Graphic Design Degree and Certificate Program Information

Students interested in graphic design can pursue associate's or bachelor's degrees or enroll in a certificate program. Learn what each program entails, and see career, salary, and continuing education info for graduates.

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Essential Information

Graphic designers are visual artists that develop iconic and recognizable images for media outlets, video games and businesses. Graphic design programs are available at various undergraduate levels. At every program level, you'll progress further into design techniques and software, which will enhance your employment opportunities.

Certificate programs provide the foundational building blocks for a career in graphic design. You'll investigate space, layout, composition, color, typography and corporate identity. You may have the option of concentrating your program in print or Web design.

Associate's degree programs will train you in the techniques used to create computer images and designs. These 2-year programs utilize digital publishing and photography tools, as well as the psychological effects of design. A 4-year bachelor's degree in graphic design is a typical requirement for most entry-level and advanced positions as a graphic designer. You'll take courses that delve into 2-dimensional design, print design, website design and animation.

To apply for an associate's or bachelor's degree program, you must hold a diploma or GED. In addition, placement testing may be necessary for admission into an associate's program. Some schools offer online certificate programs, and Bachelor of Science in Graphic Design degree programs.

Certificate of Completion - Graphic Design

The certificate program delves into design software such as Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. The certificate curriculum teaches student about design, computer graphics and drawing. You'll explore the design process from brainstorming and conceptual thinking to presenting a finished piece. Typical coursework includes:

  • Color theory
  • Typography
  • Brand identity
  • Design principles
  • Graphic design

Associate of Science in Graphic Design

Valuable experience is gained from creative projects, such as creating storyboards and branding campaigns. You'll acquire the skills needed to enter into an entry-level job with a media company or business as a graphic artist or production artist. Classes focus on art techniques and digital drawing principles. You'll also investigate the designing and branding aspects of graphic design through hands-on projects in storyboarding and publication layout. Coursework includes information design, web animation and the following:

  • Life drawing
  • Design and technology
  • Design fundamentals
  • Digital Storytelling
  • Branding and identity

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Bachelor of Science in Graphic Design

In a bachelor's program, you'll explore techniques for creating lasting images for each genre of graphic design including Web, multimedia and print design. Prior to completion of the program, you'll design a portfolio of artistic pieces gained from completed projects.

In addition to general education coursework in English, mathematics and social sciences, you'll be trained in the various design elements used in graphic design. You'll also become well versed in art history, drawing fundamentals and computer imaging software, along with the following.

  • Print media
  • Motion graphics
  • Digital illustration
  • Graphic symbolism
  • Type design

Popular Career Options

After completing a certificate or associate's program, you're qualified for entry-level jobs, such as a graphic design assistant, in organizations, advertising agencies, corporations and entertainment industries. Most businesses prefer graphic designers to hold a bachelor's degree. As a graphic designer, you can find career opportunities within publishing houses and advertising firms, as well as through Web and video game industries. Popular job titles include:

  • Production artist
  • Freelance motion graphics artist
  • Digital designer
  • Graphic artist
  • Web artist
  • Assistant graphic designer

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), graphic designers are expected to experience only a 1% growth in employment opportunities from 2014 to 2024 ( If you have experience in computer systems design, you'll be in demand because of the increased popularity of the Internet. The BLS stated the median annual wage for graphic designers was $46,900 in May 2015.

Continuing Education Information

If you wish to improve your graphic design skills while developing a larger resume, you can look into a master's degree program. Through intensive research in graduate programs, students learn to identify global pieces of art. Courses such as art history and design theory provide students with a further understanding of critical design elements.

Students who obtain a certificate or degree in graphic design may work as graphic or web artists, digital designers or production artists. Coursework typically includes typography, branding, digital storytelling and motion graphics.

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