You have plenty of potential career options with an associate’s degree in design studies – one of the fastest online associate’s degrees out there – but first you need to understand what to expect from different kinds of design studies degree programs. The National Association of Schools of Art And Design recognizes associate’s degree programs that are vocational in nature, preparing you for immediate professional practice in a design field, as well as those that are intended for transfer to a bachelor’s degree program and those with a liberal arts focus. Which type of degree program you choose affects your future career prospects. Some of the possible careers you could pursue with an associate’s degree in design studies – with or without further study or training – include fashion designer, graphic designer and interior designer.
If you have ever dreamed of designing clothes for the runway, a career as a fashion designer could be up your alley. Fashion designers observe trends, sketch their ideas for clothing and accessories, choose prints and fabrics, create samples of their designs and compile instructions on how to produce the clothing on a scale that allows for consumer sales, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported.
The BLS lists a bachelor’s degree as the education required for entry-level fashion designer roles, but an associate’s degree is actually the most common level of education for this career. Just 24 percent of fashion designers actually have that recommended bachelor’s degree, while 36 percent have an associate’s degree and 25 percent have completed some college coursework but have not earned a degree, according to O*NET.
Although the more general design studies major may not offer coursework specifically in topics like fabrics and textiles, as a more specialized fashion design program would, you can still gain a lot of relevant knowledge from this versatile program of study. For example, you will learn the use of computer-aided design, or CAD, technology and – perhaps most important of all – you will have the opportunity to develop a portfolio of your designs to share with prospective employers or with retailers.
Aspiring fashion designers may also benefit from using their elective credits to take some business courses. Nearly one in four fashion designers is self-employed and must handle the duties of entrepreneurship, and the top employing industry is apparel wholesalers.
Graphic designers develop visuals ranging from logos to design layouts that communicate messages and meanings. Advertisements, magazines, brochures, reports and other print publications all require the skills of a graphic designer, the BLS reported, as do logos, infographics and other images used for digital marketing. Skills in hand drawing and design using computer software are both essential for graphic designers, so many courses in a design studies curriculum, such as Beginning Drawing, Beginning Painting, Form and Structure, Three-Dimensional Design and CAD, are valuable.
Graphic designer is another arts and design occupation for which the BLS reports a bachelor’s degree as the required level of education. For this career, it’s true that the majority – 62 percent – of graphic designers report having a bachelor’s degree, O*NET reported. However, 15 percent of graphic designers reported having associate’s degrees and another 8 percent have a post-secondary certificate.
The greatest share of graphic designers is self-employed, accounting for 22 percent of the occupation – so, again, business coursework is valuable. Graphic designers also work with text, fonts and print layouts, so knowledge of print and publication industries can also help.
Interior designers develop the designs of all sorts of inside spaces, from private residences to commercial spaces such as office buildings, hotels, medical facilities and convention centers. Although you may think of interior design as being purely aesthetic, that’s not always the case. Interior designers also make sure the space is safe, functional and, often, sustainable.
A bachelor’s degree is even more prevalent in the field of interior design, with 86 percent of the occupation reporting a four-year degree and 5 percent going on to earn a post-baccalaureate certificate, O*NET reported. Just 10 percent of interior designers reported having an associate’s degree as their highest level of education. Your job prospects as an interior designer without a bachelor’s degree are somewhat limited, in part because some states require you to become licensed or registered to call yourself an “interior designer.” In addition to passing a professional exam like the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) test, you may need to possess a bachelor’s degree to be eligible for licensure and registration.
The largest employer of interior designers is the specialized design services industry, which makes up 28 percent of the occupation. Another 23 percent of interior designers are self-employed. Architectural and engineering services and furniture stores also employ interior designers.
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