Graphic Communications College and School Program Overviews

Degree programs in graphic communications are offered at the associate, bachelor's and master's degree levels. Programs focus on the design aspect of graphics as well as production techniques and technologies.

Essential Information

Graphic communications programs at all levels include a mix of didactic and hands-on coursework culminating in a final portfolio to help students secure employment or pursue further education. Graduates of these programs are poised for positions in the graphics industry as graphic designers, desktop publishers and multimedia designers. Prospective undergraduate students are required to have a high school diploma or equivalent. Schools offering this program often require SAT or ACT scores, and some may require an essay submission or interview to determine the student's success in the program. Applicants to graphic communications MFA programs must hold bachelor's degrees with the completion of introductory graphic communications courses. Master's program applicants must also have at least one year of relevant work experience in the graphic communications field.

  • Program Levels in Graphic Communications: Associate's degrees, bachelor's degrees, master's degrees
  • Prerequisites: High school diploma or equivalent and acceptable college entrance exam scores required for undergraduate programs; bachelor's degree and work experience in the industry needed for master's programs
  • Some Program Specializations Available: Digital Design, Multimedia, Management
  • Experiential Learning: Hands-on studio training
  • Other Requirements: Completion of portfolio; thesis project

Associate of Applied Science in Graphic Communications

An AAS in Graphic Communications program covers the basic knowledge that students need for careers in the multimedia, design and print industries. Students in this program receive hands-on training in using digital imaging software, desktop publishing and printing media. Completion of the program requires students to create either a digital or traditional hard-copy portfolio, or perhaps both. Students in associate's degree programs gain working knowledge of software and technical skills needed for careers in the design and print industries. Undergraduates can expect courses in topics such as:

  • Design and color
  • Computer graphics
  • Print and digital media
  • Typography
  • Design fundamentals

Bachelor of Science in Graphic Communications

The bachelor's degree program in graphic communications offers focused training in print and multimedia design, as well as the technical aspects of pre-press and production technology. Through hands-on training in creative and desktop publishing software, students gain knowledge in computer and traditional layout, design, typesetting and pre-press operations. After completion of the core fundamentals, students can concentrate their program studies in digital design, multimedia or management. Coursework includes general education requirements and the core graphic communications fundamentals needed for managing time and projects. Typical core graphic communications classes include the following:

  • Digital applications
  • Project management
  • Multimedia
  • Publication design
  • Graphics management

Master of Fine Arts in Graphic Communications

Master's degree programs in this field provide participants with advanced training in both traditional graphics and modern technologies in design and production. Students gain highly-developed skills in visual presentation, printmaking, creative research, as well as managerial expertise. Through research and exploration, students are expected to push the boundaries of methodological, technological and creative techniques in graphic communications. Upon completion of the core elements in the program, students can concentrate their research in a specific area for their portfolio and thesis. The following is a list of typical courses that students will find in the master's degree program in graphic communications:

  • Advanced graphic design
  • Graphics communications management
  • Printing operations
  • Advanced printing methods and inks
  • Color science

Popular Career Options

Completing an associate's degree program in graphic communications opens the door to entry-level positions in the graphic communications industry. A bachelor's degree in graphic communications allows graduates to find careers in large advertising and Web design companies. With a master's in graphic communications, graduates can find managerial positions in advertising, print and media companies, as well as scholarly positions in educational institutions. Graduates may find employment as graphic or technical illustrators, graphic designers and interactive designers. Other career options include:

  • Commercial artists
  • Desktop publisher
  • Creative Director
  • Communication Coordinator
  • Assistant professor of graphic communications

Continuing Education Information

With the competitive nature of the graphics industry, students are encouraged to obtain a bachelor's degree for more career choices. Those entering careers with an associate's degree will need to update their software knowledge every few years by pursuing continuing education courses or engaging in independent study of industry software updates. A master's degree in graphic communications provides students with advanced research in the field, extending the student's knowledge and opening up upper-level management positions in the graphic communications industry.

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