Graphic Design Degrees

You've filled notebooks with sketches and illustrations, and now you would like to explore the digital realm. A degree in graphic design will give you the skills you need in digital imaging, photography, and illustration to communicate your ideas creatively. Graphic designers are creative, organized, and computer-savvy individuals who combine their skills in art, marketing, and technology. As a graphic design major, you will work with a range of art mediums and art creation tools, designing logos, illustrations, cartoons, and advertisements.

Students learn the basics of good design, including typography and color. Graphic designers must synthesize the input of several sources into a distinctive image. They also build an understanding of the corporate world, working closely with clients to understand their needs as well as budget restrictions. As a graphic design major, the skills you garner can serve in print and multimedia platforms alike.

Classes and Assignments of a Graphic Design Major

Graphic design students will take a number of project-based classes that allow them to gain practical experience. They may try their hands at various projects, such as creating corporate logos and websites. Classes may cover topics that include design techniques, the practical use of design software, and even the history of graphic design. Assignments may include creating design proposals, branding campaigns, and designing layouts for publications. Students work on real-world deadlines that simulate a professional design environment.

Degree Levels for a Graphic Design Major

  • Associate. Online associate graphic design degrees will provide a solid foundation in techniques such as color theory, corporate branding, logos, symbols, typography, and the psychology of different design aesthetics. While an associate degree does allow students to begin building a portfolio, graduates of associate degree programs may only qualify to work as assistants to graphic designers or for positions that require technical skills only. Online degrees in graphic design at the associate level are widely available, and these opportunities let working professionals strengthen their skill set, as Web and multimedia become increasingly prominent in fields such as journalism. They also pave the way for online bachelors graphic design degrees, which in turn can lead to online masters graphic design degrees.
  • Bachelor's. The majority of graphic designers hold a bachelor's degree, as it is often required for entry-level positions. Students may need to complete one year of basic art and design courses before they receive formal entry into a bachelor's degree program in graphic design. Graphic design majors will further explore Web design, product development, or advertising.
  • Master's. A Master of Fine Arts (MFA) program in graphic design usually lasts two years. Since no doctorates are offered in the field, graduates with this degree may teach at the university level. A qualified applicant must have a strong portfolio of their designs. At the end of their second year, students usually present a master's thesis, which varies greatly when compared with the traditional academic thesis. While most other master's theses present new research on a topic within a certain field of study, the graphic design thesis is a selection of creative projects that demonstrate the student's development as a graphic designer.

A Future as a Graphic Design Major

Many students who receive a degree – of any level – in graphic design will pursue the field post-graduation. Graphic design graduates may also choose careers in magazine, multimedia, and Web design. The graphic artists who do leave the field do so because of the lifestyle it entails. Freelance designers must consistently pursue new opportunities, work as salespeople to pitch their ideas, and juggle deadlines, all facets that may eventually wear them out. In May 2008, the median annual wages for graphic designers were $42,400, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, keep in mind that your salary may vary depending on your employer, experience, and location. In addition, employment is expected to grow about as fast as the average, with many new jobs in interactive media.