A portion of graphic or interactive design programs focuses on the digital areas of the field, and many levels of education incorporate practical training, such as internships. Students in associate's degree programs learn about the fundamentals of website design, imaging, computer applications and print design. Graduates may pursue entry-level jobs in graphic design or pursue a bachelor's degree to qualify for other designer positions.
Students in bachelor's programs often complete studio courses and internships. Artists who aspire to work as managers in the art field may pursue a master's degree, which expands on one's undergraduate background in design. Students in master's programs sometimes pursue a concentration, such as interactive design, and some type of final project is normally required. Undergraduate degrees require a high school education and could require specific coursework or a portfolio. Graduate programs require a bachelor's degree and a portfolio. A final project or thesis work, internship or co-op experience may also be required.
Associate's Degree in Digital Design
This program prepares students for some entry-level graphic design positions through lessons covering introductory print and website design, typography, imagery and layout skills using digital and computerized applications. Coursework and structure may be designed to easily transfer credits to bachelor's degree programs in digital design, which are preferred by most employers. The program takes about two years to complete, and graduates may be awarded an Associate in Applied Science (AAS), Associate of Science (A.S.) or Associate of Arts (A.A.). Some of these programs are designed for students who have already completed a certificate program in digital design.
Along with core courses in digital design, students must complete general-education courses in communications, math, English, social science and natural science. Some common digital computer software and design-related classes discuss:
- Graphic design techniques
- Art and drawing concepts
- Photoshop and digital design
- Digital media and animation
- Digital illustration using Adobe Illustrator
Bachelor's Degree in Digital Design
These programs focus on design technology, communications and graphic design skills. Students with creative talent, artistic ability and good hand-motor skills are suited for the concentration. They learn to use computerized and digital applications to promote marketing, communication and overall business solutions in the industry. Graduates are usually awarded a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in Digital Design, Graphic Design or Design Technology.
Courses combine technology with overall visual and artistic design skills. For coursework, students may be required to purchase a laptop, software and camera meeting specific brand and technical requirements. The first year typically focuses on foundational skills in the concentration. Later years expand upon skills in animation, media technology, typography, color and related topics. Some course topics include:
- World design and art history
- Light survey
- Foundations in communications
- Web design fundamentals
- Interactive graphic design
Master's Degree in Digital Design
Courses in this program convey advanced creative, research, critical thinking, strategic design and educational concepts. Students expand upon prior training in all forms of media, animation, graphics, computing and design architecture. Graduates are awarded a Master of Science (M.S.) or Master of Fine Arts (MFA). The programs are available both full- and part-time, and take approximately 2-3 years to complete. To apply, students must send a resume and a statement of purpose. Some schools also require an in-person or telephone interview with faculty.
A digital design master's degree program curriculum focuses on strategies, usability methods, analytics and technology using interdisciplinary and dynamic educational methods. Courses touch upon:
- Visual perception and communications
- Digital marketing
- Interactive digital design
- Storytelling and interactive narrative
- Innovation in digital design
Popular Career Choices
A bachelor's degree in digital design provides an array of career choices in such fields as art, entertainment and marketing. Some positions include:
- Game designer
- Website designer
- Graphic designer
A master's degree in digital design, along with experience, can introduce career opportunities with regard to team leadership and project management. Some possible employment options include:
- Application programmer
- 2D or 3D animator
- Digital filmmaker
- Media architect
- Design director
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that individuals who already possess a bachelor's degree in another concentration could qualify for graphic design positions by completing an associate's degree or certificate program to learn necessary technical skills. The BLS also stated that advancement in the field usually requires 1-3 years of working experience (www.bls.gov).
According to the BLS, graphic designers are projected to see little or no change in employment from 2014 to 2024. The average wage of graphic designers was $51,640 in May 2015.
Continuing Education Information
Those with a master's degree in digital design can continue their education via doctoral studies. A Ph.D. in Digital Media provides a higher level of education in academic and industry research theory and application, concluding in a completely original publishable work.
Students who complete a digital design degree program may find work such as a game designer, digital filmmaker or design director. Further education is available at the doctoral degree level.