Associate of Arts (AA): Graphic Design Degree Overview

Associate's degrees in graphic design provide an introduction to the software and principles used to design promotional material. Learn about common courses in the program, as well as job opportunities and the overall career outlook.

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Essential Information

Associate's programs in graphic design typically take two years to complete and are generally offered at community colleges. In these programs, students take courses such as computer illustration and interactive media, and they spend time in design labs to develop a portfolio. They also work with computer applications such as Adobe Flash, Photoshop, and Dreamweaver on a regular basis. Following program completion, graduates can develop promotional materials such as websites, product packaging, and brochures. Applicants need a high school diploma or GED.


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Associate of Arts in Graphic Design

Classes in this curriculum are often hands-on, with some programs offering simulated work spaces and production labs. Students often work toward building a portfolio that can be used when seeking employment to display their abilities. In addition to general education courses, students typically complete an introductory education in design, drawing and digital applications. Other courses may include:

  • Computer illustration
  • 3-D design
  • Desktop publishing
  • Art history
  • Digital imaging
  • Typography

Popular Career Options

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, graduates of an associate degree program can gain entry-level positions as assistant graphic designers; however, graphic design positions typically require a bachelor's degree. Graduates qualify for entry-level opportunities with graphic design firms, advertising agencies or print media publishers. They can also apply to positions in the design departments or Internet development departments of a variety of industries. Possible job titles include:

  • Graphic artist
  • Design assistant
  • Desktop publisher
  • Web designer
  • Junior art director

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

In 2015, desktop publishers earned an annual median salary of $39,840, while graphic designers earned $46,900, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Jobs for desktop publishers were expected to decrease by 21% from 2014 to 2024, with 1% growth expected for graphic designers during that time.

Continuing Education Information

Graduates can keep up with the latest advances in the field by participating in graphic design certificate programs. They can also broaden their knowledge base by enrolling in certificate programs in related areas, such as graphic art, digital press, Web design or desktop publishing. Individuals interested in advanced career opportunities can apply to bachelor's degree programs in graphic design.

Students interested in becoming graphic designers will most likely need to earn a bachelor's degree, but an associate's degree in the field can give them the foundational knowledge in design, illustration and publishing to work entry-level positions. Additional certificate programs are also available for continuing education.

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