At the associate's degree level, most visual communications programs lead to an Associate of Arts. These programs help students develop a sense of visual composition along with problem-solving techniques. Students also learn design methodologies, how to apply creativity toward design expression, and how to effectively communicate messages within several contexts.
Concentrations may be available in graphic design or interactive media. Prior to graduation, students must submit a portfolio of their work.
Acceptance into an associate's degree program typically requires completion of a high school diploma or equivalent. Most programs take four years to complete, and some are offered online.
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Associate's Degree in Visual Communications
A visual communications degree program typically offers a variety of communications courses with a technology focus. Students gain an appreciation of art basics and get hands-on experience with computer applications. Common courses include:
- Drafting techniques for visual communications
- Drawing techniques
- Computer graphics
- Layout and design
Popular Career Options
Visual communications professionals can find career opportunities within Web design services, advertising services, printing services, directory publishers, and newspapers. Example career titles available to graduates include:
- Visual artist
- Interactive media designer
- Web designer
Job Outlook and Salary Info
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), professionals such as Web developers and multimedia artists will commonly need a bachelor's degree to gain employment. However, desktop publishers, professionals who use computer software to design graphics and text for print and online media, can obtain employment with an associate's degree.
As of May 2015, the BLS reported that desktop publishers earned a median annual salary of $39,840. However, the BLS also reported that these professionals are expected to see a 21% decline in employment from 2014-2024. This decline is largely attributed to graphic designers and Web developers assuming the responsibilities of desktop publishers, since most advertisements and other formerly print materials are now being published online.
While some employers may hire individuals with associate's degrees in visual communications, most graphic design positions require a bachelor's degree. Bachelor's degree programs provide advanced skills in design principles, computer design, and creative research. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, to remain competitive, visual communications professionals must remain current with emerging technology such as computer graphics and design software. This can be accomplished by taking additional courses or completion of additional training either on their own or within a formal education environment (www.bls.gov).
To summarize, associate's degree programs in visual communications help students begin to develop the artistic skills and technological expertise they need for careers in design. Most graduates choose to build on this foundation by enrolling in a bachelor's degree program, which can open up more employment opportunities.