How to Become a Graphic Designer: Communicating Visually

How to Become a Graphic Designer: Communicating Visually

Becoming a graphic designer offers people who are interested in the arts, communication, consumer behavior, computer technology, and advertising a cross-disciplinary career, which rewards creativity and independence. In our increasingly visual culture, graphic design is everywhere, from information kiosks to concert posters, websites to billboards, fashion to skateboard decks, if it needs to communicate to the eye, it needs a graphic designer.

Because graphic design is so involved in so many aspects of our culture, it offers potential students with wide-ranging interests a chance to be involved with almost any kind of enterprise, and many career colleges and traditional universities offer excellent graphic design programs. Graphic design study develops a definite series of techniques and marketable skills to be used in future career pursuits.

Graphic Designer Education Degree Requirements

A four-year bachelor’s degree in graphic design, web design, the fine arts, animation or media and communication studies is required for most entry-level positions. A typical graphic design curriculum will include exposure to studio art, computerized design, production, printmaking, and web design, but liberal arts subjects like writing, cultural studies, and psychology, as well as business topics like marketing, are all important to the graphic designer, as they enhance the ability to understand how information and emotions can be conveyed to the viewer.

Many two or three-year programs are available for students who have already completed a degree in a different area of study, but would like to master the technical material involved in graphic design or to qualify for an assistant’s position. In all, the National Association of Schools of Art and Design accredits about 300 postsecondary graphic design programs, so no matter where you live you are likely to have access to a quality program.

Becoming a Graphic Designer: Career Outlook

Because graphic design increasingly involves the heavy use of computer design programs like InDesign, DreamWeaver, Photoshop, and Illustrator, as well as various kinds of media including video and animation, continuing education and on-the-job training are important to maintaining an edge. Because a graphic designer’s output is the ultimate rubric for gauging his/her worth, maintaining an up-to-date portfolio will remain critical throughout your career


The flip side of the importance of technology in current graphic design is that the field offers increasing opportunities for freelance work, part-time employment, and running your own small design business—features which are especially appealing to jobseekers with a creative and independent spirit. Graphic designers can often work from home, in a relaxed studio environment or opt for more structured corporate work.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the projected growth rate for graphic design positions is about average at 13%. Graphic designers with website design and animation experience will have the best opportunities. Median incomes for graphic designers come in at about $42,000 a year, while advanced positions like creative heads at design firms or partnerships in small independent design houses top out at about $95,000. After starting your career as a graphic designer, you might want to pursue an MBA degree in order to gain exposure to entrepreneurial functions and management opportunities within graphic design. If you want to learn more about how to become a graphic designer, explore the graphic design schools featured on our site.