a graphic designer. Some graduates choose to pursue a related field (e.g. IT) that incorporates core courses on technology, art and design.
Your curriculum will depend on the type of degree you’re pursuing. A BFA will often include more studio work than a traditional BA or BS. However, almost all programs will tackle courses such as:
- Color theory
- Web design
- Print design
- 3D design
- Commercial graphics production
- Art history/theory
In addition to the standard curriculum, consider taking classes in business, marketing, writing and other useful skills. And be sure your program tackles popular software (e.g. Adobe Creative Suite) and computer programming languages.
Above all, concentrate on creating quality examples for your professional portfolio. You can garner these through classroom tasks, internships and volunteer work. Most students also use their senior year to work on a final portfolio project.
A great portfolio and a bachelor’s degree in graphic design will qualify you for entry-level positions in advertising agencies, design studios, web development groups and publishing firms. Or you may decide to start your own business. As we said in our introduction, the digital realm is where the demand will likely be in the future.
It is possible to go down the self-education route, but we don’t recommend it. A bachelor’s degree will reassure employers you know your stuff, increase your starting pay and make you eligible for more jobs. You may not get past the first round of applications without it.
Certificate in Graphic Design
A certificate in graphic design is a non-degree program that may take anywhere from a few months to a year to complete. Academic certificates typically fall into two categories (see below) and are often offered online.
You may wish to earn a certificate in order to explore a new career, develop your portfolio, strengthen an area of graphic design, improve your job prospects or earn course credits for a bachelor’s or master’s degree. If you’re interested in the last goal, be sure your credits will be transferable to your preferred degree program.
- Undergraduate Certificate:Available to holders of a high school diploma. Like the associate’s degree, these certificates are often an introduction to graphic design concepts and tools.
- Graduate/Post-Baccalaureate Certificate: Available to graduates with bachelor’s degree. These certificates may help working professionals explore the graphic design field or improve their existing capabilities.
Certificates vary widely in their focus. There are introductory certificates designed for students with no art training and professional certificates that focus on specific areas (e.g. Certificate in the Business of Design). Some programs will have prerequisites for skills (e.g. Adobe Creative, basics in web design, etc.). Check the program website for curriculum details.
Talk with your mentors and peers about your career goals. Although a certificate does not have the same reputation as a degree, it might make you eligible for leadership positions or expand your career options. Someone with a BS in IT, for example, may find that a certificate can help him/her break into the design world.
Master’s Degree in Graphic Design
A master’s degree in graphic is a 1-3 year graduate program that focuses on research and advanced skills in graphic design. A bachelor’s degree is required to apply. Most schools will expect to see your undergraduate or professional portfolio as part of your application.
Not all master’s programs are the same:
- An entry-level master’s is intended for those who hold a bachelor’s degree but don’t have a graphic design background.
- A more advanced master’s is targeted towards those who already hold a bachelor’s in graphic design or fine arts.
- Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Graphic Design – A professional degree focused on studio work, although it often includes liberal arts courses.
- Master of Arts (MA) in Graphic Design – Structured like a traditional liberal arts degree, but incorporating aspects of studio work.
Check with each program to see how much studio work is involved.
Classes in a master’s program tend to delve deep into design theory and practice. For example, along with advanced courses in interactive design, branding, illustration and art theory, you might tackle important issues affecting your work (e.g. sustainability).
Most schools offer concentrations (e.g. branding, digital design, etc.) and insist that students complete a capstone project or thesis. Throughout this process, you will be refining and adding work to your portfolio.
Graduates with a master’s degree in graphic design run their own design companies, work as art/creative directors or chief designers and/or teach graphic design at the university level. An MFA is still considered a terminal degree in the art world (i.e. the highest qualification needed), although DFA proponents are growing.
Whichever choice you make, we recommend attending a school with regional accreditation. This is a “seal of approval” granted to non-profit and public institutions by one of six regional accrediting bodies (e.g. New England Association of Schools and Colleges).
You can learn more about the difference between national accreditation, regional accreditation and diploma mills inAccreditation: Understanding the Difference Between Real Schools and Diploma Mills.
Benefits of Regional Accreditation
A degree with regional accreditation will make it much easier for you to:
- Transfer credits (many regionally accredited institutionswill not accept coursecredits from nationally accredited schools)
- Apply for student loans, scholarships, tuition reimbursement and funding opportunities
- Be accepted to regionally accreditedgraduate schools
- Look good in the eyes of headhunters and recruiters
Regional accreditation only applies to the institution. For graphic design programs, you can also look for program accreditation from NASAD.
The National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD) establishes national standards for undergraduate programs, graduate degrees and related credentials for schools of art and design. It has approximately 323 accredited institutional members.
There are plenty of good graphic design programs that aren’t NASAD-accredited. However, the NASAD symbol will tell you that the program meets a certain number of quality standards.
But if you’re looking for IT certification in hardware/software programs, you’ll be spoiled for choice. For example, some graphic designers choose to become an Adobe Certified Associate (ACA) or pursue CIW Web Design Certifications.
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1. Milton Glaser. Milton Glaser is the American graphic designer that has left his stamp in his home state of New York — literally.
1. Rhode Island School of Design.
Standard graphic design online degrees are designed for completion within four years. Accelerated options may span from three years to as little as 16 months. Students earning their graphic design online degree typically need to complete 120 credits.
Graphic design is a great career for people who are creative thinkers and enjoy art, technology, and communication. There are design needs across every industry, so Graphic Designers have many opportunities to take on a range of new and exciting projects.
Around 25% colleges offering Graphic Design courses in Indiaare expensive with a fee structure of more than Rs 5 lakh.
According to PayScale, the average salary for a graphic designer is $40,073 per year, with a reported salary range of $25,698 to $59,010. The highest paid graphic designers are in San Francisco, where the average yearly salary is $52,000 per year.
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What is the hardest art school to get into? Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is the hardest art and design school with the lowest acceptance rate in the world.
Is Graphic Design Hard to Learn? Learning graphic design is not hard, but it does require creative thinking, an aptitude towards art and design, and time and dedication. Graphic design requires learning the necessary tools, as well as understanding and applying the principles and theories of design.
Do You Need a Degree to Be a Graphic Designer? While some graphic designers certainly use a college degree to enter the creative field, it's not a requirement. Many companies hire entry level designers based solely on their portfolio and experience, rather than if they have a degree.
Is it hard to get a graphic design job? Yes, especially if you're a complete beginner. The competition can be very harsh, so you should never stop learning, practicing, and improving yourself.
Yes, you can grasp the basics of graphic design in 2 months, but it takes several years to master it. In fact, you'll learn that even decades later you can keep improving your skills.
Is a Graphic Design Degree Worth it? Yes, an online graphic design degree is worth it for many students. Common careers in the arts and design field include creative director, visual designer, senior art director, animator, and digital illustrator.
- Royal College of Art. ...
- Parsons School of Design (The New School) ...
- Rhode Island School of Design. ...
- Politecnico di Milano. ...
- University of the Arts London. ...
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology. ...
- Pratt Institute. ...
- Aalto University.
There is no surprise that USA has the best graphic designers. This is because it is the most technologically advanced country as far as computer companies go. Therefore, there is always huge demand for graphic designers in companies.
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- Copenhagen School of Design and Technology (KEA) ...
- Copenhagen Business Academy (Cphbusiness) ...
- Technical University of Denmark (DTU) ...
- IT University of Copenhagen.