When choosing a degree in graphic designer, one of the biggest concerns is if the individual should get a bachelor’s or a master’s degree in graphic design. While the bachelor’s degree is generally the norm for this career, many choose to go the extra mile and pursue a master’s degree for various reasons. Master’s degree programs teach students advanced graphic design skills and prepare them for leadership positions. What is the difference and is it worth it to earn the master’s degree? Here are some facts.
What Graphic Designers Do
The creative work of graphic designs can be seen in all areas of our lives, whether we’re looking at billboards on the highway, browsing websites, looking through magazines or even watching our favorite action-packed movie. Graphic designers create illustrations, logos, graphics or other visual concepts to promote a product or an idea. They do many of their drawings by hand but more often use software products, such as Photoshop, Adobe Creative Cloud or similar Adobe art programs.
Graphic designers may work as part of a team or may be self-employed. Graphic design students complete courses in computerized design, website design, marketing, business, printing techniques, commercial graphics production, 3D design, and principles of design. Before completion of the degree requirements, the student will complete a portfolio of their work. The portfolio is usually a requirement for employment because this demonstrates the designer’s skills, creativity and knowledge to potential employers.
What the Bachelor’s Degree Offers
Occasionally, graphic designers are hired with an associate’s degree if they have relevant work experience, but a bachelor’s degree provides a more balanced education. When choosing a bachelor’s degree, students can choose between a Bachelor of Science (BS), Bachelor of Arts (BA) or Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA). The BS degree provides students with the skills to seek employment as graphic designers right after graduation. The BA provides training in:
- Computer graphics
- Graphic art and design
- Business-oriented writing
- Graphic design software like Photoshop, InDesign
- After Effects
The BFA provides training in:
- Publication design
- 2D and 3D design
- Page layout principles
- Digital photography
- Visual hierarchy
- Image manipulation software
The BA and the BFA prepare students to work as graphic designers but can also act as stepping-stones towards a master’s degree. When considering all the student learns in a bachelor’s degree program, many wonder how much more they’d learn in a graduate program. Choosing the degree level usually requires the student to know what they want to do in their career as a graphic designer and what their limitations might be.
What the Master’s Degree Offers
A graphic designer who aspires to work in management may choose a master’s degree in graphic design. While the bachelor’s degree program teaches students various areas of graphic designs, the master’s degree program takes the student beyond just being proficient in design software and 3D graphics. Graduates of the master’s degree program will typically have the technical skills to apply for senior-level positions.
It also teaches students the histories, practices and theories of design with a special focus on visual reach, design fundamentals and working across different media. They also become skillful in the following areas.
- Visual research
- Social media
- Creative strategy
- Contemporary design practices
- Design fundamentals
- Digital and traditional marketing communications
Simply put, the master’s degree program teaches students many things that are not covered in the undergraduate program. Graduates of the master’s degree program may also qualify for teaching positions at colleges and universities.
Career Outlook for Master’s Degree – Is it Better?
Graphic designers nationwide are expected to see an employment growth of three percent between 2018 and 2028 as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Job growth can vary based on the industry in which the graphic designer is working. For instance, graphic designers working with computer systems designs can see a 24 percent increase in jobs, while those working with hard copy newspapers, magazines and publications can expect a decline of 22 percent during that same period.
Graphic designers with a bachelor’s degree should see some excellent job opportunities. College professors, a career that is available to graphic designers with a master’s degree, are expected to see job growth of 11 percent. The annual median wage for graphic designers in 2018 was $78,470. The potential to earn a higher wage could be there for those with a master’s degree.
Earning a master’s rather than a bachelor’s degree in graphic design can bring higher wages and more job opportunities. However, the choice to get a master’s degree in graphic design will typically fall back on the individual’s career goals and if he or she feels the benefits of an advanced degree is worth it.