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An individual with creative ideas and artistic abilities often wonders what degree would be best to earn to become a graphic designer. This is not an easily answered question because graphic design is offered at several degree levels, and each degree level offers graduates various career opportunities. Pinpointing career goals is the best way to determine what graphic designer degree would be best to earn. Here is some information graphic design degrees and options.

What Degrees Are Available?

Graphic design is a field that is offered through an associate’s degree, bachelor’s degree, master’s degree and even a doctoral degree. Each degree offers something a little different than the other degrees and yet are extensions of the previous degree level.

  • Associate – This degree is a two-year program that will prepare students for entry-level jobs as web developers, graphic artists, marketing managers, drafter and creative directors.
  • Bachelor’s – This four-year program prepares students for various graphic design careers as graphic artists, art director, creative director, film and video director, multimedia artists and marketing manager.
  • Master’s – This is a 2-year program available to candidates with a bachelor’s degree. Graduate of this degree are qualified for jobs as animator, creative director, art director, multimedia director, industrial product designer, engineering drafter, and senior graphic designer.
  • Doctoral – The doctoral degree in graphic design is the highest degree level possible. Graduates of this program can choose from any of the above jobs but often choose to work in research or teaching positions.

What’s the Best Degree?

Choosing a graphic design degree can be difficult for students who know they want careers in graphic design but are uncertain as to their exact career aspirations. With so many degree levels available, students may often have a difficult time choosing. While each degree level offers different levels of graphic design training, there is no such thing as the best degree.

College is not cheap. While a graduate degree may look impressive on a resume, why pay all that extra money on a degree you don’t need and may not use? However, the bachelor’s degree is the one most often chosen by aspiring graphic designers. This degree includes courses that cover various areas of graphic design. It also prepares students for most jobs. Applicants should choose the degree that best aligns with their career goals.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Graphic Design Degree

There are several factors students should consider when choosing their graphic design degree.

  • What does the degree offer? Upon graduating, will the student be able to find a job in his or her area of interest?
  • What is the cost of the program? Students typically pay per-credit tuition rates, so the higher the degree level, the more credits and money that will be required. Students often end up with student debt that takes them a year to pay off. Choosing a degree that’s higher than the individual needs is costing unnecessary expenses.
  • Does the degree align with career goals? Not all graphic design programs are created equal. Two programs may both be bachelor’s degree programs but may offer different courses. Make sure the program offers the courses needed for a specific career.
  • Does the program require portfolios? Although most graphic design programs require students to complete a portfolio of their designs and sketches, not all programs do. Portfolios are extremely important in the art world and are required by most employers.
  • Is time a factor? In some cases, a student may only be able to spend so many years in college without having to work or meet other obligations. If time is a factor, the student may want to pursue a lower degree or one that’s offered through online education.

Education Required

Regardless of the degree level chosen, graphic designers are typically required to have a bachelor’s degree in graphic design from a school accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design. The NASAD accredits more than 360 colleges that offer art and design programs.

Students in a graphic design program generally take courses in website design, principles of design, graphic design, printing techniques, writing and commercial art production. Some programs also require the students to complete a supervised internship. Towards the end of the program, the students will create a portfolio of their work. The portfolio is required not just by the program but also with potential employers.

Career Outlook

Graphic designers are always in demand in one industry or another. Because of the increasing use of the Internet for digital media, the job growth for graphic designers used for newspapers, books and magazines is expected to decline 22 percent during the 2018-2028 decade according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

While graphic designers overall should see a three percent job growth, graphic designers work with computer systems design and related services are predicted to see a 24 percent growth during that same time.

A BLS wage report from 2018 indicates that graphic designers earned from $28,560 to $83,140 annually with the average annual wage at $53,280. Factors such as degree level, experience, employer, type of graphic design and location can all play a role in determining wage potential. Here are five states where graphic designers earn the highest wages:

  • District of Columbia – $69,530
  • New York – $64,820
  • Massachusetts – 61,400
  • Connecticut – $60250
  • Virginia – $59,550

Individuals with a desire to work as graphic designers have the option of choosing not just graphic design as a major but also choosing an area of specialization. With so many degree levels available, an aspiring graphic designer can choose the level that best meets their career goals.

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