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Associate of Applied Science (AAS): Graphic Design Degree Overview

Students enrolled in Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree programs in graphic design generally take courses in fundamental design principles. Graduates can enter the field or advance their careers through higher levels of education.

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Essential Information

While enrolled in two-year AAS degree programs in graphic design, students learn to use basic design principles to communicate ideas through visual images and text. Many programs give students the opportunity to gain hands-on experience with the most up-to-date software programs in the design industry. Over the course of these programs, students build portfolios of their work.

In addition to on-campus programs, some schools offer online study as well as hybrid programs that combine online and in-person classes. Admission calls for a high school diploma or GED certificate, and some schools require the submission of original art or design work.


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  • Advertising and Commercial Design
  • Commercial Photography
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  • General Visual Communications Design
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  • Industrial Design
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Associate's Degrees for Graphic Design

Fundamental courses cover topics in history, technology and media, such as:

  • Print and web design
  • Digital layout and imaging
  • Typography
  • Drawing and composition
  • Graphic design
  • Art history

Popular Career Options

Associate's degree holders are generally restricted to technical or administrative positions assisting designers or other types of graphic artists. Possible job titles include:

  • Graphic design assistant
  • Graphics marketing coordinator
  • Interactive media specialist
  • Pre-press technician
  • Desktop publisher

Employment Outlook & Salary

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects the employment of graphic designers to show little or no change between 2014 and 2024 (www.bls.gov). Employment of desktop publishers is expected to decline by 21% during the same time period. In May 2015, the BLS estimated the median annual salaries for graphic designers and desktop publishers to be $46,900 and $39,840, respectively.

Continuing Education Information

Although an associate's degree program can provide the necessary technical background to become an assistant to a graphic designer, the BLS reports that most employers prefer to hire graphic designers who hold bachelor's degrees. An AAS degree can lay the foundation for one of these degrees.

Individuals interested in becoming graphic designers can increase their employability by completing Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science or Bachelor of Fine Arts degree programs in graphic design. These programs provide an artistic and technical foundation for entry-level design positions. Upon completion of a bachelor's degree in graphic design, students seeking to further develop their skills and portfolios or teach at the postsecondary level can enroll in graduate-level programs in graphic design.

An AAS in graphic design provides sufficient artistic and communications training for students who want to work as assistants in the field. Those who want to hold upper-level positions in the field will need to pursue further studies after they earn this degree.

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