Associate in Occupational Science (AOS): Graphic Arts Degree Overview

Apr 28, 2021

Essential Information

AOS programs in graphic arts and design offer a highly specialized curriculum that combines conventional design theories with current technology and trends. Students enrolled in these programs learn to use both traditional hand-rendering skills and computer software, including Adobe Photoshop and InDesign, to create designs for print, packaging, displays, television and digital media. Learners also investigate and solve design problems, explore effective designs and develop industry-specific skills in web and multimedia.

Most programs take two years of full-time study to complete. Over the course of these programs, students must develop a professional portfolio and a resume. Students must have at least a high school diploma to apply. They might also be asked to submit a portfolio or previous work.

Associate's in Occupational Science (AOS) Graphics Arts

Within the program, undergraduates delve into theories in typography, drawing, communication, computer graphics and visualization. They complete coursework and work in studios. Common courses that AOS students may encounter include:

  • Art history
  • Illustration
  • Publication design
  • Package design
  • Photography

Popular Career Options

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (, students who hold an associate-level credential in graphic design are qualified for technical positions that do not require a bachelor's degree. The associate's degree program could lead to careers in desktop publishing and multimedia. Entry-level work can be found in advertising agencies, design studios, photography studios, printing businesses, publishing companies and record companies. New graduates can find work as pre-press technicians, assistant graphic designers and photographers, film and video editors, and multimedia animators.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

Graphic designers earned a median annual wage of $53,380 in 2020, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) revealed. A 4% decline in employment growth was predicted for this field between 2019 and 2029.

Continuing Education

The design credits earned from an AOS in Graphic Design are typically transferable to either a Bachelor of Fine Arts or a Bachelor of Arts program in graphic design. While neither degree is superior to the other, the Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design (AICAD) cites the Bachelor of Fine Arts with a major in graphic design as the more suitable professional credential for aspiring artists and designers who want to become leaders in their fields (

Graduates of AOS programs in graphic arts and design have the basic skills they need for entry-level careers in multimedia production, and they can demonstrate their talents to employers with their professional portfolio and resume.

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