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Career Information for a Degree in Graphic Design

Graphic design is generally a creative and technical field. Continue reading for an overview of the training, as well as career and salary info for some career options for graduates.

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In order to land a job in the field of graphic design, you'll usually need a bachelor's degree and in some cases, a master's degree. Competition for jobs is expected to be stiff, due to the relatively slow rate of increase projected for employment opportunities. In addition to familiarity with software, animation, ad design, color theory and photography skills are among the areas intrinsic to graphic design.

Essential Information

Graphic design programs allow students to put the principles of design, computer image manipulation and layout to artistic use, creating tangible products while still exercising their creative muscles. An individual with a bachelor's degree in graphic design may work as a graphic designer, computer animator or art director, among other occupations. Art directors typically need to have a bachelor's degree and five years of experience; a master's degree is sometimes required if experience is not sufficient.

Career Titles Graphic Designers Multimedia Artists and Animators Art Director
Required Education Bachelor's typically required Bachelor's typically required Bachelor's typically required, master's sometimes necessary
Other Requirements None None 5 years experience usually required
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 1% 6% 2%
Median Salary (2015)* $46,900 $63,970 $89,760

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Description

Using a combination of artistic talent and commercial savvy, graphic designers create visually pleasing images meant to promote a product, service or idea. While enrolled in a graphic design degree program, students learn various art and design techniques and principles, as well as software, animation and photography skills. Coursework in a graphic design degree program may include:

  • Ad design
  • Animation (motion graphics)
  • Color theory
  • Computer and digital graphics
  • Graphic photography
  • Illustration
  • Art history
  • Typography

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Career Options

Graphic designers are responsible for most of the images displayed on the Internet, TV and in magazines. Jobs as graphic designers, computer animators and art directors are but a few of the possible employment opportunities for those with a degree in graphic design.

Graphic Designer

Graphic designers plan, analyze and create visual images to convey a message. They create a majority of all modern print media, including brochures, posters, advertisements, magazine layouts and commercials. Employment opportunities in the graphic design industry include specializations such as multimedia development and design, web page design, advertising and computer graphic design. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expected employment for graphic designers to increase 1% between 2014 and 2024.

Computer Animator

Computer animators use computer and design skills to render animation and moving images for movies, television shows, advertisements and other media. The knowledge of computer-aided design and software acquired in a graphic design degree program can be an ideal stepping stone into this occupation, although some workers might find they need further education or experience. The BLS expected computer and other multimedia animators and artists to experience an 6% job growth between 2014 and 2024, as demand for computer animation increases in a wide variety of media-related industries. Median salaries for workers in this and related fields were $63,970 as of May 2015, according to the BLS.

Art Director

Also known as creative directors, art directors oversee a creative team that produces artwork or ad campaigns for magazines, newspapers, advertisements or websites. Art directors provide leadership and plan elements of a publication or product, deciding on art, colors, layout and other elements. Although art directors may work on the design themselves, most of their duties consist of administrative and management tasks. They sometimes work with other designers, such as copywriters, to coordinate different aspects of a design project. According to the BLS, future job growth for art directors may be somewhat limited due to fewer opportunities in print publishing. Art directors earned a median annual salary of $89,760 in 2015.

While there are no prior experience requirements for graphic artists or animators, generally, you'll generally need five years of appropriate work experience to become an art director; some may need a master's degree. Most positions call for a bachelor's degree. While job opportunities for animators are expected to increase at about the same rate as the national average for all occupations, openings for graphic designers and art directors are projected to increase at a rate much slower than the national average.

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