How to Become a Computer Graphic Artist: Education and Career Roadmap

Find out how to become a computer graphic artist. Research the education and training requirements and learn about the experience you need to advance your career in computer graphic arts.

Should I Become a Computer Graphic Artist?

Computer graphic artists use computer technology to create illustrations, logos and graphics that communicate specific messages to a designated audience. These visual messages are used in websites, advertisements, video games, mobile applications, magazines, brochures and many other digital and print materials. Many graphic designers and artists are self-employed and seek freelance jobs. Obtaining assignments may be competitive, and these artists often work weekends and evenings to meet their clients' needs.

Career Requirements

Degree Level A bachelor's degree is commonly required
Degree Fields Graphic design, visual arts or another relevant major
Experience Up to four years of graphic design experience are required
Key Skills Artistic ability and creativity for developing designs, good communication skills for and time management, proficiency with computer-aided design software and website development software as well as Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and After Effects
Additional Requirements A professional portfolio showing artistry and proficiency in the required technology, visual color discrimination
Salary (2014) $45,900 per year (Median salary for all graphic designers)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, O*Net OnLine, job postings (July 2012).

Step 1: Obtain a Graphic Arts Degree

A bachelor's degree in graphic design is generally required, though a degree in visual arts or another major with a focus on digital design may also be acceptable. A 4-year graphic design degree program trains students in the technology used in the industry as well as graphic design concepts and theory. Courses may include typography, illustration, graphics and electronic media, along with design studio and workshop classes.

Success Tips:

  • Complete an internship. Experience in graphic design is favored in this field, and future computer graphic artists can get ahead of the competition by gaining hands-on experience during college. Some programs incorporate internship opportunities in their curricula, though students can also pursue internships with design firms on their own.

Step 2: Build a Portfolio

The artist's portfolio is often the most important part of his or her application when looking for a graphic arts position. Employers usually want to see the candidate's portfolio before scheduling a job interview, often requesting that the job applicant submit a link to an online location where they can access the artist's portfolio.

Step 3: Gain Experience and Advance

Many employers want their prospective employees to have experience, and while internships provide an introduction to real-world applications of graphic arts, intern experience alone is usually not sufficient to meet employer demands. Artists should be prepared to pay some dues in an entry-level position before they can expect to land the positions they want. They may be hired on as graphic design assistants and work their way up.

Beginning graphic designers typically start out with low-level duties. They may need 1-3 years of experience before they can work up to higher level positions. But after gaining enough experience, a designer can advance to a position like chief designer or creative director for their company.

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