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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
  • Iconog­ra­phy
  • Mobile appli­ca­tions
  • Motion graph­ics
  • Print media
  • Typog­ra­phy
  • 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
  • Pho­tog­ra­ph­er
  • 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.

Relat­ed Rankings:

25 Best Bach­e­lor’s in Graph­ic Design

15 Best Online Bach­e­lor’s in Graph­ic Design

10 Fastest Online Bach­e­lor’s in Graph­ic Design

10 Most Afford­able Online Bach­e­lor’s in Graph­ic Design