Graphic design is one of those disciplines that scale in an almost infinite number of ways. There are several avenues into the graphic design field, and not all of them involve school, certifications, or a degree. Of course, with that said, many may wonder is a graphic design degree worth it or what’s the value of an online certificate program in graphic design. The value of a bachelor’s degree in graphic design is well worth considering.
What Makes a Graphic Design Degree Worth Considering?
So, is a graphic design degree worth it? The answer is yes. A graphic design degree offers certain benefits that someone can’t receive in any other way. For example, a self-taught graphic design artist may never find themselves exposed to certain ideas or techniques that can help them expand their capabilities and expertise unless they take a graphic design course.
While pursuing their degree, the student can broaden their horizons, learn new skills, find hidden talents, or develop fresh ideas they wouldn’t have ever considered previously. This is one of the great gifts of education, and for graphic design students, that gift can keep on giving.
In addition, there’s a graphic design industry that comes with standards, expectations, and ways of doing things that employers will expect those they hire to know. Graphic designers pick up those necessary skills while pursuing their degrees.
A degree in graphic design can also help someone to stand out from the crowd. Even if the student works mainly as a freelancer, the fact the student holds a degree does help their chances to attract clients. If the student wants to work with a full-time employer, then they should consider a degree as an essential or bare minimum.
Many, many more benefits besides these come with a degree, but the person who wonders is a graphic design degree worth it will also have to investigate the programs themselves to see how a degree can bring them closer to their own personal and professional goals.
The value of an online certificate program in graphic design also comes with benefits for those who want to pursue a graphic design career. In the field of graphic design, there are many standard tools and methodologies that professionals make use of. Certification with those tools or certification as proof of some training can help a graphic designer achieve more than they could without one or more certifications.
Graphic design is an extraordinarily broad field. Graphic design careers exist at every conceivable level and stretch across the entirety of the creative spectrum. There is always something new to learn or try, so there’s no limit to the potential inherent in the field. Pursuing a degree or certification can only serve to give the student more tools to work with, more contacts to leverage, and more opportunities going forward.
What Are the Best Schools for Earning a Graphic Design Degree?
Education is typically what separates the designers from those who are good at making nice images. This is the thing employers look for as well as discerning clients. Graphic design requires education in design principles that take advantage of visual communication. A graphic designer needs to learn to get a point across and do it within the confines of an established aesthetic or within the parameters set by their employer.
To learn all these necessary skills and more, an applicant doesn’t necessarily have to go to the best graphic design schools in the world. After all, graphic design involves quite a few subjective elements, so the best graphic design schools in the world according to one opinion aren’t the best graphic design schools in the world to another.
However, when it comes to higher education, the way to find the best school for the applicant is to start with the accreditation status of the schools or programs they’re considering. Just as with any other type of degree program, graphic design accreditation can help a great deal in ascertaining whether programs or colleges that offer graphic design majors adhere to standards and practices designed to deliver an excellent education. That’s what accreditation is, and that’s why applicants need to take it seriously.
Colleges that offer graphic design majors should have regional accreditation from their region’s official accrediting body. These regional accrediting bodies have the recognition of the US Dept. of Education and offer the most popular and recognized form of educational accreditation in the country.
The accrediting organization for each region conducts quality checks and reviews of colleges and universities that voluntarily submit their facilities and programs to them. The regional organizations set standards and ensure the institutions with their stamp of approval maintain those standards. Since regional accreditation is the most widely known and used, it can represent a bare minimum qualification for an applicant looking for accredited graphic design schools.
Still, regional accreditation is only one aspect of graphic design accreditation. Regional accrediting bodies tend to only cover the institutions and their overall educational standards. Individual programs within that college or university can still receive specialized accreditation. Specialized or programmatic accreditation typically comes from an organization that consists of businesses, professionals, educators, and others within a specific industry. In some cases, that specialized accreditation alone is enough for an applicant to consider a degree or certification program as one they should attend.
For graphic design accreditation, the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD) holds the distinction as the most recognized accrediting body for graphic design accreditation in the country. NASAD accreditation means those colleges that offer graphic design majors and other graphic design programs meet the stringent criteria set by the NASAD accreditation standards. If an applicant can find a school or program with both regional, and NASAD accreditation, then that school should go to the top of their list of considerations.
What Are the Different Types of Graphic Design Degrees?
A graphic design major will have to choose just what type of graphic design they want to receive when they graduate. Graphic design is a large field of study. Once a student gets beyond the basics of design and their early graphic design degree courses, they will likely want to choose a specialization. Graphic design concentrations can vary widely, and the graphic designer education requirements set by the school or program can sometimes dictate which options are available to a student.
Another consideration for graphic design degree courses is whether the student wants:
- BFA in Graphic Design
- BS in Graphic Design
- BA in Graphic Design
While these degree types may seem somewhat interchangeable, they do affect the graphic designer education requirements and the overall graphic design major as well.
BFA in Graphic Design is a Bachelor of Fine Arts. This is a professional degree type and is typically more closely associated with the graphic design industry.
BA in Graphic design is a Bachelor of Arts. This is an academic degree and comes with more general education courses.
For many people, the question of the BA vs BFA in Graphic Design will probably come up most often. A BFA in Graphic Design has graphic design major requirements that focus more on visual arts, with the remaining graphic design degree courses consisting of liberal arts. The BA, by contrast, has a larger focus on liberal arts, and visual arts take up the rest of the graphic design degree courses.
BS in Graphic Design is a Bachelor of Science. This degree type is also a consideration as a graphic design major. The graphic design major requirements and courses for a BS in graphic design will have more coursework concerned with technical design aspects.
Choosing the right graphic design major has everything to do with the applicant having a good idea as to what part of the graphic design field they want to work in. Graphic design covers so many areas and disciplines, it can seem a little daunting to figure out which vertical in the field will work best. Nevertheless, applicants should give it some real consideration before choosing the graphic design major that’s right for their goals.
This all speaks to a large number of specializations available in graphic design as well. Some specializations can include:
- Digital illustration
- Mobile applications
- Motion graphics
- Print media
- Web and interactive design
These barely scratch the surface of what types of specializations are available. Graphic designers are very likely to find jobs in game design, for instance. Applicants should choose their path wisely when considering which direction they want to take their graphic design careers in.
What Are the Differences Between Online and Campus-Based Graphic Design Degree Programs?
One important thing applicants need to understand, especially when they’re asking “where are the graphic design schools near me,” is that they can also attend any of the numerous graphic design schools online. In some cases, the answer to “where are the graphic design schools near me,” is that online graphic design degree programs are the closest possible option.
Understand that graphic design schools online require applicants to do just as much research and show just as much when choosing as they would with any other school. Graphic design schools online still require accreditation, and they still require applicants to go through the same courses they would if they were at a campus-based university.
That part about accreditation is one of the most important aspects when it comes to online graphic design degree programs. These programs will likely have programmatic accreditation. Nevertheless, the NASAD accredits these programs as well, so applicants can look for their name when choosing.
Regional accreditation can still play a role if a regionally accredited college or university allows students to study graphic design online. In some cases, the school may have a fully online program.
The school may also let someone study graphic design online to help them achieve an online graphic design associate degree or to satisfy some course requirements. Applicants may also find options such as an online graphic design associate degree offered as online accelerated graphic design degrees to help fast track the student towards getting started on their bachelor’s degree work.
When applicants start asking:
- Where’s the best design schools near me?
- How can I find graphic design colleges near me?
- Where’s the best place to earn a graphic design degree near me?
They can find that instead of looking for a school close to them, they can instead look for an accredited online graphic design program that can accommodate all their needs. Applicants should also consider the fact that online degree choice can offer options that campus-based programs simply can’t.
Online accelerated graphic design degree programs exist, and so do programs that can allow someone to earn their degree at a slower pace. This can become an important part of the decision-making process, especially for people who already have full-time jobs or obligations at home that won’t allow them to attend the scheduled campus courses.
Does Graphic Design Work Require Certifications or Licenses?
Since the nature of graphic design work can vary widely, there are some situations where certification can become necessary. Nevertheless, certification isn’t always necessary as it will all depend on what the graphic designer plans to do. As with most situations, certifications are often good to have no matter what.
Online graphic design courses with certificates can help applicants gain expertise and proof of that expertise which will look good to employers and potential clients. When looking for graphic design certification programs specifically, it can help to narrow the choices down to the things the applicant wants to show proof they’re good at or proof that they can handle certain applications or duties.
Online graphic design courses with certificates are plentiful because there are numerous tools and techniques available to graphic designers. Graphic design certification programs can also help when someone wants to switch disciplines or try something different. As there are various types of graphic design, online graphic design certificate programs can often help when someone wants to transition from doing one type of job into a completely different type of graphic design job.
What about all the advertised free options? Can someone find an online graphic design degree free? Are there any free graphic design courses? Online graphic design certificate programs can come at a cost, but there are free options. Free graphic design courses can work well for someone new who would like a program that caters to learning graphic design for beginners.
Graphic design short courses online and other free graphic design courses can help someone develop a basic skill set and understanding of graphic design. Learning graphic design for beginners can also help someone earn a certificate they can display which shows they at least know what they’re talking about. So, do you need a degree to be a graphic designer? Not necessarily. But applicants who are serious about graphic design should pursue one.
Can online graphic design certificate programs replace a graphic design degree? Some may wonder how to become a graphic designer without a degree. Do you need a degree to be a graphic designer? In truth, a degree isn’t necessary to start in the graphic design field, and neither is a certificate. However, having education and credentials is how someone can get ahead in the field.
There are ways to learn how to become a graphic designer without a degree, but in a field that includes people with various years of experience, degrees, and expertise, applicants need to give themselves the best chance to succeed. Even with that understanding, some may wonder at the graphic design certificate vs degree question.
When considering a graphic design certificate vs degree, it’s best to consider what clients or employers will give the most value to. For example, a freelance graphic design artist with certification using a specific tool may appeal more to a client looking for someone who knows how to design using that specific tool. Whereas an employer may want someone with knowledge concerning graphic design in an academic capacity or someone who can handle job duties that their degree has prepared them for.
What Are the Different Types of Careers in Graphic Design?
Graphic design fits into numerous career types. The need for graphic design spans every conceivable field. If there’s a need for visual communication, and there always is, then there’s likely a graphic design career path associated with that need.
Some examples of the different types of graphic design careers can include:
- Brand and logo design
- Mobile design
- Multimedia artist
- Packaging design
- Print design
- Web design
This is only a tiny list of the potential graphic design careers available. Even within this list, applicants can probably tell there are several levels of subcategories for each career field. Each one may ask for a graphic designer but will have a very different graphic designer job description.
Some career types can require a specific type of graphic design expertise. For this reason, it’s a good idea to look into graphic design internships. Graphic design internships can help a student or graduate learn the ropes and gain firsthand knowledge concerning a graphic design job.
Different types of graphic design careers will come with different types of graphic designer qualifications and graphic designer requirement skills. Because of this, it’s important to pay attention to any graphic designer job description. A lot of different types of work get lumped into the graphic designer category, so not every graphic designer job description will look the same. This is another time when graphic design internships can come in handy. Because even two jobs of the same type can have wildly different graphic designer qualifications or graphic designer requirements skills.
People who enter the graphic design field will certainly come across freelance options as well. What is a freelance graphic designer? These are people who find clients on their own, start their own graphic design business, or work through freelance graphic designer websites. The appeal here is that someone can create their niche or work for themselves. This is a common practice for many in graphic design.
Freelance graphic designer websites are plentiful and there seems to be a never-ending need for graphic design professionals. But, when asking what is a freelance graphic designer, it’s also important to note that even when freelancing, there are different niches and avenues of graphic design someone can make use of. The people looking for digital artwork aren’t the same as the people looking for logo designs.
In all cases, the graphic design major can lead down any of several career paths. When seeking graphic design major jobs, it’s important to look at the job descriptions closely. While any job can claim to be graphic design major jobs, the job descriptions may ask for skills or experience that show it’s really for a specific type of graphic designer. For example, it’s possible to find a:
- Senior graphic designer job description
- In house graphic designer job description
- Junior graphic designer job description
- Digital graphic designer job description
Many other descriptions might show up. The applicant will have to match their skill set to the description. The job description should also clue the applicant into the type of job offered. Advertising graphic design or graphic design in marketing can represent an in-house graphic design designer description. A senior graphic designer job description can mean practically any type of graphic design job but with the caveat that the applicant has some years of experience as a graphic designer.
For those wondering where do graphic designers work, the answer is practically anywhere. Graphic design in marketing work can take place at an office or the designer’s own home. Advertising graphic design work can occur in a team environment or a location far from where the eventual work will go live. For these reasons and more, it’s important to pay attention to the graphic designer job description and salary information. The salary is also a clue as to the nature of the job. A digital graphic designer salary can change depending on the nature of the job.
What Kind of Salary Can Graphic Designers Earn?
Graphic designer job salary can vary widely depending on several factors. The typical factors, such as location, industry, skill level, and demand can play a large role in graphic designer job salary. Other factors, such as the job description, niche, job title, and many other things can change salaries as well. For graphic design degree salary, there are a few benchmarks. According to glassdoor, average graphic designer salaries are around $45.7k. However, certain titles can bring higher or lower averages. A motion graphics designer has a $60k average. For freelancers and contractors, the average can vary extensively.
Are There Any Professional Organizations for Graphic Designers?
Many graphic design associations exist. Graphic design associations that are based around a specific aspect or niche of graphic design are also plentiful. Everyone in the field from students, to freelancers, to gainfully employed graphic designers should consider joining one or more professional graphic design organizations.
Graphic design organizations offer yet another credential to display. And, joining graphic design membership organizations comes with the kind of benefits that can only come from dedicated organizations for graphic designers. Those benefits include fresh job market information and trends, education credits, first pick at opportunities, seminars, and continuing education services.
Maybe most importantly a national graphic design association can come with networking opportunities, which is incredibly important in any profession. For a graphic design association USA professionals don’t have to stay national. They can also join any of the international professional graphic design organizations as well.
Some of the more well-known graphic design organizations include:
- American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA)
- Association of Registered Graphic Designers (RGD)
- International Color Consortium
- Society for Experiential Graphic Design (SEGD)
- Society for News Design
- Society of Illustrators
Many more organizations exist at the international, national, state, and local levels.
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